A letter donated by Chesed and Gevurah (Mercy and Rigor)
To my deacon: Why mercy is better
You have been so kind and gracious to talk with me. By the way, I want you to know how flattering it is that you think of me as a cross to bear that will help you grow! (ha.) It wouldn't be the first time.
What I wanted to point out, as per our previous conversation about the conflict between President Obama and the Catholic Church, (and not because it is my own bias), is that the President will undoubtedly be re-elected by a comfortable margin. Why?
- Not because it is the end of the world, or because he is the anti-christ.
- Not because this country has become some kind of Sodom and Gomorrah, and what else would you expect from such a wicked, pagan, godless nation...
- Not because the GOP is so splintered that it has self-destructed, (although that helps).
In fact, the President is going to be re-elected as a rebuke to the hatred, pride, and activism belonging to people in this country who call themselves Christian. This is not a simple karmic principle of reaping what we sow, although that is definitely a big part of it. I believe that God will allow the President to be re-elected for many reasons, not least, that Barack Obama is, after all, God's own delegated authority which Christians have been instructed by Saint Paul to submit to (up to offense against God's law, which many conservatives believe exempts them from giving the President any respect at all, but they are wrong: look at Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar- Daniel was very respectful and looked for ways not to offend him; look at David and Saul).
On the judgment side, of course Christian conservatives are reaping what they have sown: they didn't wait until the third year of his term to begin their attacks. They didn't wait for a health-care controversy or a perceived impinging upon of religious freedom (funny, isn't it, that conservatives always want to impose their will on others, but if their toes get stepped on- watch out!)...No, the attacks began the minute this President was inaugurated, or even before (many Republicans were so against Barack Obama they voted for Hillary Clinton in Democratic Primaries). Myself, I was apolitical in 2008, but became politicized during the health care debate after a conversation with my mother-in-law which I won't go into right now. These attacks were not from just the "fringe". No- acts of hatred, racism, disrespect, contempt have abounded almost universally among conservatives, Catholics, non-Catholics alike from the beginning. This President is not a radical; it is only proof of the polarization of America today that conservatives are so alarmist about him. If he were such a radical, he wouldn't always be getting into trouble with his own liberal base like he does. Then what is it- race? Of course, racism accounts for a lot of it. Personally, I think this President is so threatening to conservatives because he is without scandal and has done a great job of saving this country from the mess Bush left it in, but never mind.
The mercy side of why God is allowing President Obama to be re-elected has to do with the fact God chastises those He loves. The problem with thinking in terms of conventional morality is, it can obscure the process human beings have to go through in order to become spiritually free. Freedom, or union with the will of God, requires one thing above all, apart from the divine call itself: human beings must be mortified in themselves before they can be used for God's will. We alcoholics consider ourselves blessed more than the "normies" because if we are in recovery, that means we finally got it -- got it that we are powerless to change others (people, places, or things), and we have learned to be in acceptance. Funny how so many spiritual movements start out as being genuinely of God and end up calcified into religion (as in, Pharisaism). For example, our extreme right wing Protestant friends who are not so educated in history or doctrine would not be able to understand that the Reformation when it began was a humanistic movement. Today among conservative evangelicals, "humanism" is such a dirty word, not much better than "demonism", that they could not even look at it objectively as a concept. What a shame. Such extremism is based in fear and ignorance and not on any real desire to please God.
The problem with political activism, (which of course applies to me as well), is that we are imposing our own will. When we get to the point in our spiritual life that we become so sure of ourselves, so certain of God's directives, so bold in our defense of what we think is right, that we are willing to go to any length -- including killing others (character assassination is murder according to Scripture), then we surely have lost our way. Have you ever really listened to EWTN (Fox "News", or any others of a long list), as from the point of view of an unbeliever or a lapsed Catholic? Unless someone is in a really desperate emotional condition, or unless it is simply God's will to use EWTN to reach them, most of that programming is deeply offensive to ordinary people, and only reinforces all the negative stereotypes that exist about religion. The task of Christians isn't just to hoard their relationship with God, but share it with others. How can you share God with others if all you can offer is hatred, judgment, scorn, and contempt? You refuse to compromise with the world, you say? Was Jesus compromising with the world when He ate supper with Nicodemus? When He defended an adulteress about to be stoned to death? (Do you have any idea of how many civil marriages count as adultery in the eyes of the Catholic Church?) When He made wine at a marriage feast in Cana? Was Jesus compromising His holiness or sanctity by being an attractive, loveable, captivating man? We must do more than speak the truth: we must live it.
