Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Quote of the Day

Sully has an interesting quote from Thomas Merton, one of the great 20th century American writers, philosophers and a Catholic Mystic:

What about the men who run around the countryside painting signs that say "Jesus saves" and "Prepare to meet God"? Have you ever seen one of them? I have not, but I often try to imagine them, and I wonder what goes on in their minds. Strangely, their signs do not make me think of Jesus, but of them. Or perhaps it is "their Jesus" who gets in the way and makes all thought of Jesus impossible. They wish to force their Jesus upon us, and He is perhaps only a projection of themselves. They seem to be at times threatening the world with judgement and at other times promising it mercy. But are they asking simply to be loved and recognized and valued, for themselves?

In any case, their Jesus is quite different from mine. But because their concept is different, should I reject it with horror, with distaste? If I do, perhaps I reject something in my own self that I no longer recognize to be there. And in any case, if I can tolerate their Jesus then I can accept and love them. Or I can at least conceive of doing so.

Let not their Jesus be a barrier between us, or they will be a barrier between us and Jesus.

For some reason I'm reminded of the pastor in Kentucky who was arrested recently. His church is a Snake Handling Church in Kentucky - I didn't realize that possession of poison snakes such as rattlers and cotton mouths was an arresting offense, apparently it is - even if they're holy snakes. It made for good e-mail banter between some friends.

I often look with ridicule (generally not horror) on "low" protestants mainly because of such practices as snake handling and premodern notions (that are none the less real and important to the historical and current Christian experience) such as the charisms of speaking in tongues and being slain in the Spirit - such practices and experiences make me feel uncomfortable because they're alien to me.

It's easy as Merton notes to let their alien concept of Jesus and more broadly their form of worship of Jesus be a barrier between us. And though this is certainly not a call by Merton to somehow compromise spiritually - far from it! It is something to ponder upon and which is pondered upon nearly daily by me and my Catholic coreligionists consciously or not impart because we're a religious minority (granted there are no snake handlers around here - I suppose they're just on the low end of the totem pole).

Even still, despite being a minority and therefore able to rationalize oneself as a victim of the Protestant Majority, it's worth meditating on how such divisive and disparaging thoughts, no matter how justified they appear to be, form barriers between us and Christ.

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