October 17, 2017

Damaris Zehner: Yielding Rights

White Crucifixion, Chagall

White Crucifixion, Chagall

Yielding Rights
By Damaris Zehner

When discussions occur on Internet Monk defending abortion rights, contraceptive rights, rights to same-sex marriage, rights to divorce, even rights to receive communion in a denomination not one’s own, I tend not to take part.  One reason I refrain has to do with the rules for ethical argument, at least as I teach them to my students.  I define argument as a means of working together to find the truth; if I do not anticipate being able to change my views no matter how compelling the opposition, then I would be entering into an argument under false pretenses.  So I mostly stay out of the arguments that exist or (with a few exceptions) refrain from starting any myself.  Does that imply that I think I’m right in these areas?  Well, it implies that I think the position I have accepted is the right one – which is why I accepted it, after all.   It says nothing about my own righteousness, which is as filthy rags.

So I stay quiet on Internet Monk, but I feel like a hypocrite.   I have considered quitting the site from time to time and finding more congenial surroundings (assuming there are any), but I would then be isolated from those I disagree with, which is an unhealthy positionMost importantly, though, my refusal to take up an opposing position to those commonly expressed on Internet Monk is an insult to all of you, as if I thought that you weren’t worth the effort of honest discussion.  I regret these sins of mine and resolve to do better.

Here goes:  I cannot condone abortion.  I do not accept same-sex unions as marriage, although I support laws to allow individuals to establish legal relationships of inheritance, sharing of benefits, etc., as they choose.  I believe that divorce is rarely an option.  You know how I feel about artificial forms of contraception.  It has never occurred to me that any denomination is obliged to give me communion when I do not share their beliefs or practices.

Rather than explain my reasons for each of those positions separately, although I have many, I think I can say that they all rest on the same foundation, as do my positions on suicide, extreme aids to conception such as sperm banks and in vitro fertilization, and other issues.  That foundation is not political conservatism; I am not a political conservative, and in fact, politics is as opaque to me as music is to the tone-deaf.  It is a conviction based on Scripture, that when we become Christians, we yield our rights in exchange for grace.

One passage that outlines this idea clearly is from the Gospel of Matthew:

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

• Matthew 5:39-42

It seems from this that when we follow Jesus, we don’t have a right to be treated well, to hang on to our belongings, or to defend ourselves from annoying interruptions.  We are not our own; we are bought with a price.

It’s not that we become chattel when we yield ourselves to God, however.  We get something better from him than our rights.  God showers us with grace, grace in full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over; but the problem comes when the grace he gives us is not the grace we thought we wanted.  God, instead of rubber-stamping our plans and desires, offers us suffering as an invitation to grow into the image of his son.  But rather than embrace that suffering, we want to legislate it away, and in the process we lose the opportunity for holiness and death to self.  We have the wrong picture of how the Christian life works.  It’s less like the life of lead characters in countless rags-to-riches movies who “succeed” by following their dreams and always believing in themselves.  It’s much more like George Bailey’s in It’s a Wonderful Life, who time and again gives up his dreams for the sake of others.  Like him we are not the masters of our fate or the captains of our soul as we imagine we are; we grow and are judged by our reactions to what God puts before us.

So when I think about what it means to yield our rights before God, I conclude that if I am pregnant against my plans or desires, even as a result of rape, I should embrace that baby’s life with love and give up my own rights to the life I had planned.  If a woman experiences same-sex attraction and cannot endure a heterosexual marriage, she should take up her cross of enforced chastity and ask God to make her burden as light as possible.  If a man feels stifled in his marriage, he should stay for the love of others and not seek to “maximize his own potential” through divorce.  If you struggle with sexual temptation, you should offer it to God and resist redesigning morality and natural science to let you do what you want.  And if we are denied communion, we should accept the authority of religious leaders rather than demanding that they accord us rights without the mutual obligation of an ongoing relationship.

Jesus’ words present us with the stark difference between the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God.  None of what he says in Matthew or what I’ve said above is practical, or even sensible, by worldly standards.  But God is calling us to sainthood, not to sensible behavior.  Do I really think that people can live according to such “unrealistic” ideals of holiness?  Probably not, but what I think is not the point.  I’m not the one asking people to accept suffering – I have a hard time sacrificing my desires in little matters, much less in huge ones such as unwanted pregnancy or sexual temptation.  God, not I, is asking us to die to ourselves.  And arguing in favor of abortion, same-sex marriage, no-fault divorce, and open communion is, it seems to me, an attempt to avoid dying to ourselves.

It’s tricky, however.  I’m not saying we should wipe out the concept of civil rights.  Christians should work for just laws, for social equity, for the good of mothers and children and all who are oppressed or in need.  We have the responsibility to ask for godly practices in our churches.  It would even have been a good thing if the Romans had repented of their hubris and carried their own packs for that mile or two.  But the issue I want to stress is not our civil rights as citizens of a nation.  In the kingdom of this world, abortion may remain legal, for example, but then Christians should neither avail themselves of it nor change their religious beliefs to justify it.  We should seek justice, but we cannot hide behind laws of our own making when God asks us to take up our cross and die.  We mustn’t think that the laws we pass or the social norms we overset will have anything to do with our defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ.

The result of giving up our rights and relying on grace is that we will spend the rest of our lives in tension – being in the world but not of it, being, for a time, citizens of two kingdoms.  The Kingdom of God, unlike the kingdom of this world, is not subject to movements or fashions.  It is not a democracy.    We can’t vote to change aspects of it that we find uncomfortable or retrograde.  None of us get to dictate the terms of entrance.  To enter the Kingdom of God we must die.  For some of us, death means staying in a difficult marriage or never being married at all; for some it means giving birth to a child who will change our lives in imponderable ways.  It always means suffering – the Bible, and the pattern of Jesus’ life, promise us that.

So if you post comments approving of abortion, no-fault divorce, sex outside of sacramental marriage, or the right to trump church authority in order to find happiness and avoid suffering, I can’t go along with you, whether I join the discussion or not.  However, if you want to work to help mothers and children, to reconcile unhappy couples, to befriend the lonely, or to strive toward church unification at whatever cost to your own desires, then I will work with you as God gives me strength.  In either case I acknowledge that you are my brothers and sisters; please pray for me, and I will pray for you.

Comments

  1. Christiane says:

    ” I define argument as a means of working together to find the truth; if I do not anticipate being able to change my views no matter how compelling the opposition, then I would be entering into an argument under false pretenses.”

    Damaris, this comment gives me much to think about. I understand what you are saying, but I would exchange the word ‘argument’ for the word ‘dialogue’ . . . it occurs that I may not be able to do this ‘switching’ of terms and still keep the integrity of your sentence’s meaning as you intended it to be. If I made a mistake in my own choice of term to fit your sentence, please let me know.

