Eight months into his tenure as head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has become known for focusing on the poor and needy, but he may be helping the homeless in a more direct way than anyone imagined.
In an interview with uCatholic, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who serves as “Almoner of His Holiness,” implied that Pope Francis may be sneaking out of the Vatican at night to personally give money and food to the homeless citizens of Rome. As part of his job, Krajewski hands out money to the poor, and he hinted that Pope Francis may have joined him on more than one such relief effort.
“When I say to him, ‘I’m going out into the city this evening,’ there’s the constant risk that he will come with me,” Krajewski said.
When asked to clarify, Krajewski refused, and when asked point blank if Pope Francis had ever accompanied him on these late-night missions, Krajewski simply smiled and responded “next question.”
Though Krajewski sneakily declined to comment on whether or not Pope Francis personally gives money to the poor, he did comment that Francis used to do exactly that as archbishop of Buenos Aires, before he was elected pope.
“That’s what he’s like -- at the beginning (of his papacy) he didn’t think of the awkwardness that he might create,” Krajewski said. “As archbishop of Buenos Aires, when he was known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future pontiff would go out at night ... to find people, talk with them, or buy them something to eat. He would sit with them and eat with them on the street. This is what he wants from me.”
Krajewski’s statements were surprising, but they remained unconfirmed until Tuesday, when an anonymous source in the church told the Huffington Post that “Swiss guards confirmed that the pope has ventured out at night, dressed as a regular priest, to meet with homeless men and women.”
The bible study at the prison this last Monday night was sober and sad. Billy was an inmate and popular. An excellent guitar player, Billy would often play for the prison worship services.
On Saturday Bill started having trouble in his cell. A female guard called for help and began administering CPR. When the gurney came they placed Billy on it. The guard got on top of Billy and continued to administer CPR, fighting for Billy's life as they raced him to the medical unit. Billy was transported to the local hospital. But they couldn't bring him back.
The next day some of the men in the study, dear friends of Billy, thanked that female guard for what she did. She began to cry and said, "I wish I could have done more." And the prisoners offered her comfort. She did all she could. More than they had expected.
All this was shared at the start of the study. The mood was heavy. And then it was my time to get up and share my lesson. We were starting on the book of Job. But I began by talking about Advent.
I started by contrasting Advent with Christmas. Advent, I explained, is sitting in the experience of exile. Waiting, hoping God will act in the future. We are slaves in Egypt. We are exiles in Babylon. We are sad friends mourning the death of Billy. Where is God? We are waiting. That, I said, is Advent. Learning to be patient, learning to wait on God.
We sang O Come, O Come Emanuel and Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.
And then we opened our bibles to the book of Job.
Up until this point in the bible, I explained, the story has been governed by a theology of retribution, the "blessings and curses" of Moses (Deut. 11). Do good and stay faithful to God and you will be blessed. Turn to wickedness and idolatry and you will get punishment and exile.
The entry into the Promised Land. Judges followed by kings. Warnings upon warnings about the blessings and curses. Stay faithful. Do not bow to the false gods.
Deaf ears. Hard hearts. The Kingdom divides.
Israel descends into idolatry. Exile.
Judah follows. Exile.
The logic of retribution holds. The righteous are blessed. Sinners are punished. That's how God has set up the world. Bad things happen to bad people.
And then we get to the book of Job.
And an entire theological trajectory--starting in Deuteronomy and traced through 2 Kings--gets knocked off course. Good people are always blessed? Not so fast, says the book of Job.
Job is a man of integrity. And yet he suffers. Chapter after chapter Job's friends argue for the theology of retribution. Job is suffering, so he must have sinned. That's the way the world works. Moses said so.
Job disagrees. He's done nothing wrong. And yet God has cursed him. There is no lawful relationship here between virtue and suffering. Bad things happen to good people. Billy died on Saturday.
So Job waits on God. Waiting for vindication. Waiting for a chance to plead his case. Job wants answers. Waiting.
Like us in the wake of Billy's death.
You know what, I said to the men, as I reflect on it Job is a pretty good book for Advent. We talk about "the patience of Job."
Patience. Waiting on God. That's Job. That's Advent.
But in the waiting is also expectation, longing, and hope.
The men share more from the conversation with the female guard who administered CPR to Billy. Billy blessed her, she says through tears.
She shares Billy's last words, said to her as she sat on top of him, compressing his chest as they raced to the medical unit.
"I am," he tells her, "a man of God."
He tells her this, over and over.
This is Caravaggio's The Calling of St. Matthew.
I've used this painting a lot when lecturing about Unclean as the calling of St. Matthew in Matthew 9 is the thematic text for the book:
Matthew 9.9-13bIn the painting you see Christ on the right pointing to Matthew, summoning him.
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’"
But who is Matthew?
Most think Matthew is the bearded man. It appears that he's pointing to himself as if to say "Me?" in response to Jesus's call. This theory is supported by two others works of which The Calling is a part, The Inspiration of St. Matthew and The Martyrdom of St. Matthew. In those paintings St. Matthew looks similar to the bearded man who is pointing to himself in The Calling.
And yet, some think Matthew is the young man on the far left of the painting, the one at the table hanging his head. The gesture of the bearded man, if you look at it, is plausibly pointing to the young man with the unspoken question now being "Him?".
If the young man is Matthew the painting is capturing the moment just before Matthew lifts his head from the table to look at Jesus.
Personally, I think the beaded guy is Matthew. And I do like his incredulity at being summoned.
But I prefer the drama of the young man being Matthew, and this being the moment right before he looks up and meets the eyes of Jesus.
Given that I've been pushing hard on consumerism in recent posts I thought I'd draw your attention to these two posts to add some context and balance.
Basically, while I think we need to push back--hard--on consumerism in our culture, we need to be very careful in judging the motives of any given shopper.
