Thursday, September 6, 2007

Faithfulness that inspires and that which doesn't

There is quite a lot of talk in the Anglican blogsphere about the Nigerian bishop who apparently said that gays and lesbians were inhuman and not fit to live. I don't comment on my blog very often about the argument that is going on in the church right now because I don't find much of it very edifying. These words are so awful, however, that it felt important to say something. But what? The last time I felt this physically ill when reading about the words/actions of Christians is when I read a news report about a RC priest facing prosecution for war crimes during the Rwandan genocide. How anyone could justify the dehumanization of a group of people or acts of violence towards them and think that it is done in the name of Jesus is incomprehensible to me.

This weekend I rewatched Entertaining Angels. It is an okay movie about an amazing saint, Dorothy Day. She was a communist journalist who came to faith because of the way she saw the church care for the poor. Her commitment to the poor and oppressed took on a whole new dimension as she lived a voluntary life of poverty creating soup kitchens and homes of hospitality through the depression. Later she was active in the civil rights movement and then the anti-nuclear movement. She was getting arrested for demonstrating into her 70s and continued to inspire generations of young people to spend time in Catholic Worker houses serving the poor. Her courage and faithfulness has always made me really uncomfortable with the comfort I live in.

I was mindful of her witness as I read Tobias Haller's latest posting on the Martyrs of Memphis. His very moving account of the witness of these people who cared for the sick in the midst of a Yellow Fever epidemic makes a really important point about what the virtue of fortitude looks like in the face of danger. We may be called on to commit spontaneous acts of courage but we are certainly called on to make those long term commitments of courage to serve those who are in need. Again, his posting made me uncomfortable with my life of comfort. This is a very different kind of discomfort than that produced by reading the reports from Nigeria.

Jesus said, whoever serves me must follow me — and sometimes that following will be the headlong leaping to cover a grenade with ones’ own body, or to enter an inferno and throw someone else to safety even as one perishes; sometimes that following will be a sudden bare-handed wrenching apart of the lethal mass that threatens life and limb — but more often, that following will be the slow and deliberate way of service to others, the way that with hands busy putting others first, sets the self down unselfconsciously on the shelf, sometimes misplacing it, and sometimes losing it. The way that follows Jesus is the way of the cross. Whoever serves him must follow him, and like it or not, that is the way he went, and that is what he carried.

Whether on the road to Jerusalem or the road to Memphis, Jesus goes before us, bearing his cross, and where he is, there will his servant be.+

From In a Godward Direction