    My thing about ‘dialogue’ is that it is not so much a ‘competition’ with a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’; but it is a joint effort to examine one another’s points of view to see the similarities and differences and even those areas of common understanding . . . and by some grace of God, to increase the depth of mutual understanding as a result of such a respectful dialogue. It’s not ‘debate’, no. It’s not ‘argument’, no. But it is a place of meeting in an atmosphere of respect for the dignity of those with diverse points of view on issues. ‘Dialogue’ as a term somehow seems more hopeful to me. I can certainly respect your reservations with the term ‘argument’, yes.

    • Damaris says:

      Good point, Christiane. Dialogue is a more friendly word than argument, but I teach a course that focuses on argument. Most students come to the class with same idea that argument is a fight with winners and losers. Sometimes it is, but it is much more than that, and there are many modes of argument. Argument in its broadest sense is the means of approaching truth together in areas where the truth is not susceptible to scientific or practical proof.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        I agree that Dialogue is a better term – and very very much something our society needs to re-learn how to do.

        I recommend watching “American Conversations: Cornel West and Robert P. George” hosted by the Hauenstein Center; West & George are masters of dialogue, representing *a* Christian ‘right’ and *a* Christian ‘left’, and they are always an entertaining show.

        Video id iHIlfeoHIIY on that well-known video site, the actual talk begins at 7 minutes.

        • “Dialogue”, however, seems so insipid. To me the word describes a process with no hint of a goal. Dialoguing is how one should argue with the hope that both sides arrive at truth at the same time. I vote for “argue”.

          • Christiane says:

            Hi JIM,
            the reasoning behind my statement that I found ‘dialogue’ to be a more hopeful way for people to interact is that a return to humility before the Lord and to kindness like that of Our God would be an answer because it would draw people back to ‘community’ and that kind of respect for the diversity that exists among individuals in a community IS fostered by ‘dialogue’ that does not include the factors of pride and hubris that bring down ‘community’ so often . . . I’m not saying that there is more than one ‘truth’ when I speak of this kind of ‘diversity’; rather I’m speaking of the different perspectives from which diverse individuals in a community see that truth.

            Example: is a glass half full OR half empty . . . the perception of those looking at it is reflective of something personal that is open to sharing, if the other is open to listening . . . and the ‘goal’ is for each one to increase their understanding of the other’s point of view and how they came to see the truth in their own way

            The pay-off ? I can tell you that I have been able to see Our Lord from the eyes of those whose faith communities are different from my own, and each time I was blessed with gifts of insight that I would not have been privy to prior to respectfully listening to these folks. That knowledge that Christ is SHARED even among ‘separated’ brethren gives me hope for the eventual ‘healing of the breach’ that will come in God’s time . . . otherwise, I would have remained discouraged by the divisions that keep us from not realizing how we are bonded IN Christ in a way that is not something that the world can take from us . . . that is the pay-off for me . . . hope is a good thing, JIM . . . I hope I have made a case for ‘dialogue’ that offers you something to think about . . . (one thing, though . . . a grace-given ‘patience’ is a needed element in ‘dialogue’ among Christian people, so the temperament of those involved, as touched by this grace, is a factor in the success of this form of communication)

  2. Damaris, just when I begin to question why I still visit this site I then read your post and am refreshed. Thank heavens I am not alone.

  3. I can have no rights, unless someone, or some many, or all, have the responsibility that creates that right. You can have no rights, unless I, or someone else, or some many, or all have the responsibility that creates that right. God calls us to responsibilities – which opens the door for others to have rights. I have tended to find the language of rights to be used harmfully because it is too often used without thinking through and justifying the responsibilities that create the rights.

    I am called to the responsibility of loving my wife and sacrificing for her benefit. That responsibility of mine gives her a right to such treatment from me.

    Ephesians 4:28 gives us all the responsibility to work with our hands so that we have something to give. All economic rights to receive gifts of charity depend upon and therefore are derivative of that responsibility of all to work.

  4. Damaris, your viewpoint rests on the assumption that you know exactly what God’s will is for you and everybody else. What is the basis for this confidence?

    • Damaris says:

      I don’t know exactly what God’s will for me or anyone is, Stephen, of course, nor do I have ultimate confidence at any moment that I am right and don’t need correction. Your question is the foundational one, though. My short answer is Scripture, tradition, and what’s called the Vincentian Canon — that which has been believed in all places at all times by all people (ubique, semper, et ab omnibus). Yes, those things are subject to interpretation and are often seen through cultural blinders. When I get too tangled up about what is true and how do I know it, I find it’s better to meditate on Scripture than argue about it and to contemplate God than talk about him.

      • “I find it’s better to meditate on Scripture than argue about it and to contemplate God than talk about him.”

        Ouch! That’s so true it hurts, Damaris. Too often I find it’s at those moments when I am most obsessed about “being right” in regards to God or scripture or religion that my heart is most removed from Him. Pride, in all its various forms, is truly an enemy that never sleeps.
        Thanks for this, Damaris. You’ve cut to the very heart of the matter with a loving (but still very sharp) knife.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Yep, that’s a good line. It’s similar to a comment I made on yesterday’s post, basically that I think Scripture is most effective when we use it as a mirror rather than point it at others, and it’s best to say, “Here’s what I’ve found…” rather than “Here’s what you need to do…” The latter is just so dang self-righteous.

          • Rick, I really think it’s the attitude behind it rather than which of those words is said. I could never be competent in my vocation without the later phrase. I am a mentor to several of my students, with whom I have no trouble telling what they need to do. Outside the classroom, in personal matters. For example, I recently told two of them “you need to stop telling yourself you can’t do that.” I could take the “I found that when I am more positive with myself I surprise myself with what I can do” route, but I can’t promise them that optimism will ensure their success. I can, rather bluntly, tell them my two cents, and they usually aren’t gonna chafe at the legalism or self righteousness of it, because they understand that I am telling them because I care deeply for them and desire what is best for them. When you have strong relationships with people, they usually let you speak into their lives with authority, in the right time and place.

            If I find out one of them is, say, doing drugs or something, you’d better believe I’m having the “you need to knock it off” conversation with them. It is simply more loving to use firm discipline and be confrontational with wrong behavior than it is to wait and watch for the inevitable “I told you so” moment. Part of love in relationships includes us watching out for one another in our areas of weakness, and protecting each other by calling out destructive self deception. This often requires direct, strict imperatives. John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles had no aversion to this, and neither should you.

            Christian duty is not legalistic. Check out Mike’s essay from a few years back: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/redeeming-a-dirty-word

          • “When you have strong relationships with people, they usually let you speak into their lives with authority, in the right time and place.”