For example, in my old 2007 post I focused on how Christmas shopping, given how brutal it is, can be an expression of joy and deep love. Some of my reflections from 2007:
Let me take a moment to praise the commercialization of Christmas.
Don't get me wrong. I think American consumerism and materialism is a great evil. And lots of what goes on at Christmas fits this mold and should be rejected. But those crowded malls have a lot of spirituality flowing through them.
Before we denounce the commercialization of Christmas, let's pause to note that most of those shoppers are shopping for someone else. And when during the year do we spend this much time thinking about the needs and wants of the people in our lives? A lot of that "consumerism" looks awfully unselfish to me.The point of those old reflections--and looking back I'm a very different person today than I was six years ago--was this: consumerism is an evil, but gift giving is a joy. So it's hard to judge, from the outside, what is going on in any given shopper during the Christmas season.
This Christmas I know I'm going to venture off to the malls to shop for my wife. I'll be a part of the "consumeristic" mob. But you know what? I love, for spiritual reasons, joining that crowd. My wife will be traveling to India this Christmas season to bring encouragement, food, and medical aid to children in an orphanage. And on her Christmas list Jana has a journal and some pens to record her trip. So I'm excited about shopping for a really good journal with some good pens for her Christmas present. If that's consumeristic, well, that's fine. But I'm going shopping this Christmas!
On Black Friday my mother and father-in-law stood in line at 5:00 am in the freezing cold waiting for a store to open. Why? Because they were looking for a toy (one in limited supply) for their grandsons. True, the shopping scene on Black Friday isn't very, well, "merry", but in those crazed throngs two grandparents woke up early and stood in the cold to buy a gift for two little boys. Consumeristic? Perhaps. But that shopping is also an expression of love.
Here's my point. Don't you love giving gifts to people? Further, don't you love giving extravagant gifts to people? I do. And while I know that we need to worry about living within our means and economic justice there is a joy to be found in giving the perfect gift on Christmas morning to someone you love.
A similar but different sort of point is made by Bridie Marie in her post (H/T Timothy McCord) "Stop Shaming Black Friday Shoppers." Where my focus in 2007 was on the joy of giving gifts Bridie's focus is on economic inequality and the shaming of the poor:
Look. Black Friday might be the one day of the year when people can afford to buy something like a TV, or an appliance, or a fucking winter coat. It might be the only chance they have to be able to afford Christmas for their children.I think this is a point worth reflecting on. If you are poor the only chance you might have to get that new Xbox is the one being sold for some crazy low amount on Black Friday. But there's, like, only one of them. The bait to get hundreds of people to line up for hours before a mad rush to be the first to the prize. And yes, that looks insane to most of us. But mainly because we can afford to wait.
So many of the people abandoning sleep and human decency are doing so because they’ve been told they have no other choice. Maybe they actually have no choice, because they were forced to work by their monolithic billionaire employers for an unlivable wage. Or maybe they feel they have no choice because it’s the only way to get the items that can keep them warm and help them navigate a society that measures you by whether you own enough middle-class status symbols. Because they’re being paid unlivable wages by their monolithic billionaire employers...
Yes, a holiday season that should be about gratitude and family has become a frantic orgy of violent consumption. Yes, humanity seems to be eroding and collapsing in on itself. People regularly get stabbed, shot, pepper sprayed, and trampled on Black Friday, and yes, the carnage is especially bad at Wal-Marts. But it’s time to stop pretending that “poor people” are the problem.
Remember who the real enemy is.
I don't need to fight a bunch of poor people over a bargain-priced Xbox. I can be a civilized person and pay full price.
And this also explains why people will do seemingly crazy things like camp out in front of a store overnight to hold a place in a line. Because you know what? The one commodity the poor have over the rich is this: time. The rich are rushed and hurried, schedules packed and overflowing. The poor, generally speaking, have a lot more time on their hands. The poor can afford to wait in a line.
Which means that those crazy Black Friday shoppers camping out might not be insane materialists. They just might be poor people who can afford to wait in a line. You're not watching consumerism run amok in those Black Friday campers. You're looking at social inequity.
Who can afford to wait in a line and needs the bargain price? The poor.
Who can afford to skip the line and pay full price? The rich.
Which brings us back to the earlier point. Consumerism is an evil that should be resisted. But we shouldn't judge any given shopper. The crazed Black Friday shopper might be poor and simply desperate, facing, against all odds, the one chance to get that perfect gift for her child. The gift she cannot afford. Unless she camps all night long and rushes to get there first. Is that consumeristic? Perhaps. But it's a sympathetic sort of consumerism. Especially compared to the rich person who can afford to skip the Black Friday chaos but who will spend mindlessly and excessively.
From the outside, in those instances, it's hard to tell who has the deeper problem with consumerism.
Based upon appearances, best not to judge the Christmas shopper.
As almost all of us know, the "War on Christmas" is the trend among retailers (along with other businesses and the government) to extend the seasonal greeting "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas."
The worry about this trend, among some Christians, is that Christ--the Reason for the Season--is being removed from Christmas and the American consciousness. This is taken to be a sign of the increasing secularization of America and indicative of moral and spiritual decline.
But this is nonsense. Retailers aren't supposed to be Christian evangelists. And neither is the government in a democratic society. Retailers are in the business of selling you stuff. And if you happen to be Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan or an Atheist shopping for the new XBox, the retailer, wanting to close the deal, doesn't want to insert, say, RELIGION into the transaction. The retailer wants the purchase to be as pleasant and innocuous as possible so that you keep your eye on your wallet. The retailer isn't wanting to distract you with a theological debate.
Hurts the bottom-line, you see, debating with customers about the Messiah. Hard to get people through the checkout line.
And why are retailers going with "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas"? Because of the increasing pluralism of American society. A shift many Christians believe to be reflective of a decline of Christian influence upon American culture, the loss of "the Christian nation" the Founding Fathers had envisioned.