If we do not die to self, if we do not relinquish our will, even when it is most difficult, even when it involves what we believe to be morally right, we will never know God the way He wants us to know Him. The paradox of the path to sainthood (or freedom) is that, in order to know who God really is, we have to give up all our ideas of what we think He should be. Have you tried to imagine being a Jew in the time of Jesus, and having someone tell you that there was a new teacher who was stirring up trouble, who was saying you don't have to wash your hands before eating? That it didn't matter what foods one ate? Conservatives say: "heresy!" and reject Christ. End of story!
The failure of liberalism is different; just as grave, but different. It is more than just the mistake of favoring the creation over the Creator. Liberalism is the cry of a child to his negligent father: "look, I am standing here bleeding AND YOU DON'T CARE!" Because the liberal soul doesn't experience love, order, normalcy, or faith in the formative years, he is prone to unbelief and becomes over-protective of people; hypersensitive about human and animal suffering. (There are other patterns, by which a traumatized person becomes reactionary on the Right; this is just one way of looking at it.) It was his own suffering that enabled him to empathize with the suffering of others, even of people he didn't necessarily identify with, even people outside of his own group; even non-human creatures. But conservatism is the child who never gave up the Myth of the Perfect Family. For him, the abusive father was just teaching him discipline, the cold mother was just a suffering saint, etc. Conservatives can't feel the suffering of others because they are not in touch with their own. The conservative Christian makes the mistake of coming to believe that he and his people are GOOD and RIGHT, when of course, any authentic Christian knows we are not good in ourselves.
We need both! All this division and alienation of course exists as a result of the Fall. But look here: ONE IS EASIER TO REPENT FROM THAN THE OTHER...When one is without God, there is always the possibility that one might still come to believe, in response to grace and the misery of a life based on self. BUT WHEN ONE ALREADY THINKS HE KNOWS WHAT IS GOOD AND RIGHT AND SUPERIMPOSES HIS OWN IDEA OF GOD ONTO GOD, then how is he going to know his need of God? How is he to accept cognitively different representations of God? These are people who in many cases can't even see God in His own creation! I knew a woman at an evangelical church I used to be a member of, an extreme case, who once described torture as "a little discomfort"; who really believed that the Earth and everything in it was just the litter box of the Elect to misuse, abuse and waste at will, because such was the love of their Father for them, the chosen few. I do not exaggerate. Extremism on both sides of the spectrum is disorder and sickness; overcompensation.
What has this to do with the re-election of President Barack Obama? Conservatives have gone too far, and in His love of them and chastisement of them, God will allow this President to have four more years; among other reasons, to show them that He, God, is Boss, and not them. That, and the fact that, President Obama is not the evil and wicked anti-christ bogeyman that extremists make him out to be. We have only two choices when it comes to the spiritual life: either us or God, and if we really want God, we have to let go of ourselves, our own ideas, our own will, our desire to save the world (Jesus already did that, remember?), our desire to protect the helpless (that goes for all of us), our view of the world, our understanding of Scripture, our dietary laws, in short: the Law. In order to know God, we must at some point relinquish the Law, and receive Grace. That is the best thing I learned from the Protestants. Now if they, and the rest of us, could only practice what they preach.
Thank you for letting me get this off my chest.
P. S. Put another way, if I as a human being am identifying with God exclusively, then am I not prone to believing myself to be godly? (The temptation of the religious is believing that they are good). If, however, I am able to identify with other human beings, who are obviously frail, vulnerable, and wicked, then don't I stand a better chance of knowing that I AM NOT GOD? Only in knowing we are not God is there any real chance of being saved.
Originally posted on Open Salon: 2012-FEB-10. It is based on a letter that she actually sent)
Initially posted here: 2012-FEB-15