            I think you’ve hit on a central point here, Miguel. Going through the trouble to form relationships with people and earning the “right” to speak into their lives often makes the difference between a person of Godly integrity motivated by love and a self-righteous jerk looking only to claim victory in the war of words.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Yes, Miguel, and what humanslug says, too. I see what you’re saying. It’s all about relationship, and that actually helps in both instances (“Here’s what I’ve found” and “Here’s what you need to do”).

            Admittedly I’ve seen the “Here’s what you need to do…” version of the Bible used so poorly that I tend to say best not to use it at all, when there are times a person has gained the trust to approach someone with it.

  5. Thank you, Damaris, for this wonderful piece. I think it is the best I’ve read in the half dozen years I’ve tried to keep up with this site. I needed your comments tonight. Building on the points of belief you discussed here, coupled with my intense frustration with the motives of two of the previous 3 posts this week, I was beginning to think it was time to move on. I was feeling much like I do after I attend many current movie offerings: that I need to go to confession to be cleansed for having wasted time I’ll never get back. Your remarks are restorative and are reminders of the hope we are to bear each day.

  6. Truth and Grace. Beautiful Damaris. Thank you.

  7. Must admit that i find the notion of “yielding our rights in exchange for grace” an odd one, since i doubt anyone in 1st c. Palestine had anything like the concept of civil rights (-including that to freedom of worship) in mind.

    I do think it is crucial to not confuse religion with our government and legal system. In what we’ve currently got, Damaris has the right to worship as she chooses, as do i. There is no state church. Further, all have the right to difference of opinion on beliefs. But nobody has the right to impose their religious beliefs on others. Frankly, i think those are good things, and i am all in favor of them.

    I am not sure that we actually are autonomous individuals who *-must* surrender “our rights” to be part of God’s kingdom. Rather, i would put it as: we are free to choose God’s love and mercy, to be part of his kingdom. That does not mean we have to check our intellects and consciences at the door, nor our doubts and questioning. But it might well mean that we start giving up the illusion of sutonomy (if only because so much in this life is beyond our control,but we like to think it isn’t ).

    I dunno; -i guess i have a different take than Damaris, and some other folks, regarding being called into a better kingdom. I will freely admit to having had far too much experience with churches that demanded that members surrender the “right” (more like responsibility) to think for themselves and make their own decisions. These were highly abusive, authoritarian churches, and so many people have bern scarred by them (very much including me). So my knee-jerk reaction to “surrendering rights” is that someone is out to try snd force something quite manipulative and ungodly on me and everyone else who walks through the door. I will not – cannot – ever go back to that.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “””So my knee-jerk reaction to “surrendering rights” is that someone is out to try snd force something quite manipulative and ungodly on me and everyone else who walks”””

      I agree that “Rights” is a troubled term here having modern legal meanings – I do not think that is the meaning the author is referring to – Powers might be a better choice, although people may not get that. There isn’t really a great term; our common language is so entangled in our legal language [no surprise in a modern society].

    • Rick Ro. says:

      “…my knee-jerk reaction to ‘surrendering rights’ is that someone is out to try snd force something quite manipulative and ungodly on me and everyone else who walks through the door.”

      I think the difficulty with the term (and what Jesus said and Damaris is telling us) is that it runs completely counter to our experiences and to what the world says. Do you realize that when Jesus was telling people to love their enemies and let them slap their other cheek and give them their cloak, too, that he was in midst of his disciples AND Jews AND Gentiles? It was a mixed crowd, and every single person who heard him say this must’ve scratched their head and thought, “What? No way!” Experience and common sense screams NO!

      But if we are believers in Christ as not only wise teacher but as Lord and King, and this is what he’s asking of us, we need to come to terms with it. We must resist the urge to pick up a gun and fight; we must resist the urge to do what makes sense – to draw the line in the sand, plant the flag and fight – and somehow figure out how to “surrender our right” to do what makes sense.

      Not easy stuff. What Jesus says is not easy. What Damaris highlights is not easy.

  8. One other thing: what on earth does the Chagall painting above have to do with this post? It is by a Jewish artist who used the xtian trope of the crucificion to commrnt on Rusdian persecution of Jews. You can see towns destroyed by pogroms, refugees fleeing from pogroms, and much more. It is explicitly intended to critique anti-semitic actions by supposed xtians – note that the man on the cross wears a Jewish prayer shawl around his waist.

    At any rate, it seems an unitentionally ironic choice…

    • The work (now hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago) represents Jesus the Jew crucified between, on the left, communist soldiers storming a village and, on the right, Nazis desecrating a synagogue. The Crucified, his loins draped in a tallit, or prayer shawl, is hoisted in the middle, a victim of hatreds from left and right alike.

      For Chagall, not alone among Ashkenazi artists, Jesus on the cross represented the painful predicament of all Jews, harried, branded, and violently victimized in an apparently God-forsaken world.

      – David Lyle Jeffrey, “The Christ of Marc Chagall,” First Things

      Remember that Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount and its instructions in the context of Roman occupation and the pending destruction of Jerusalem.

      • CM, thanks – believe it or not, i used to wear an art historian’s hat.

        My point is that the painting has very little to do with Damaris’ post. Fwiw, Chagall was also commenting on Germany in this painting – specifically, Kristallnacht.

        All of this is a far cry from the post, imo.

        • numo, I won’t argue about this. IMO it captures Damaris’ point perfectly when she says:

          It’s not that we become chattel when we yield ourselves to God, however. We get something better from him than our rights. God showers us with grace, grace in full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over; but the problem comes when the grace he gives us is not the grace we thought we wanted. God, instead of rubber-stamping our plans and desires, offers us suffering as an invitation to grow into the image of his son. But rather than embrace that suffering, we want to legislate it away, and in the process we lose the opportunity for holiness and death to self. We have the wrong picture of how the Christian life works. It’s less like the life of lead characters in countless rags-to-riches movies who “succeed” by following their dreams and always believing in themselves. It’s much more like George Bailey’s in It’s a Wonderful Life, who time and again gives up his dreams for the sake of others. Like him we are not the masters of our fate or the captains of our soul as we imagine we are; we grow and are judged by our reactions to what God puts before us.

          In the end it’s about his cross, and about taking up ours.

          I recommend reading the First Things article, and its thoughts about why this is a favorite painting of Pope Francis.

          • Look, i have no wish to argue with you. But the painting, by a Jewish man who was raised Orthodox, is about the persecution of Jewish people. It was a shovking image in its day, and not intended to be used the way it is being used here, because it is literally a total reworking of the image of the crucifixion in order to make some vety specific points. I think most people tend to miss those points – i was trying yo bring things back to the artist’s intent, which most of us ctians today tend to miss.