But America never was a "Christian nation." America was founded upon genocide and has chattel slavery enshrined in the Constitution. If anything, that makes our founding document satanic. Slaves built the White House and the US Capital for goodness sake.
What is being "lost" in our nation isn't Christianity but white hegemony. The white majority of America is declining. America is becoming more diverse and pluralistic. And retailers, well attuned to the demographic shifts in their customer base--it is their lifeblood after all--shift to reflect the times. "Happy Holidays" is what you say when a religiously and ethnically diverse population is standing in your checkout line. It's simply good business sense.
(And incidentally, why wouldn't free-market advocates, many of whom are complaining most vociferously about the "War on Christmas," want to keep the hell out of the marketplace? If a business wants to say "Happy Holidays" leave them alone, right?)
In short, the "War on Christmas" panic is fundamentally ethnocentric in nature. Implicitly, the "War on Christmas" is anger at those cultural and ethnic Others who are diluting white power and privilege in American society. "Happy Holidays" is what you say in a diverse society. And that diversity is a threat.
As defined by Donald Kinder and Cindy Kam in their book Us Against Them: Ethnocentric Foundations of American Opinion...
...ethnocentrism is an attitude that divides the world into two opposing camps. From an ethnocentric point of view, groups are either "friend" or they are "foe." Ethnocentrism is a general outlook on social difference; it is prejudice broadly conceived.It's no surprise that the "War on Christmas" is seen as a "war." It's a war based upon social, cultural and ethnic difference. And there are two sides to this battle, there are friends and foes. The in-group here is white neo-evangelical Christians. The out-group are those ethnic and cultural Others.
We define ethnocentrism to be a way of thinking that partitions the world into in-groups and out-groups--into us and them.
Now, given that I'm writing this as a white Christian male, let me step back and explain how I, theologically, see this issue.
I'm not diagnosing the "War on Christmas" panic as ethnocentric as an exercise in white, liberal guilt. I do see ethnocentrism as the root of the problem and I think we should be tolerant in a pluralistic society. I think "Happy Holidays" is a way to be more hospitable and neighborly in a diverse culture. But tolerance isn't the main reason I'm okay with the shift to "Happy Holidays."
Again, the shift to "Happy Holidays" has mainly been seen in the retail world, as a way to not offend buying customers. Which means, for me at least, I don't really care what you say to me when I buy an Xbox. In fact, theologically speaking, "Happy Holidays" is a lot better than "Merry Christmas."
Well, if you tack "Merry Christmas" onto my Xbox I think that might be blasphemy.
I'm pretty sure it is blasphemy.
It's blasphemous to post "Merry Christmas" all through a shopping mall. It's blasphemous to slap the name of Jesus on all the Xboxs, Playstations, iPhones, and High-Def TVs. "Happy Holidays," while still not great given that I don't like the word "holy" being involved, is much better than "Merry Christmas."
And the association of "Merry Christmas" with the local, state and federal governments is just as problematic. The Nativity set in the town square is just as profane and blasphemous as the "Merry Christmas" on the Xbox.
In short, while I'm very happy to have a more tolerant and liberalized shopping experience during the holiday season (out of simple civic respect I don't want my Muslim or Jewish neighbours to be greeted with "Merry Christmas"), my deeper concern is how the "War on Christmas" panic is inherently blasphemous and idolatrous.
Consequently, contrary to what many Christians appear to believe, I think Christians should encourage stripping "Merry Christmas" from marketplace and nation.
If you want to reclaim "The Reason for the Season" tell the nation and market to STOP saying "Merry Christmas."
Because here's the news flash: The real War on Christmas is saying "Merry Christmas" in America.
Basically, let Babylon--in marketplace and nation--greet you with "Happy Holidays." Let "Merry Christmas" be for the church. That helps clarify things. As Stanley Hauerwas provocatively said, the first task of the church is to make the world the world.
Let Babylon be Babylon.
Let Babylon say "Happy Holidays."
The liturgical year begins with this the first Sunday of Advent.
Five years ago I wrote a post reflecting on the genealogy of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew.
Matthew 1.1-17Matthew's genealogy is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Matthew mentions women, five to be exact. In itself, this is an unusual move. But even more interesting, and this is the second thing to note, is what links the women Matthew selected to mention.
A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife,
Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.
All five share something in common: Sex scandals.
Some speculate that Matthew highlights these sexual indiscretions to contextualize the scandal of Mary. Mary, Matthew may be arguing, isn't so different from other women in Israel's faith history. Matthew might be trying to normalize the scandal around Mary and the whiff of illegitimacy about Jesus.
But what does it mean that God enters the world under the cloud of moral scandal?
God chooses to enter the world in the middle of small town gossip. (And if you've ever lived in a small town you know exactly what that is like.) What does it say about God in this choosing to enter the world under these particular circumstances?
Rather, God starts with the poor, the alien, the immigrant, the person on the street out in the cold.
And God starts in the midst of moral scandal and gossip. God starts in the place of social shame and moral blame.
God starts with an unmarried pregnant teenager. A human being--along with her embarrassing "situation"--still shunned, shamed and shut away in our churches.
Where does God begin?
Here, in the place the religious and the powerful least expect it.
1Every precaution must be taken that one monk does not presume in any circumstance to defend another in the monastery or to be his champion, 2even if they are related by the closest ties of blood. 3In no way whatsoever shall the monks presume to do this, because it can be a most serious source and occasion of contention.I find this text strange as, generally speaking, I think it's good to stick up for each other. My best guess as to what I think Benedict is after here is that he's trying to address favoritism. "Favorite ones" in the workplace can be a source of contention as people aren't being fairly evaluated on their merits. Fair criticism is silenced because of the "champion." Another aspect to this is how when we start "taking sides" factions begin to develop with people clustering around the disputants.
