Been thinking of the Arizona immigration debacle.
When I’ve traveled abroad, I’ve carried my passport everywhere I’ve gone and submitted to the immigration authorities when I arrived and when I left. I attempt, if I don’t know the language, to learn enough phrases to maneuver. I don’t have a problem with trying to preserve our safety in general and the privileges of citizenship in our country. I don’t even have a problem with establishing English as our national language.
But I do have a problem with the idea of accomplishing any of those things in ways that remove or restrict those privileges without cause on the basis of something I can’t control, like the color of my skin, or my gender or my age or my political or religious preference, all of which at one time or another has stirred great emotion and hatred in some other citizens of our populace.
My problem is the same as the one discussed in my opening blog, the one I have with the contention of the Bible’s inerrancy. We humans, with all our frailties, do not have the perfect knowledge of good and evil. For me, that is the sin, the original sin — that we raised ourselves to believe, like God, we could evaluate absolutely, without fail, the behaviors and motivations of others and deem them good or evil, just or unjust, moral or immoral. And on top of that, we could and should PUNISH others for those behaviors and traits WE deemed evil. We’ve made some rather public mistakes in those judgments. I think of well-known incidents in our histories — big ones like the Crusades and the Salem witchhunts, the Japanese-American internment during WWII — and then I think of little things, like the fact that I’ve been advised in my internet job hunt not to put in the date of my college graduation because it will “give away” the fact that I’m over 50, a crime for which I stand guilty.
The problem for me is that the judgment of others makes us prone to keep secrets. And those secrets make us sick. I know that well, from personal experience, and from the years I spent as a psychotherapist, confessor to some of those secrets, and I know that if we are forced by judgment to spend the majority of our time guarding those secrets, we are prone not to notice the sheer privileges of life and love and relationship and the satisfaction of working hard and working well and seeing our efforts result in something good.
The writer Fritz Buechner has spent his prolific life writing about, in one way or another, the effect on him of keeping his father’s suicide a secret. The opening quote in the popular book Eat, Pray, Love, is simple but profound. “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.” This isn’t new — Shakespeare’s plays are filled with lines about secrets — “This above all, to thine own self be true…thou canst not then be false to any man.” and the final line of King Lear, “Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”
Be real, Jesus said. Get the barrel off your light and let it shine. Help others get the barrel off their lights. Don’t judge, cause you’re just gonna get judged back.
I get that. So, what, pray tell me, is more anti-Christian (or more illogical) than to, by our imperfect judgment, force others to withhold truths about themselves because they will be punished for the answer?
And how can we, with straight faces, proclaim to have a God-given right to draw lines in the sand on strips of earth that belong to us only in our misguided minds?
Just a thought.