          • That others intefpret the painting differently is inevitable, true of all art. But see, this is, like some of the other posters this week have been saying, more about interpretation than about the wctual subject of the painting.

            Chaim Potok used White Crucificion as the jumping-off point for a lot of things in his novel My Name is Asher Lev.

          • Christiane says:

            Hi NUMO,

            I love Chaim Potok’s writing. I first read ‘The Chosen’ many years ago, and I have read ‘My Name is Asher Lev’. For many who are not Jewish, these books are especially readable. I can list ‘The Chosen’ along with Rumer Godden’s ‘In This House of Brede’ as among the books that I thank God I ‘stumbled across’ in a library, at a needful time in my life, drawn to them by ‘I don’t know what’ other than possibly ‘grace’. . . hence the thanksgiving. 🙂

          • Numo, I’m glad you mentioned the Chaim Potok book My Name is Asher Lev. I was going to recommend that too, as well as the sequel, The Gift of Asher Lev. Some of my favorite novels.

            Here is a young Hasidic (ultra-orthodox) Jew in Brooklyn with an artistic talent on the level of Picasso (as a small child he was compared with Chagall) and who can’t express himself artistically in his culture. Through the wisdom of his Rebbe he studies art with a master and finds life difficult to manage, particularly with family who cannot understand. Not to spoil the ending for others, but much of the conflict revolves around what he paints, which includes crucifixions. Nice Hasidic boys do not paint crucifixions, so they say.

          • Christiane, you’d like Davita’s Harp too, right up there with the Asher Lev books. The only Potok novel with a girl as protagonist, and she’s growing up in a mixed Jewish-Episcopal family with no faith left, other than the overly-optimistic communism of the 1930s. The setting is Brooklyn, with vignettes of Europe and the Spanish Civil War and all of that chaos (and speaking of Picasso, that war was the inspiration for Guernica. Did Mike post that painting a few days ago? Full circle here if so.

            This is a novel about coming to faith, not losing it, in spite of adversity (I’ll spoil the ending by saying that it’s not the Episcopal side that gets re-discovered).

            I’ve jotted down your recommendation of The House of Brede. It’s right next to one by Numo for The Misunderstood Jew. Maybe next winter.

          • Robert F says:

            The Book of Lights is also wonderful. Jewish mysticism and the atom bomb, during the era of the Korean War.

          • Comment deleted. Said I wasn’t going to argue about this.

          • Comment deleted. Said I wasn’t going to argue about this.

  9. Robert F says:

    “…when we follow Jesus, we don’t have a right to be treated well…”

    Thank you, Damaris, for this thoughtful post about the traditional idea of what it means to follow Christ. I think there’s much undeniable truth in what you’ve said, and part of me resonates with all of it, and reflexively desires to affirm its clarity and grasp of truth. This is the reading of the Bible, of the New Testament and Jesus, that I was taught as a child in CCD (Catholic, as you know but others might not); though I’ve never really lived it, I’ve always felt fault in myself for not doing so, or not feeling able to do so, or failing on the few occasions I really tried.

    The words I quoted above give me pause, though. Such words, when uttered to certain people who have had certain experiences, would be deadly to them, to the degree that they took them seriously. For instance, to tell this to the child or adult who lives or has lived under the violence and fear of familial sexual abuse, for them to be taught those words as the guiding principal of their conduct, is for them to be handed over to death not only of their bodies and emotions but their very souls. The message they need to hear, in tandem with individual and social action to free them from their plight, is that God loves them, that they are free to find a way out of their circumstances, and that no one has a right to do to them what has been done, and that no one, most especially including God, expects them to continue to treated so poorly. In a word, they have a right to be treated well, especially by those in authority, and that they are obeying God’s call to them when they seek to free themselves from horrific treatment.

    I do have more to say, but have to go.

    • Robert F says:

      Further: If we agree that neither “we followers of Jesus have no right to be treated well” nor “turn the other cheek” can rightly be said to apply to the Christian child abused by a parent, or the Christian wife beaten by her husband, then we’ve established important exceptions that will also apply in other circumstances and for other people in sometimes less extreme situations.

      The parent advocating for their child against a bullying peer or teacher, the union defending the employee’s right to be treated well by employers through requirements of safe workplace and fair remuneration, etc; “we followers of Jesus have no right to be treated well” is not the appropriate attitude to take for those who are fulfilling the role of advocate for others, nor would it be appropriate for such an advocate to tell those they are advocating for that this should be their attitude.

      In these cases, the discipleship lies in the liberty of the Christian to follow Jesus, and die to self, by helping others safeguard their humanity. Sometimes, often actually, this can mean advocating for oneself, finding the neighbor in oneself who needs to be helped by advocacy. The Christian wife is not being selfish or disobedient to Christ when she seeks better treatment for herself by escaping from the depredations of a violent husband, for instance; she is being a neighbor to herself, and doing something that’s actually quite difficult in many circumstances, and she is dying to the self that would rather opt for what she’s known, horrible as it is, than venture into the unknown.

      It gets complicated. But if we don’t agree that at least in the cases I started with as illustrations of where the words “we followers of Christ have no right to be treated well” don’t apply, then we really don’t have anything to talk about.

      • Robert F says:

        I’m thinking of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and how his path of discipleship led into being part of an assassination attempt against Hitler. This, too, was a dying to self, even as it was an advocacy of the rights of others to be treated well.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > “turn the other cheek” can rightly be said to apply to the Christian
        > child abused by a parent

        This example does not fit under the umbrella prescribed, IMO, as I do not believe in a “Christian” child. There is only a child with “Christian” parents. A child is a child.

        > The parent advocating for their child against a bullying peer or teacher,
        > the union defending the employee’s right to be treated well by employers
        > through requirements of safe workplace and fair remuneration, etc;
        > “we followers of Jesus have no right to be treated well” is not the
        > appropriate attitude to take for those who are fulfilling the role of
        > advocate for others,

        Agree, this is where I have to get off the train. I agree with the post, or the spirit of the post. However these things are not easily disentangled in practice; often the line between self-advocacy and advocacy-for-the-other is a blurry one. And absent any self-advocacy I have no power to advocate for anyone else. And demanding a system which claims to provide rights to all actually provide those rights is an advocacy for all.

        But the nut may lie in the line “politics is as opaque to me as music is to the tone-deaf” – a sentiment often echoed here – but which I find completely baffling [I must resist using a harsher term].. Humans are the masters of politics – politics is not [ultimately] parties, POTUS, SCOTUS, or whatever – Politics is how things get done. Abandon politics and you abandon power – including your power to due much to help or advocate for anyone else. Politics is the “art of the possible”, it is how things are done without violence, which is a ***noble*** thing, not a dirty or unwholesome thing. Getting the sidewalk at the end of the street fixed so the lady in the wheelchair can get to the bus stop – that is Politics [and in doing so you learn that neither can all in the civic realm be beatly disentangled – making universally disparaging statements helpful only to those advancing sentiments of disenfranchisement and alienation].