In my world I've often seen the champion dynamic play out in student/teacher relationships. For example, I once had a teacher approach the department as an advocate for a student. The faculty member--"the champion"--asked that this student be awarded a scholarship above what we typically give. This student was close to the faculty member and had approached the faculty member to make the request because he was in tight financial straits (tight but not desperate). It was certainly within our ability to give the student more scholarship money, but only by taking money away from other deserving students. (We give everyone the same amount so giving anyone more would have taken away from others.) More, this particular student refused to get part-time employment. Most all of our other graduate students work somewhere at the school or in town.
Anyhow, in championing for the student this faculty member put a lot of pressure on the department in ways that bruised some feelings. Based strictly on need, there were other students who were more deserving of additional scholarship money. More, many of these students were working in part-time jobs where the student being advocated for had refused to do this.
All that to say, this "champion" thing can be pretty messy. Being a "champion" feels good, morally speaking, and it often is good. But it can also blind us to the perspectives and needs of others.
National Buy Nothing Day one of the campaigns promoted by Adbusters. Adbusters is a media organization and magazine that supports social activism aimed at combating the destructive forces inherent in capitalism. Much of this effort is a focused on waging "meme warfare" against mindless consumerism. National Buy Nothing Day is an example of this.
In an attempt to push back on the frantic shopping going on today--Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, a day my preacher described as "the most dangerous day of the year for Christians"--National Buy Nothing Day goes against the flow by asking participants to opt out of the mass consumerism. Stay away from the malls, Walmarts, and department stores.
And if you want to do more than opt out Adbusters encourages a variety of culture jamming activities. A list of activities from Wikipedia that people have done for National Buy Nothing Day:
- Credit card cut up: Participants stand in a shopping mall, shopping center, or store with a pair of scissors and a poster that advertises help for people who want to put an end to mounting debt and extortionate interest rates with one simple cut.
- Zombie walk: Participant "zombies" wander around shopping malls or other consumer havens with a blank stare. When asked what they are doing participants describe Buy Nothing Day.
- Whirl-mart: Participants silently steer their shopping carts around a shopping mall or store in a long, baffling conga line without putting anything in the carts or actually making any purchases.
- Wildcat General Strike: A strategy used for the 2009 Buy Nothing Day where participants not only do not buy anything for twenty-four hours but also keep their lights, televisions, computers and other non-essential appliances turned off, their cars parked, and their phones turned off or unplugged from sunrise to sunset.
- Buy Nothing Day hike: Rather than celebrating consumerism by shopping, participants celebrate The Earth and nature.
|Homo Shopus: The final stage in our evolution.|
|The Corporate American Flag|
And you can actually buy the Corporate American Flag to carry or fly here.
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow for the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions.
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
looking up from tables we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is
--"Thanks" by W.S. Merwin
The argument goes like this. Yes, it is granted, Jesus prohibits violence in the Sermon on the Mount. But we also see God acting violently in the Old Testament. Consequently, it is argued, we must remember that "it's the same God." The God of Jesus is the same God in the Old Testament. Thus, we can't assume that God is wholly and always opposed to war.
Further, to make the "it's the same God" argument even stronger (and nerdier) you can go on to accuse pacifists as being Marcionites.
If you don't know about the Marcion heresy a brief primer. Marcion of Sinope was a Christian bishop who lived, give or take, between 85 CE and 160 CE. Marcion was one of the first big heretics. And his heresy was this. Marcion thought that the Jewish god of the Old Testament was a different god from the god revealed to us by Jesus. According to Marcion the teachings of Jesus were incompatible with the actions of the god portrayed in the Old Testament. More, the Old Testament portrays the Jewish god as the Creator god (Marcion called this Creator god the Demiurge) and as seems obvious, this Creator god really made a mess of things. Just look how screwed up this world is.
Christian orthodoxy eventually rejected the Marcion heresy. You see this clearly in the first line of the Nicene Creed:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth...We believe in one God, not two gods (one from the Old Testament and a second from New Testament). And we believe that the God who made heaven and earth wasn't the Demiurge but the God confessed by Jesus Christ.
In short, the God of the Old Testament is the same God in the New Testament. If you're an orthodox Christian you have to reconcile with the Old Testament, as hard as that may be.
And here's my point. It is hard to reconcile the Old Testament God with the New Testament God. Marcion wasn't crazy. He was working through a problem we are still struggling with. Personally, I'm very sympathetic to Marcion. I've scratched my head a plenty in reading the Old Testament. And who hasn't read the Sermon on the Mount and wondered about the violence in the Old Testament?
And this brings me to the crux of this post. The creeds didn't really fix this problem. The creeds just affected the shape of the solution. The creeds basically ruled out a metaphysical fix to the problem. You can't reconcile--within orthodoxy--the Old and New Testaments by positing two gods. But that doesn't mean there isn't some hard reconciling still to do. The disjoints between the Old and New Testament haven't gone away. So how to we overcome the contradictions and tensions? The creeds say you can't fix it metaphysically, so you'll have to do it hermeneutically.
That's my point. The creeds don't fix the problem as much as they hand over to us a hermeneutical challenge. We confess that there is one God, Maker of heaven and earth. But how we make sense of that confession, in light of the Old and New Testaments, is hard, hard interpretive work.
(And incidentally, this is one of the beauties of the creeds. The creeds never went in for parsimony and logical coherence. The creeds always opted to make things stranger and harder. This is a point that Rowan Williams likes to make: theology should make conversation about God harder rather than easier.)
Let's now go back to the issue of war and the use of the Old Testament of justify war.
We can see, now, the shape of the Marcion accusation toward pacifists. When pacifists pit Jesus against YHWH in the Old Testament they are of accused of Marcionism because, as the creeds tell us, "it's the same God." The assumption being that you can't use Jesus to say that God is always, unequivocally against war. Because, clearly, God isn't against war in the Old Testament. So God can't always be against war because, again, "it's the same God." To suggest otherwise is to flirt with the Marcion heresy.
