Wednesday, January 22, 2014

To John Peter Boonzaaijer, "Batiushka"

And so, you came to me:
Young and impressionable,
A sponge, ready to drink in everything
I could give you.
And, like a sponge,
Rough and wooly on the edges.
And I taught you
All I could,
Ancient truths,
And the lore of the woods and fields,
(Remember when we skinned the raccoon?)
And the forgotten crafts
Of wood and iron,
Of water, fire, earth and air.
And you left me richer than you came,
Dripping with newly acquired knowledge
And a modicum of experience.
You left happy
And I watched you go with a
Sad joy.

And so, I came to you:
With white hair and wrinkled eyes,
Still longing to know,
Still thirsty to drink from
Wells of knowledge.
And you taught me,
All you could,
Ancient truths,
Venerable forms,
The lore and luster
Of the Ancient Church,
The old light shining with
New illumination upon the Sacred Text.
You taught me
The holiness of real things,
Bread and Wine,
Water and Oil,
Holy smoke from
God's own forge.
And we stand together now,
Not parted, not parting,
Until death shall come for one of us-
And I hope it will be me first,
And you will
Watch me go with a
Joyous sadness.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Christian "Culture of Complaint"?

We are hearing a good deal these days about the persecution of Christians in current American culture.  (Most of the noise is to be heard from the 24-7 news (?) media and the social networks like Facebook.)  Much of this so-called persecution has revolved around free enterprise operations like Chick-Fil-a, Hobby Lobby, and the television series "Duck Dynasty."  I rarely shop or eat at the first two, and I have never seen an episode of the last, so I have no emotional investment in any of the them.

I have been cautious about commenting on any of this, and once, when I did, I was grossly misunderstood, ended up alienating a few friends, and was cautioned by my Rector.  The scalded dog avoids any water thrown in his direction.

But, the more I have listened  to this noise, the more I have thought that something is missing.  It was only last night that I think I saw what that something is.

Years ago, the late art-critic, Robert Hughes described America in the 90s as a "culture of complaint."  American's in the 90s had become hypersensitive, whiny, complaining, self-absorbed, quick to take offense and shrill in their response to it (real or imagined).  I agreed with Hughes' analysis then, and I think that thirty years later, we are not only the same, but worse.  So goes the culture and that does not cause me a lot of concern.

What does concern me is this:  The same charge can be leveled at Christians in America at the present time.  And with justification.

In the present climate with all the talk about persecution and "rights" the outrage and complaint are palpable and the whining and self-pity are thinly disguised (if at all).  "Poor Christians, we are always getting a raw deal."

What is missing from all of this is the attitude of the early Church, and the Church throughout the ages and
even now in other parts of the world.  What is missing is what Jesus commended and commanded in His disciples when confronted with mistreatment.  What is missing is Joy.

"Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you for my sake and the Gospel's"  "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." This is what the Founder of the Christian church said, and having said it, went on to model it before the world.  Even unto death.  Even unto death on a Roman torture stake.

The early Christians understood this.  They took up the cross, suffered mistreatment, persecution, and death and did so without complaint.  Indeed, they did so with joy and rejoicing.  "They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus' name."

We may be watchful about the current of contemporary culture.  We may be concerned about the loss of freedom in a free society.

But, we must never whine and complain.  This is a tacit denial of a core ethic of our Faith. The world understands this better that some Christians do.

And it is watching...too.