        > It gets complicated

        It *is* complicated. Born into a world of 7 Billion+ souls there is no process required to reach ‘complicated’. 🙂

        • Damaris says:

          You mean to imply, perhaps, that I’m an “idiot” in the classical Greek sense of the word? I’ll accept the designation. 🙂

        • Robert F says:

          Adam, I was using the word “Christian” because the statement I was commenting on was about the nature of Christian discipleship, not because I want to distinguish Christian children, or wives and families, from others in terms of the ethical issues being discussed.

        • Robert F says:

          Right. It is complicated, and paradoxical.

    • Damaris says:

      Your points are valid and inevitable in a discussion of this sort, Robert. They represent perfectly the tension between kingdoms that I’m talking about and the necessity for prayer and wisdom on our parts. The most important distinction is this: who is asking for the ceding of rights? God has the right to ask me to die to myself, but my boss or husband or father doesn’t.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        “””God has the right to ask me to die to myself, but my boss or husband or father doesn’t.”””

        An excellent distinction.

        However couldn’t this distinction turn right around and neuter notion of “turning the other cheek”?

        I am not criticizing, as I agree with the notion. However, I find these notions to be fragile and, frankly, often not very illuminating as to what to do in a given actual situation. They do create the tension you describe – a very positive effect IMO – but often not much of an arrow toward a particular course of action or choice.

        That may be the intended effect – I have come to picture the god of scripture being the type of guy who would shrug at such what-to-do question and reply “you’re a big boy, make a choice”. Jesus was certainly such a fellow – so often answering questions sideways. But *I* would much prefer a clearer directive. 🙂

        • Damaris says:

          Adam — Yes, these discussions become progressively less useful as they get more universal. The best thing is to ask what should I do in my situation to be more like Christ, not to try to articulate a rule that covers all the outlying cases of spousal abuse, totalitarian governments, etc. Not that those situations don’t occur, but perhaps God reveals what people are to do in those situations when they’re actually in them, not when they’re just speculating.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > but perhaps God reveals what people are to do in those situations when they’re
            > actually in them, not when they’re just speculating.

            True, he is certainly not a God of the Hypothetical.

          • Robert F says:

            But Damaris, it is helpful if the Christian community has considered and reflected about these complications so that we are in a position to help, and so that those Christians who find themselves in the situations know that Jesus doesn’t merely expect them to tolerate abuse, something which they are indeed likely to be told.

          • Damaris says:

            Yes, Robert, that’s also true.

  10. How wonderfully you put things, Damaris. You too, CM.This may relieve my anxiety today. Grace, the gift. My bossy kindle , but I am grateful for it, and this post which will go into my gratitude journal today.(my therapy group).

  11. I’ve been very slowly drifting away from internetmonk, just in percentage of articles read, but the RSS feed is still in my reader. This post resonates with me more than any post has in a long time. Glad I clicked.

  12. This. This is why I keep IM in my feed. Damaris, you need to post more. This is a startling blast of illuminating clarity in a cultural milieu enshrouded in the fog of semiotic obfuscation. Well done.

    The most delightful thing in all this post is that I do not and cannot assent to the dogma of Catholicism, but the underlying principles you expressed are universal (or ought to be at any rate) across Christian denominations. Well stated. Thank you so much for posting this.

  13. Damaris,
    I agree in Spirit and in truth. That was beautiful and edifying to me.

  14. Damaris, thank you for your words, for they are a means of grace to me.

    Like you, I believe that human life begins at conception and deserves the same dignity and protection and the rest of us who are living beyond the womb. I also share your convictions on marriage and communion, although my church does not restrict who can take communion; regardless, I respect the rights of others to dispense it to whom they wish.

    Back to the issue of abortion… The recent disclosure of the cavalier attitude of certain Planned Parenthood (PP) abortionists towards the trade of unborn child organs grieved me tremendously. How did we get to this point? How can one stare at a dish fill with the dismembered remains of a baby and not be moved to grief and compassion, or at the very least, respect?

    Recently my son and his wife lost their baby at about ten weeks gestation. Because we raised our son to view human life as a gift from God regardless of the circumstances which led to pregnancy, and because as a Byzantine Catholic he and his wife receive reinforcement of these views, he and his wife held a funeral mass for “Noah” and then interred his remains in a cemetery which reserves a plot of land for this purpose and allows it to be used free of charge. Their Byzantine priest held a rite and offered beautiful words of comfort. And I am blessed that my grandchild was treated with the same respect and dignity every other human being created in the image of God deserves.

    So, thank you, Damaris, and God bless you for your convictions and your courage in stating them. Like you I don’t bother to argue or dialogue here anymore when it comes to these, so-called “hot topics” issues. I just teach the truth to my congregation and to whoever is willing to listen to me. And I let the Holy Spirit convict, regenerate and sanctify those whom the Father has chosen whilst praying that He chooses many more. And I pray that Christ returns quickly and rids this world of evil once for all. And I thank Him that His grace has saved us and reserved a place for us in His kingdom.

    And I look forward to seeing my grandchild and the two babies my wife and I lost.

    • Damaris says:

      Calvin, My husband and I had the same experience with losing a son as your son and daughter-in-law did. We also had a funeral for him, and at least two people showing genuine grief at the small ceremony had had abortions themselves. We are a mixed-up species.

      Like you, I look forward to the resurrection of the dead.

  15. When someone took a personal offense at anything my old pastor would exhort them to repent. But I’m not the one who..no,no repent he would say. How can a dead person take offense at anything? Very valid point but very difficult to live out. We live with, ‘the American people have a right to know’, but we are dead and our lives are hidden with Christ. We have a ‘right’ to whatever he disres for us whenever and wherever He wants. It’s all His now. This, ‘I have a right to..’ is an insidious little thought that is very often untrue.

  16. Marcus Johnson says:

    It is a conviction based on Scripture, that when we become Christians, we yield our rights in exchange for grace.

    Two questions:

    If receiving grace is a transactional event, in which you have to give up something to get something else, is it really grace? Granted, several parts of the spiritual walk are spoken of in terms of transactions (e.g., discipleship), but I haven’t seen Scripture describe the gift of salvation as something in which you hand something off (e.g., “rights) in order to get it. I guess the question behind this question is, “how are you defining ‘grace'”?

    Your primary Scripture (by the way, I’m just never a fan of proof-texting, so I freely admit that bias) is Matthew 5:39-42. Is there some place within the context of that sermon–and, especially, this particular section of the sermon–in which Jesus proclaims that turning the other cheek is required to obtain grace (we’re talking about obtaining grace, not following Jesus or presenting the gospel, just receiving grace)?