So that's the argument. But I'd like to draw attention to the bait and switch going on.
Basically, the thing to note is this. The claim "it's the same God" is, as we've seen, a confessional rather than a hermeneutical assertion. More precisely, the confession "it's the same God"--"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth"--hands us a hermeneutical conundrum.
The confessional statement "it's the same God" creates rather than solves the hermeneutical problem.
So the problem with the blogger I was reading was that he was using "it's the same God" hermeneutically rather than confessionally. In saying "it's the same God" he was, in effect, flattening out his hermeneutic so that the texts of the Old Testament could be read as equally important to the revelation of Jesus Christ. The blogger slid from confession to hermeneutic. That's the bait and switch.
To be sure, the distinction between confession and hermeneutic isn't as tidy as I've made it out here. But the point holds that the confessional statement "it's the same God" doesn't help resolve the hermeneutical issues. But what clearly shouldn't happen is deploying the confession "it's the same God" to flatten out your hermeneutic so that the war passages in the Old Testament are placed on equal footing with Jesus Christ.
the Christian Seasons Calendar.
The basic concept of the calendar is this. Rather than the year beginning on January 1st and then having days grouped into twelve months, the Christian Seasons Calendar starts with the first day of the liturgical year (the first Sunday of Advent) and then groups dates under the liturgical seasons. You can see the layout here.
Here are some endorsements for the calendar:
Stanley Hauerwas:More endorsements here.
“Few things are more important for Christians today than reclaiming the calendar as our time. This wonderful calendar helps us do that by reminding us that we are constituted by the narrative that is quite different from Canadian or American national holidays. What a wonderful gift this calendar is and makes.”
“I am so glad to see the emergence of this calendar because we Christians are in an emergency about time. It is clear that the dominant culture in North America no longer knows what time it is, because every season has now been homogenized into an uninterrupted ‘shopping season’ and when we do not know what time it is we are unlikely to remember ‘former times’ and surely have no ground to hope for ‘new things’. This new calendar refers all our seasons back to the Lord of all time and may, in quite concrete ways, provide a form of resistance against the timelessness of consumerism back into the timefulness of our faith.”
“Every day is holy, a gift of time in which we enter into the great rhythms of God’s creation and salvation. This calendar brings fresh awareness to the essential sacredness of what is so easily profaned by hurry or sloth.”
What is nifty about the calendar is that you can still use it as a secular calendar. That is, you can quickly look at it and see that, say, today is Tuesday March 9th. But you'd also quickly note that March 9th is the First Week of Lent.
Basically, the liturgical structure is imposed upon the secular calendar breaking it up, not into months, but into liturgical seasons with the number of days for each season varying in length depending upon how long the season lasts. Thus, rather than having 12 months/pages with roughly 30 days per page, Advent has twenty-four days on its page. Christmas has twelve days. Lent has forty days. Holy Week has seven days. And so on.
You still have and can follow the secular days and months, but the organizing structure is liturgical in nature. What grabs your eye is not the month you are in (though that's readily available), but the liturgical season you are in.
2...should choose the appropriate moment and explain patiently to his superior the reason why he cannot perform the task. 3This he ought to do without pride, obstinacy or refusal.As the Chair of the Psychology Department at ACU I often have students come to me to complain about faculty. And the complaints are often the very complaints Benedict is talking about here--burdens given by the teacher/superior that the student feels are too heavy or unfair. And I find myself, in these situations, making recommendations very much like those of Benedict. I encourage the student to approach the professor to raise these concerns. But we spend a lot of time on self-mastery and maturity in preparing for that conversation. If you go in there, I tell the students, with guns a'blazing, with anger or accusation, nothing will be accomplished. But if you are calm, reasonable, and mature you just might get a hearing.
I tell the students that learning how to have hard conversations and learning how to have them well is one of the most important life skills that they can master.
First, women can teach at my church. It's one of the great blessings in my life that Jana and I co-teach our adult bible class at church. Some weeks I teach. Some weeks Jana teaches. And we both love talking to each other and bouncing ideas off each other about what we might say. Jana and I teach differently, but she's my equal intellectually. And I think the class enjoys the mix of styles. And whenever Jana teaches the class she gets tons of positive feedback from the men in the class. In fact, I'd say she gets most of her positive feedback from the men. Even though she wears huge flowers in her hair. (Wearing flowers is sort of Jana's trademark. In fact, it has become a verb around here. To "Jana-Beck-It" is to add a flower to your hair or wardrobe.) The point being, Jana's pretty "girly," but she's razor sharp and hilarious. And she blesses both men and women with her teaching, flowers and all.
Regular readers also know that I preach from time to time on Wednesday nights at Freedom Fellowship, a church plant of Highland that reaches out to the poor and homeless. Women can preach at Freedom. So the last time they asked me to preach I asked if Jana could join me. For a few weeks I preached and then Jana preached and then, on the last week, we preached together. I didn't really think about it at the time, but that was the first time we ever preached together.
And it was amazing. Well, Jana was amazing. If you asked me, Jana Beck might be the best preacher in the Churches of Christ. She's an undiscovered talent. The plan was for Jana to go first and then for me to follow. By the time I got up the whole place was crying. She's that good.
It's nice to be at a church where that can happen.
But women still can't preach on Sunday mornings which means I'm still not preaching on Sunday mornings. And yet, I was on stage for a conversation a few Sundays ago.
Jonathan, our preaching minister, who is also a dear friend (and a great blogger), asked me to participate in a sermon series he was doing entitled Sequels: Love After First Sight about love, romance, singleness, marriage, sex and relationships.
(BTW, if you'd like to see the Becks--and one of Jana's flowers--we participated in a video for this series. The topic was "first kiss." You can see Jana, a flower and I--along with two other lovely older couples from our church--here.)
