(For more Holiday thoughts, go to: Holiday Thoughts for 2003 or More 2004 Holiday Thoughts, or Holiday Thoughts for 2005 and 2005 Holiday Thoughts Continued, or Holiday Thoughts: 2006, and We Are and the Age of Clarity .)
Maybe the reason, if there is such a thing, that we’ve manufactured more control than we have grace, is that we trust the idea of control more than we trust the idea of grace–you know, be nice, be cheerful, be well-armed.
For instance, I read a column, written by a pastor, in the newspaper recently that suggested the reason to be against same-sex marriages is that opposing it is actually an act of love. The pastor’s reasoning was why would we want someone so misdirected that it would add to the distance between themselves and grace? We have laws against murder for the same reason, against all manner and kinds of things in order to protect people from following the wrong road. So, the reasoning goes, we need to speak up and protect those and point out the road to perdition and the road to grace. (I suspect that lumping in same-sex marriages with murder might be a bit of a stretch.)
Here’s a thought: We can speak up all right, we can have our positions and our opinions all right, but we might want to be a tad careful about self-righteousness, especially under the banner of love. We might know the road for ourselves, but it is a difficult task indeed to download our experiences directly into another. I would presume that freedom to come to God is a Godlike endeavor itself. I might ask how the pastor came to his grace, via his own experience or another’s? Or was it both (his savior and the pastor’s own realization)? If it was the latter, it is still clear that one’s own experience and their interpretation thereof are still paramount. Even if a life vest can save a life before one has learned to swim, one might still want to learn to swim.
So, the dictums of the pastor are merely moral life vests? And we need to pass laws to save our mortal souls (though I’m not clear what a “mortal” soul really is)?
Perhaps it is an act of love to be accepting of another’s road. Now look out–that does not mean that we have to promote, tolerate, or accept killing (though we do under certain circumstances–which the pastor seemed to conveniently overlook) or any other act that we have agreed is not ethically or morally appropriate. But there’s the rub, “agreed upon,” is an act of consensus reality. And we don’t have anything but pockets of agreement about that–there’s still lots of discussion about what is considered “appropriate” behavior.
Perhaps God’s grace does not extend only to a few. One might be more Godlike to engage in given behaviors than in others, but perhaps all paths lead to God. That would be the ultimate grace of God–the godly safety net in which no one, not even Lucifer himself can fall through (though I suspect, as I wrote sometime back, that the conflict between God and the devil might be a human creation rather than a heavenly one).
So what is grace then? Do we need a law that promotes acceptance (oops, we supposedly have one–I think it’s called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights)?
There are some things with which we don’t have to agree. There are even behaviors that might move us to such great lengths as to take another’s life, but perhaps we might want to be careful that we don’t issue too many directives that we think are “loving.” Perhaps some people don’t want to learn to swim.
Nonetheless, there are some behaviors that humans might want to unite against. Murder works in there as a negative very nicely. So do a lot of things. But being against same-sex marriages? Who is that hurting again? The sanctity of marriage? As I heard a comedian ask, how well have heterosexuals done in preserving the sanctity of marriage? We’re railing against what? As someone who is divorced, and more than once, I feel somewhat nervous telling others they just don’t get what marriage is.
Grace is a powerful consideration when we are considering what our moral compass should be. We do have to be careful, and we might consider having a bigger now in such considerations. Our bodies and our lives are not just our own. If one smokes or drinks themselves to death, it is not just about them–it is an effect that goes out to others.
Freedom is a weird concept. And perhaps we’ve turned it into something that it is not. When we use the idea of “good will” to put others on a lower rung, maybe we’ve lost our way. If so, may the good will that can be sparked by the Holidays bring us to a different understanding.
For these Holidays and for all our days, may we experience grace and good will. It’s a good gift and a good start, even if we can’t abide what others do. But there’s no reason to dehumanize others because we might not understand the difference between preference and judgment. And in those cases where we do have to make a judgment, let us do that with grace and good will. Though we might be forced to take action against another, is not a reason to demonize. After all, those who are not being Godlike are many–dare I say most of us?
Besides, I have a feeling that God is not too worried, even if God also cries.
Maybe during the Holidays, we could spread the cheer beyond humanity.