  17. Daniel Jepsen says:

    “God showers us with grace, grace in full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over; but the problem comes when the grace he gives us is not the grace we thought we wanted. God, instead of rubber-stamping our plans and desires, offers us suffering as an invitation to grow into the image of his son.”

    This is a great, great paragraph.

    Thanks, Damaris, for the wonderful post.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      “Become a Christian and increase your suffering.”

      Probably would make a horrible sermon, even though it might be the most truthful sermon ever.

      • If you say so, given that it’s pretty much a precondition for election to high office in this country that you affirmatively assent to the idea that a virgin can give birth and a man can come back from the dead.

  18. Damaris says:

    Whoa! I never intended to imply that one has to buy grace by yielding rights — I’m sorry if I didn’t express myself clearly. And I’m probably not going to express myself clearly now. The word “transaction” implies an exchange of goods or services between two more or less equal parties: I give up my rights, and God gives me grace. Rather than talk about transactions, I think it’s more useful to think in terms of universal laws, or “the way things are.” Because water is what it is, I have to get wet to get in it; because a doorway is small, I have to bend over to get in it; and because the Kingdom of God is what it is, I have to yield up myself to get in it. The Son of God did, too, after all.

    • Damaris says:

      This was meant to be a reply to Marcus Johnson above.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Ah, much clearer. I’m much more appreciative of yielding “one’s rights” as a natural way of being/becoming rather than an exchange of goods. Personally, I prefer to think in terms of evolution: that the presence of grace stimulates an irreversible change in the people it inhabits. I’m not sure, though, that we can presume that change happens in everyone the same way, regardless of identity or context. Not sure if that’s what you’re arguing here; I don’t think it is.

      Also, how tall are you, or how short are the door frames where you’re at? 🙂

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I never intended to imply that one has to buy grace by yielding rights

      I did not read such a notion anywhere in the text.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        Neither did I. I was surprised to see that might’ve been read into Damaris’ post.

  19. Two thoughts

    It’s important as a Christian to grant others rights they demand, even if we disagree. Like the Roman soldier demanding you carry their gear, like gay couples demanding they get married, or women asking for the control over their bodies even in pregnancy, etc.

    We are free in Christ, and everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. It’s the Spirit that helps guides us to Gods will.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      I think you’re onto something here, so I’ll just dive in and see where it leads…

      People outside of Christ, who probably aren’t led by the Holy Spirit…yes, it seems a bit presumptuous and even self-righteous to demand they do something that we feel led to do (or NOT do) by the Holy Spirit. Gay couples getting married? The Holy Spirit isn’t guiding them, so am I to play Holy Spirit by telling them they can’t get married?

      For me, the rub comes when considering CHRISTIAN gays who want to get married. Are they or are they without the Holy Spirit guiding them? Is the Holy Spirit not convicting them of something I think it should convict them of? Is it working on some OTHER aspect of their Christian walk and letting that one go?

      The same maybe applies to women and abortions, though the added element of taking a human life adds a twist to the deal. Non-Christian women, without the Holy Spirit to guide them…well, all I can do is try to point out that aborting a fetus might possibly be taking a life and see if that convicts them. Other than that, I can’t play Holy Spirit. Christian women who get abortions, that’s a really tough one to sort out, other than they’re doing it less out of “their right” and more out of “fear of being discovered” (assuming most Christian women who get abortions are doing so to avoid potential scandal).

      I don’t know if that adds anything to the mix, but those are some thoughts with no real conclusions.

      Dang, and don’t you know…even with the Holy Spirit in me, I SUCK at this Christian walk thing…

  20. This is a different paradigm for me. As a Christian, I’ve always considered yielding my rights in terms of not putting up a stink when politics, culture, society, media, etc., seeks to deviate from the (mostly) agreed upon Christian norms and values. My role is to model the way of Jesus in a lost and hurting world and invite them to embrace life in the Kingdom… *after* which comes conversations about values, ethics, etc.

    We often talk about the persecution complex of evangelical culture, don’t we? And the graciousness by which we should lay down our opinions so we can get to the heart and soul matters? This strikes me as very different. Not quite the opposite… but different.

  21. It is a conviction based on Scripture, that when we become Christians, we yield our rights in exchange for grace.

    My immediate response and thinking is that that statement is precisely why I’m for same sex marriage, (limited) abortion, contraception, etc. Because I’ve given up my rights to be against those things, my right to be conservative, my right to be angry at change and sinners and progress, as I’ve been for 28 years of my life…in exchange for grace to all those in same sex marriages, who have gotten or need an abortion, who’d rather not have an abortion at all through contraceptives…etc.

    I think we think and just view the world in opposites. But that’s ok. Common ground can be found.

    Like here:

    In either case I acknowledge that you are my brothers and sisters; please pray for me, and I will pray for you.

    I don’t feel that from Internet Monk at this time, and especially from people making comments about wondering why they are still here til posts like this come along. I thought iMonk was a place for those who wander, and those who wonder, an open port for all of us on this journey no matter where we end up, because we have commonality in Christ.

    I see that from the regular article posters. But I’m seeing polarizing and increasingly hostility to non-conservative views in the comments threads. iMonk has not been a very welcome, helpful, healing place for me for some time. A few of you have reached out privately, and I’m very grateful. But I need some time away.

    May you all grow in grace and peace and with Jesus.

    Goodbye.

    • “May you all grow in grace and peace and with Jesus.”

      And you as well, Stuart Peace be with you.

    • Stuart, I’m sorry. I wish things were otherwise. Hoping you do vome back, but also respecting your choice to go.

    • Well, if we can’t work out a gracious way for us all to disagree *here* of all places, then the Christian community in this country is well and truly sundered, and will remain so until one side (or both) dies out by attrition. 🙁

      • Rick Ro. says:

        Actually, we’ll all end up in country club churches where everyone believes exactly the same and no one else is allowed in.

        Read Matthew 23 to see what Jesus thinks about that.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Stuart, you’re one of my favorite iMonkers. If you do go, don’t be gone long. And just know that whether you come back or not, Jesus Christ loves you.

      😉

    • It’s a hard thing, isn’t it, Stuart? What attracts one person to iMonk drives another away. I don’t believe that the repulsion is personal, just that each of us has things that are hard to hear or that we strongly disagree with. May God heal us all before we have to spend an eternity together in the new creation!

      I hope you don’t leave, but if you do, be well.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        The really sad thing is how many people seem to take the approach, “I like this, I’ll stay,” then read something they don’t like and declare, “I’m done here.” We are a fickle people. We are the Church of the Offended. Lord have mercy.