Now Jonathan and I have talked a lot about my decision to not preach, and he's been gracious, kind, and respectful about my decision. But Jonathan suggested that there might be a way for me to still participate. Specifically, Jonathan was having my good friend Sally Gary participating in the sermon the week before I was to go. Sally, author of the new book Loves God, Like Girls, is the founder and director of CenterPeace, an organization that facilitates conversation in the Churches of Christ about same-sex attraction.
So the week before I participated Sally and Jonathan had their conversation. They sat in chairs onstage and talked to the church, back and forth. The following week I did the exact same thing. Sally talked about same-sex attraction and the idolatry of sexuality and I talked about gender roles.
All in all, Jonathan was very gracious in working with me, making sure a woman went before me so that I could keep to my commitment and promise.
And incidentally, I think Sally's presentation with Jonathan was a real watershed moment at our church and for our denomination. Heading home after hearing Sally that Sunday morning, Brenden, my 16-year-old son, turned to Jana in the parking lot and said, "That sermon was impressive. Sally Gary is awesome."
Yes, son, yes she is.
And so is your mother.
And so are thousands and thousands of women in our churches.
Somewhat paradoxically, it takes a lot of ego-strength to be humble--to let others go first, to take the last place, to "wash feet," and to allow others to get the praise, recognition, and accolades. We struggle with this. Not because we are wicked but because our sense of self-worth is built upon praise, compliments, attention, respect and popularity. Thus we engage in what psychologists have called "excessive reassurance seeking," constantly taking the temperature of our social network to verify that we are being noticed, approved of, and included.
As I noted in that earlier post, this struggle for significance is made even more difficult if you lack what this culture defines as "valuable," "worthy," and "significant." We all want to be valued by others but we can struggle if we don't think we have anything of value to offer, share or show to others.
This brings me to the relationship between privilege and humility. And the point I want to make about this is how humility is often the privilege of the privileged.
Let me try to illustrate what I'm talking about.
It is easy for me, in social situations, to not attend to my reputation or my social presentation because, in many ways, my reputation is already well secured. People often kid me about just how shabbily I can dress. My friend Kyle calls it my "homeless chic."
That casualness can give me an air of relaxed non-pretentiousness. But there is a dark side to this. I can get away with this look because of my privilege and reputation. I am a male. I am white. I am a Doctor. And I have an established reputation of success on my campus. I can afford to look like a hippie or a homeless person because of who I am.
Put simply, because my reputation precedes me I can look like I don't care about my reputation. I can be inconspicuous because I'm not inconspicuous. People know who I am.
In short, I can be casual, relaxed and self-forgetful--I can be "humble"--because I'm privileged.
Here's another way to say all this. I can take "the last place"--and pat myself on the back for being so Jesus-like for doing so--much more easily than others because I'm already in "the first place." My ego-strength to be "humble" derives from my pre-existing privilege. I can be negligent, unconcerned, and nonchalant in regards to respect, praise and attention--be humble about it all--because I already have respect, praise and attention.
In this sense humility is similar to charity. It's not charity if I'm giving out of my excess. And it's not humility if I'm constantly operating out of a storehouse of social and reputational capital.
Consequently, I've come to the conclusion that a lot my "humility" isn't really humility at all. I don't think I have a clue about humility.
All this goes to a contrast in my mind between a deep versus cosmetic spirituality. Most of engage in a cosmetic spirituality. We tweak our prayer life. We volunteer to do the dishes. We show up on weekends to help with a ministry project. We try to be more patient and kind at work. And, to be clear, all this is good, good work.
But in my examen of my humility I've come to realize that most if not all of the cosmetic things I've done in order to be more humble have been built atop things like my privilege, success and reputation. Which means I haven't, as of yet, really gotten around to the deep work of humility. And what that sort of work might entail is a very scary prospect.
A hard-working man and brave
He said to the rich, "Give your money to the poor,"
But they laid Jesus Christ in His grave
He went to the preacher, He went to the sheriff
He told them all the same
"Sell all of your jewelry and give it to the poor,"
And they laid Jesus Christ in His grave.
When Jesus come to town, all the working folks around
Believed what he did say
But the bankers and the preachers, they nailed Him on the cross,
And they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.
And the people held their breath when they heard about his death
Everybody wondered why
It was the big landlord and the soldiers that they hired
To nail Jesus Christ in the sky.
This song was written in New York City
Of rich man, preacher, and slave
If Jesus was to preach what He preached in Galilee,
They would lay poor Jesus in His grave.
--lyrics to "Jesus Christ" by Woodie Guthrie (whose guitar often read "This Machine Kills Fascists")
When I drink, that's what I like. I like Guinness (or local stouts), Merlot, and sipping whiskey (no ice or water).
That said, I don't drink a lot. Mainly, to be honest, because it's so expensive. Sort of like playing golf. I can't justify it economically. Especially since I'm just as happy having a glass of sweet tea.
Anyhow, this is a post about drinking Christians.
A lot of post-evangelicals drink. And many of them drink a lot. Freed from the "don't drink" prohibitions of their conservative upbringings, these are Christians who are now enjoying the freedom they find in Christ to drink alcohol.
And yet, perhaps you've noticed this, a lot of this drinking has a neurotic edge to it. This manifests in two ways.
First, when the drinking is emotionally reactionary--a sign of emancipation from a painful past--the drinking can be aggressive, angry and excessive. Drinking a lot, even getting drunk, functions sort of like a big "f--- you" toward the past. And that's not healthy and can be symptomatic of drinking that is being used to numb some unresolved pain that needs to be dealt with. When you are drinking to mask, numb, or cope--when you are drinking to cover up the pain of an evangelical past--you are self-medicating. And that doesn't end well.
