clutching holiness

22 06 2010

Psycho-killer. Massacre madman. Gun-rampage maniac… how would you describe Derrick Bird? The words chosen by headline writers were like these – all words of “other”, as we seek to dehumanise, to separate. Derrick Bird cannot be one of us, he must be different. Because the thought that humanity – our humanity – contains the capacity for his crimes is too scary a thought. With our name-calling that we learn at school and carry into adulthood we make a safe place around ourselves, moving people who scare or frighten us – mostly those we do not understand – away into ‘other’, where the bad people live. The same goes for John Venables, or suicide bombers, or anyone else whose crimes are simply too frightening to comprehend.

What if we were to do the opposite? What if, instead of pushing away into “the other” we were to embrace the side of our humanity that we find the hardest, the most ugly? Not to embrace the actions, the crimes, absolutely not. And not some “hate the sin love the sinner” cliché that still separates us from the evil we see and hear and fear. But to stand with and alongside humans in their evil, their depravity, their lostness and their pain. Look them in the eye because they are human, and so are we.

If we do this, we take to ourselves the world’s pain, which then leaves us unable to demonise, dehumanise, because we recognise it is part of us. It is within us. That we are all, at times, capable of terrible things. And most frighteningly, most scandalously, there is no hierarchy of terrible things. Derrick Bird is no worse a human than me. His crimes are far worse and the consequences of his actions are far worse. Of course. But as a human, a human capable of being loved, he is no worse. In the classic scale of human comparison from Mother Teresa to Hitler, there is only one line, and all of us are on the wrong side of it.

To take on such pain and such evil and take it to ourselves, not pushing it away but embracing humanity in all its riches and darknesses, in all its goodness and all its evil is hard, so hard. It will not make us many friends. It will be misinterpreted. It will be mocked. It is far easier to name-call and look down on and distance ourselves from.

But could there be a model for us? Could there be a model for taking into oneself the pain and suffering of a world that is not actually wholly yours? Could there a model for taking onto oneself all of humanity in all its goodness and its horrors, not clutching perfect divinity like a child but giving wholly, fully; and in that process being led to death but coming through death and so rescuing, redeeming and recreating that humanity so that it no longer is driven to such extremes. Could it be that humanity – real humanity – is not lost forever but beautifully wonderfully restored?

And if so, might we be able to follow that model? We are not God, of course; but we are holy. So, do we choose to take that holiness and make it separate, lock it in a church, join in the name-calling and feel better that we are not so bad; or do we not clutch our holiness to ourselves but throw it amongst that which is not holy and see what happens? To paraphrase Jackie Pullinger, most Christians have hard hearts and soft feet; surely it is better to have soft hearts and hard feet.

May we not clutch our holiness to ourselves but be soft of heart and tough of feet as we walk the road with people who do the most terrible things.
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4 responses

22 06 2010
Dai Adem

What do you mean there is no heirarchy of terrible things. Listen to what is said in Church – any church.
Sexual sins are much worse than any other and they must get God most agitated because they get Christians most agitated. (Oh, unless they are my sexual sins of colurse, then I can explain them!)
Then killing. Murder is worng, mercy killing is wrong, killing old people is wrong, but aborting an unborn child is OK and dropping bombs on people who are against us is OK.
Infidelity is wrong for ‘them’ but OK for others. depends who you know.
Forgiving people is OK but not when they are paedophiles.

And so we can go on.

Yes lets stand alongside these people, but lets look in our own eyes for the plank of hypocrisy before we judge.

23 06 2010
Edge

Top of the hierarchy of terrible things may, of course, be church. Is that God’s fault?
Incidentally, is asking a ‘Christian’ to welcome and sit next to a terrible wrong-doer in church the same equation as asking a non-christian to attend church and sit next to a Christian?

23 06 2010
Kevin

Hypocrisy is everywhere, and hierarchy of sin is everywhere.

But the scandal of Jesus is that we aim for that not to be the case; we aim to see people through his eyes and hear them through his ears; which means standing up for the ‘evil’ ones when it means we will be misunderstood and condemning injustice when we will be received as judging… it means that we know we are all humans and all fall short so we do not allow ourselves to become separate and superior and all that rubbish that so easily clings to us and especially clings, yes, Edge, in church.

23 06 2010
dave

…but i will hold on hope and i won’t let you choke on the noose around your neck.
and I’ll find strength in pain and I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as its called again.

Listen for the voice that calls us by name.

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