        • Rick for me it has been the constant barrage of negativity that has made it hard. I have seen IM evolve from a healthy critique and distrust of evangelicalism to wandering (which is ok) to many times just blasting away at anything and everything that questions the spirit of the age.

          At times there is a constant hermeneutic of suspicion and dogpiling on anyone who is not progressive. And it is tiring. We all like different things. Some love to criticize every failing evangelical leader, the young earth creationist, opponents of homosexual marriage and others. To me at times it seems like just another brand of fundamentalism. There is no one like a reformed smoker.

          I started my trek out of fundamentalism in the mid 1980s and I am no longer a fundamentalist. I recognize others are just starting, but maybe some of them need to recognize that there is a possibility of moving on to something better. And it does not mean abandoning your Christianity.

          I think there is a difference between being offended and being tired of negativity and endless bile against your beliefs.
          Just saying

          • To be clear, it is the comments that I find disheartening. I receive Chaplain Mike’s admonishment to show courage. Mike – thank you for the work that you do.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Ken, I understand what you’re saying. For me, it’s the quickness in which people become offended that’s disheartening.

          • Agree, I see 4-5 people who immediately jump on the progressive bandwagon and try to stifle any talk . Instead of allowing differing opinions they use whatever means to put you down and try and show how ignorant you are. Satire is fine but just being mean has no place on a CHristian blog.

    • Frankly, I don’t get the point of people saying they’ve been dissatisfied for some time. Just last week some of them said they were reading the best posts we’ve ever had and here they are again saying it now.

      If you have a specific complaint or issue with the site, there’s an email link at the top of the page. Drop me a note.

      And I hope you all will step back for a minute and peruse what we’ve posted over the last month or two. Then I dare you to say this site is “moving in a particular direction.” If my views aren’t balanced by people like Damaris, Miguel, and Daniel, then there is no such thing as balance.

      As always, I will not claim to speak for the commenters, but the solution to that, if you disagree, is to show the same courage Damaris showed today.

      • Thanks for reminding me Mike. I apologize for not being clear-the postings are brilliant. Some inspire me and other disturb me as it should be.

        To be clear, it is the comments that I find disheartening. I receive your admonishment to show courage. Thank you for the work that you do.

      • Christiane says:

        goodness, CHAPLAIN MIKE, I need to be ‘offended’ from time to time by those whose writing holds up a mirror for me to look into . . . and I see that which IS offensive in myself . . . and it is an awareness that I need to experience . . . it yields understanding that comes from an unsought encounter with my own self-righteousness. . . my ‘self’- righteousness is easily offended . . . it needs confrontation . . . it needs a mirror that reflects a truth I cannot see in myself on my own . . .

        If ‘offended’ brings us to understand the phrase ‘Who am I to judge?’, then I vote for being offended . . . I need a blog where people communicate with courage to one another, and I need a blog where I am not afraid to be ‘offended’ when in truth, that encounter leads me to say to myself . . . ‘Now, I see.’ I love Imonk for its honesty. Even when that honesty makes me sit up straight with a wake-up call and then ponder what it is I have learned from others and how it widens my understanding. We all need our pride cracked open from time to time. Let’s take it as blessing . . . why not? Sometimes grace comes through those cracks, you know?

      • Clay Crouch says:

        I’m with you on this one. IM is a wonderful venue for the civil discussion of many topics (some of them thorny) facing the Church. With few exceptions, I think everyone gives as good as they get and I can’t think of one regular writer or commenter I wouldn’t enjoy meeting and having a beer with.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        Jesus offended the religious leaders of his day all the time. When we get offended, it’s probably time to look in the mirror.

      • Yeah, Chaplain Mike’s and my views could not be further apart. He actually believes that something you ingest, a type of food, could possibly be better than sex. This is a direct violation of Proverbs 5 and the Song of Solomon. “Heresy” is a euphemism for this. Well I got news for you, CM: In heaven there is no sex, so get it while you can. There’ll be plenty of sweet corn at the heavenly banquet.

        But those of us who know the truth about sex do appreciate you keeping us libertines a part of the conversation and sincerely pray that you will realize the err of your ways and act with agility while you still have ability.

    • Robert F says:

      StuartB,
      I apologize if any of my comments hurt you yesterday. I should have been more careful not to trod into personal domain. I value your challenging and intelligent contributions. Peace.

  22. “I’m not saying we should wipe out the concept of civil rights. Christians should work for just laws, for social equity, for the good of mothers and children and all who are oppressed or in need.”

    I’m struggling to put into words my disagreement with this post, but I think this is a good place to summarize. Yes, indeed the church should; however, historically, the church has been on the side of the oppressor and condoning and whitewashing the sins of the oppressor. That oppressor may have been royalty and landlords crushing the peasant class with taxes to pay for their excesses. It could have been the pogroms against Jews or even Hitler’s Genocide dreams. It could be whites enslaving and later oppressing African Americans. It could be a male-dominated society denying women the right to vote, own property, or even make rudimentary decisions about their health. It could be the criminalizing and murder of homosexuals (or being driven to suicide as in the case of Alan Turing). In each case, the church was silent or complicit in the crimes of the oppressor. In each case, false societal castes were created, and the “sins” of the lower classes were always classified as greater than those of the ruling class. When revolution came, the church was justly condemned along with the oppressors.

    I don’t disagree about carrying ones cross and engaging in the daily battle against sin. That battle begins at home, not in telling the rape victim to put on a brave face. We’re called to help carry one-another’s burdens, not tie them on others’ backs as did the Pharisees.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      Aye, there’s the rub. Very well put.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      Yes. And yes again.

    • This gets right to the heart of something that has been nagging away in the back of my mind for quite awhile now. The near maniacal focus on personal/sexual dilemmas in modern Christian contexts – yes, even in this post, albeit the call Damaris makes for “dying to self” overall is powerful and poignant – involves closing our eyes to other, dare I say even more important, matters. Is homosexual marriage destroying the environment? Is no-fault divorce putting millions out on the street with crushing debt and no good job prospects? Are calls for open communion melting the glaciers?

      Let’s assume for a moment that conservatives are right, and progressives are theologically and ethically wrong in all the points brought up in discussions here of late. Maybe we are wrong. But are our sins destroying the economy and the planet? Or do we need to reassess what the worst threat of the spirit of our age really is?

      • Damaris says:

        Amen, Eeyore. I mention the sins I do simply because those were the ones I had read comments about recently on iMonk. I agree that the sins that lie behind environmental damage, income inequality, and many other ills are at least as severe as sexual sins and will have impact on everyone on the planet — not that I can rate sins one way or another.

    • Robert F says:

      Yes.