A second way post-evangelicals drink neurotically is when the drinking becomes a sign of superiority, even a large part of your identity. Drinking, in this instance, is a sign of theological sophistication. When you drink you signal that you are more enlightened than those conservative Christians with bad atonement theology. These feelings of theological superiority can become such an important source of self-esteem that we begin to intellectually invest in our drinking, cultivating a peer status of connoisseur--from mixed drinks to wine to beer. For these Christians, it's not just that they drink, it's that they drink well.
Consequently, in a lot of progressive, post-evangelical circles there is a lot of drinking going on. And everyone, it seems, wants to have church in a bar. That conflation--church in a bar--is sort of a sign that you've reached escape velocity from your evangelical past. Drinking is a way to put those conservative ghosts to rest.
And to reiterate, I have no problem with drinking. One of the things I love more than just about anything is good conversation over beers.
And yet, I'm still environmentally and socially sensitive about drinking. And I wish more progressive, post-evangelical Christians were as well.
Many years ago Jana and I were a part of an Easter passion play, a cooperative effort put on by a few local churches. After the last show we all went to the cast party being hosted by some cast members who were progressive, post-evangelical Christians. So there was alcohol there. This was only a problem because a young couple who were members of the cast were also new Christians. They had each come out of a past full of heavy, heavy drinking. In becoming Christians they had turned their backs on that lifestyle and had given up drinking. So they were really looking forward to their first "party" with their new Christian friends. On arrival they were disillusioned and confused to find alcohol there. Which bothered Jana and I. So to make them feel comfortable and to honor their choices and new lifestyle Jana and I didn't drink that night.
The point of my telling this story is that I don't ever want my Christian liberty to be a cause of stumbling for others. And new Christians aside, I think it's important for progressive Christians to have hard conversations about alcoholism. That's a downer, to be sure, but in our enjoyment of drinking I fear we have occasionally failed to give our attention to the darkness in our churches associated with alcohol abuse and dependence.
In my estimation this blindness is the biggest problem with the sorts of reactionary drinking I described above. When you come out of a stifling, guilt-ridden evangelical past drinking is so emotionally and theologically liberating. It's a deep and visceral breaking free. And in the flood of those positive feelings--that first drink is sort of an Emancipation Proclamation from a troubled, Puritanical past--the risks and dangers associated with drinking, for yourself and for others, can become eclipsed.
We can all see the tension: you've finally been set free from the guilt, fear, and shame associated with drinking (among other things) and you're supposed start worrying about it all over again? Isn't that going back to a past that you swore you would never return to?
That's the dark side of post-evangelical drinking. Given that drinking is a sign of liberation from a troubled past, many progressive Christians find it emotionally difficult to address alcoholism, or to put the drinks away because of a "weaker brother" in our midst.
And yet, I do think progressive, post-evangelical Christianity needs to start having a hard conversation about drinking. Church in a bar isn't always a good idea when there are people struggling with alcoholism. I spend some time mentoring men struggling with addictions. I can't imagine inviting them to church in a bar or for theological talk over microbrews. Sometimes what seems cool and hip can actually be hurtful. And we get confused about this because evangelical ghosts are still haunting us.
There are times, perhaps, to let those spirits rest.
Okay, end of rant. Ya'll have a good weekend. And BTW, I pray for everyone, everyday, who I disagree strongly with on this blog.
I hope you pray for me as well.
I could care less about repealing Obamacare. But I care great deal about if you can improve it.
(Or, as the situation is right now, affordable insurance. That's a bit different as I noted in my earlier post. The ACA is insurance reform; it's not "socialized medicine.")
ACA + 1 is better than the ACA.
The problem is that brothers on a journey, being outside of the community and the structure of the Rule, would have seen things and did things that might have affected them spiritually.
In light of that damage and disruption when the brothers return Benedict says that they should "ask the prayers of all for their faults, in case they may have been caught off guard on the way by seeing some evil thing or hearing some idle talk."
There are lots of things I love about liturgical churches. And one of those things is this: having come out of the world--like those brothers on a journey--we begin worship with a confession of sins.
From the Episcopal Church:
Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.The confiteor from the Catholic Church:
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
I confess to almighty GodDuring the lines of the confiteor "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault" (Latin: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa) the breast may be struck three times.
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
Sadly, churches like my own don't have anything like this in our worship services.
I felt, and still feel, that it's insane--freaking insane--that every American citizen does not have access to basic healthcare. It's unconscionable. It's a moral failure.
There is a huge--HUGE--gap in our safety net because health insurance is tied to full-time employment. Too many employers can game the system by hiring people just under full-time, making American workers work two jobs without getting insurance (or related benefits) from either employer. To say nothing of those who aren't employed or who would like to get private insurance but have preexisting conditions. The fact that you have to go through insurance companies to get healthcare in America is hugely problematic. Too many people are left out of the system. It needs to get fixed.
So some thoughts about the rollout of the ACA given how bad it has been.
Liberals didn't want the ACA. We didn't want insurance reform. We wanted healthcare reform. But since healthcare reform wasn't in the offing, we were stuck with the plan that originated from Republican think-tanks (I'm looking at you Heritage Foundation): The Affordable Care Act. That is, insurance reform.
At the very least, if we had to stick to the funding side, we wanted a single payer system. We didn't even get that. A single-payer system would have been so much easier than trying to corral all the private insurance companies as we are trying to do now.
Still, the ACA got more people insurance and enrolled more poor people in Medicaid. That was an improvement. So many of us voted for it. Even though it wasn't what we really wanted.
Enrolling through HealthCare.gov is still a mess. Hopefully they'll get it fixed. Soon. But the happy news is that since the ACA became law the highest enrollments have been from those joining Medicaid. Because of the ACA more poor people are getting access to healthcare. That's good news.
I believe in perfecting our Union. Well, I believe in reforming our Union. I'd like to believe that both Republicans and Democrats can work together to get every American citizen access to quality healthcare. And if that means reforming the ACA by all means let us do that. I don't care about the political winners and losers. I care about the outcomes.
I could care less about repealing Obamacare. But I care great deal about if you can improve it.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost the American taxpayers 4-6 trillion dollars. Along with the lives of over 4,400 US troops. Civilian casualty estimates are 100,000+. Those are innocent men, women and children. Finally, the Iraq war lasted eight years.
The ACA is pretty small potatoes by comparison. I'm willing to play the long game with this.
If you were patient with that war--given its cost in lives and treasure--I think you can spare some patience getting people some healthcare.
That's how Willy started his story as we were sharing during the bible study I lead out at the prison.
Having a fan is a big deal. The prison is not air conditioned. And during Texas summers, when the temperatures climb to over 100 degrees for weeks and weeks on end, the prison becomes a stifling sweatbox. Some of the chaplains that teach classes at the prison cancel classes during the summer months because of the heat. It's too much to bear for the two hours of class.
The inmates live with it 24/7. Through the entire summer.
The only relief is a bit air movement provided by a small fan. A fan which costs money. And not everyone has money. Willy didn't. So the gift of a fan, in the middle of summer, was a pretty big deal. A huge, huge relief. A fan can keep you from going crazy during those hot Texas nights with no air conditioning and no windows.
Trouble was the fan was contraband. Prisoners can't give or receive gifts like that. Willy's fan broke the rules.
Still, it was not like he was hurting anyone. The contraband in question wasn't drugs or anything. It was just a fan for goodness' sake.
But one day while studying his bible Willy came across these words, "if you can't be faithful in the little things how can you be trusted with the big things?"
Willy became convicted. The fan broke the rules. It was a little thing, to be sure. But Willy wanted to be faithful, even in the little things. Especially in the little things.
As so, Willy concluded his story, "I threw the fan away."
The room listened in stunned silence. He what? He threw the fan away!? It was barely conceivable, beyond our moral horizons, that someone would be that obedient in the face of the resultant suffering he would have to endure.
"I didn't mind being hot," Willy continued, "I was able to share in the sufferings of Jesus."
Willy looked at me and smiled, gold teeth flashing.
"I was free inside. I was happy."
The blessings are obvious. Before the discovery of anti-psychotic medications in the 1950s, those suffering from severe mental illness were locked up and put in straight jackets. Schizophrenia was treated with lobotomies and electroconvulsive (i.e., shock) therapy.
So great hope accompanied the advent of anti-psychotic medication. A hope that promoted a process called deinstitutionalization where, starting in the 1960s, the large, publicly-run psychiatric hospitals were emptied out so that families and local communities could treat the mentally ill with psychopharmacology.
But both families and communities were unprepared and ill-equipped for this burden. Good intentions and a handful of pills were not enough. Infrastructure was required. And lacking this, deinstitutionalization effectively created the mentally ill homeless population.
To this day, estimates have 1 out of 4 homeless persons as suffering from severe mental illness. And while deinstitutionalization is not the primarily or sole cause of homelessness, deinstitutionalization did make the mentally ill much more vulnerable to homelessness, particularly among those with lower incomes.
The legacy of deinstitutionalization is still with us. You see it on the streets of every American city where the mentally ill sleep in doorways and on park benches. It is a reality I see every week at my church Freedom Fellowship where we feed and worship with the homeless.
As I was describing this problem and its history to my class one of my students raised his hand, clearly distressed by the plight of the mentally ill in America today, and asked, "Dr. Beck, is there anything we can do about this?"
And I said, "Socialized medicine."
In retrospect, I answered that question a bit too quickly and provocatively. Most of my students are conservative, politically and religiously. So they are not too keen on the notion of "socialized medicine." That's a bad thing in their eyes.
Regardless, the fact remains that in America today there is no public safety net for the chronically and/or severely mentally ill. Mental illness brings about homelessness among the economically vulnerable. And once on the street the mentally ill will remain there until they die. There is no way for them, given their mental illness, to secure employment and the income necessary to pull themselves back out of homelessness.
And yet, wanting to address the beliefs of my most conservative students, after mentioning socialized medicine I went on to say that, if you are conservative, that churches (rather than the government) should step in to care for the mentally ill of the community, especially those who are homeless.
And yet, I noted, I know of no churches (in our city at least) that actually do this work in any consistent and comprehensive way.
Who would make a good Porter? Benedict's recommendation: "place a sensible old man who knows how to take a message and deliver a reply, and whose age keeps him from roaming about."
We don't want those Porters wandering off.
What I find charming about Chapter 66 is how the Porter is instructed to respond to a knock on the monastery door. You'd think the response to a knock would be something like "Who's there?" or "Who is it?"
But this is what Benedict instructs:
As soon as anyone knocks, or a poor man calls out, he replies, "Thanks be to God"...I like the implicit theology of hospitality in that reply. A stranger comes. The poor ask for help. And our response is gratitude.
"Thanks be to God."
This man has it.
When Isaac Theil let a sleepy stranger take a little catnap on his shoulder, it was because "I simply remembered the times my own head would bop on someone’s shoulder because I was so tired after a long day," he recounted to Tova Ross of Tablet Magazine.
Another subway rider was so struck by Theil's nonchalant empathy that he snapped a picture and put it on Reddit... Redditor Braffination wrote, "Heading home on the Q train yesterday when this young black guy nods off on the shoulder of a Jewish man. The man doesn't move a muscle, just lets him stay there. After a minute, I asked the man if he wanted me to wake the kid up, but he shook his head and responded, 'He must have had a long day, let him sleep. We've all been there, right?'"
The pope stopped his car, got out, embraced and kissed the man and then prayed over him.
I wrote a book about this sort of thing. You don't really need to read it. You can look at these pictures. They tell you everything the book was trying to say.
Mark 1.40-41(H/T Andrew Sullivan)
A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus, filled with compassion, reached out his hand and touched him...