  23. The bible contains instructions for how to perform an abortion (Numbers 5:11+).

    • Now me of course, I fully endorse a more conservative view of abortion. The view of the Southern Baptist Convention, no less. The one they passed in 1971:

      “…Be it further RESOLVED, That we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”

      • Rick Ro. says:

        And what convicts you that THIS is the right thing to believe?

        • What, do you doubt the moral bona fides of such a godly institution as the SBC?

          • Rick Ro. says:

            This isn’t about what I believe, this is about what you believe, and why. Can you answer the direct question? What makes you believe the SBC take on things is right?

          • @RickRo: I think there is some sarcasm font not showing up on your PC/tablet/i-phone……

          • Oh, goodness gracious…my mistake. Here I thought J was offering an ACTUAL OPINION of what he/she believes! Stupid me!!!

          • J. Why don’t you ever answer a question before you throw out you replays like you are so superior to everyone else. You are very tiresome.

  24. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    I wonder at the people that complain that they find too much negativity here. Have they looked at other places? This is a veritable heaven compared to most sites. Sure we get into debates, and sometimes it gets a bit sharp, but in my experience people are more ready to ask forgiveness, or to move on, or simply understand that a sharp argument is one thing, but we are all still a loving community with our differences, than anywhere else. For instance, I often disagree with Oscar (to pick someone). But I consider him a friend, even though I sometimes want to take him onto the alley ….. (and I’m sure he feels the same). I disagree with a lot in this post even – I’m not amenable to the, for want of a better word, friendly mysticism that emanates from it. I understand what Damaris wants to say, but /i think there are major holes in it. But that said, I didn’t feel particularly driven to argue against it.

    It is a really bad thing to dwell in a ditto chamber. Of course, I wouldn’t want to visit a septic tank either, as many blogs and blog communities have become. But this blog is neither, and is as close to respectful and decent as they come. I personally need opposing ideas and beliefs so that I can define and evolve and test and examine my own. I have recently briefly lifted the veil to show some of the history pf hurt and exasperation I have gone through – resulting in me personally having probably little in common in the belief department with many. But I knew Michael, and I still enjoy coming here and learning, and learning by gentle sparring.

    Never change.

    • brianthedad says:

      +1. Preach it!

    • Hear, hear. Being called at by Oscar once for a feeble attempt at early-morning satire was probably the best thing that happened to me that entire week. “Negative” feedback is important.

      • called *out*

      • Yes it is. I learn the most from my strongest detractors. Sometimes they change my mind, other times they sharpen my argument. Sometimes I learn new information, sometimes I learn their personality. This is a good place to come for a healthy exchange.

        When an argument has you feeling particular strong emotions, of any kind, it is a good time for you to step back, try to look at your emotions objectively, and attempt to discern why you are feeling this way. This has taught me many humbling things about myself.

    • Damaris says:

      “Friendly mysticism” — an intriguing phrase! At least it’s friendly . . .

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        “The Angry Mystic” . Sounds like a promising book title. A humorous one.

    • Radagast says:

      Agreed… this site is mild in comparison to many….I lie the exchange of ideas and sometimes I am called to look at other perspectives other than my own. I have been here a long time and have watched this site change focus from Mike Spencer to Chaplain Mike… and have watched both journey also within themselves…. I am in the minority here these days (morally and politically conservative) but keep coming back to get other perspectives. Lot’s of smart and deep thinking folks here, both young and old….

  25. So I want to make sure I understand. According to Scripture (or broad scriptural themes) and Tradition, the plain truth is that infertility treatment (IVF specifically) represents a failure to “yield our rights in exchange for grace”?

  26. Damaris says:

    It can, yes. It can involve the deliberate conception and deliberate culling of embryos for the purpose of having something — the experience of giving birth to a child — that one has not been able to achieve by other means. The suffering that is offered to the childless couple is transferred to the embryos instead. Suffering is inevitably a part of the fallen world; the question becomes who bears that suffering.

    I understand that someone who doesn’t accept that recently conceived embryos are human beings would not find my position compelling.

    • Damaris says:

      This is a reply to Mike H above.

    • Thanks Damaris.

      If a sole egg is successfully fertilized, where is the suffering?

      • Damaris says:

        Does that ever happen, MIke?

        • Yes. It does. I know first hand.

          • Damaris says:

            I’m glad to hear it. Presumably doctors were willing to try the one-egg approach because people objected to the death of embryos. I think that the tension that results when we hold to religious principles in a complicated world is hugely creative and can lead to good things (or to martyrdom, sometimes).

          • That’s correct. It was a conscious decision to do so, not a medical anomaly. And it led to the birth of a beautiful little girl.

          • And I wouldn’t describe the doctors as reluctantly “willing to try”. It’s a common approach.

            So I don’t see “suffering” as a legit reason for dismissing it. There must be other underlying reasons.

          • Damaris says:

            I’ve learned something new, Mike. Thank you. I hadn’t been aware that using a single egg was an option.

    • Exodus 21 says that the life of a fetus is of lesser value than that of the mother.

      • Ch 21 is brutal but not seeing your reference. Verse?

        • The differential punishment given for miscarriage vs “serious injury” (the two not being the same).

          Plus the fact that penalty for actually killing someone is an entirely different chapter.

  27. Yes. It does. I know first hand.

  28. Damaris, I’m late to the gathering, but I thought your article was wonderful.

    I do agree with others like Robert that “Give up your right to be treated well” is not something I would say to the woman in last night’s Al-Anon meeting whose husband has choked her to near-death and possible breain damage three times in the past year. To me, discernment is necessary.

    But your vision of a world of Christians simply loving each other AND the wicked world too is a beautiful one.

    • Randy Thompson says:

      You’re right, there is such a thing as codependency, and it can look a lot like love or giving up your right to be treated well. However, there is night and day difference between codependency and loving someone difficult and giving up your right to be treated well. It’s easy to see the difference between the two in theory, but in practice, well, that’s another matter. What’s going on in the heart behind the behavior only God knows. It does seem to me, though, that giving up your right to be treated well makes God happy, because in doing so we are like His Son.

      • SottoVoce says:

        You could say, however, that allowing other people to treat us poorly facilitates their sin. That does not sound like something that would make God happy.

  29. Randy Thompson says:

    By the way, for the record, the Internet Monk is a daily link to spiritual and intellectual sanity, even when everyone posting is wrong except me. Thank you Lord, for the Monk.

  30. Ronald Avra says:

    Very helpful post, Damaris. Thanks

  31. Ronald Avra says:

    Very helpful post. Thanks, Damaris

  32. charlie says:

    Thank you Damaris. So well stated. Words fail me in light of your (words)concise post–definitely needed it to be written in plain language.

  33. Josh in FW says:

    I just read this and haven’t read the comments yet. Thank you for another thoughtful piece. Reading your stuff is like listening to a wise aunt.