Thursday, June 29, 2006

Fear, forgiveness and tommyrot

Despite everything, Pretty Lady still harbors a soft spot for the Anglican church. She has fond recollections of her very first day in London, when, jet-lagged out of normal consciousness, she nodded off in the choir loft at Westminster during Evensong. The Anglican church, to her, has always epitomized the principles of Restraint, Respect, Quiet Good Taste, and Moderation in All Things. Those little lamps in the Westminster choir loft were the coziest thing in the world.

And Pretty Lady much prefers not to get embroiled in theological politics. Thus, when the Church of her childhood precipitated a familial uproar by hounding our dear family friend, the Bishop of X, into a premature retirement, over the issue of women in the ministry, Pretty Lady made the switch to St. Andrews without comment, on her visits home. Equally, she bore with maternal ranting on the subject of inferior choir directors with patient equanimity.

However, this week her long-suffering mother forwarded the new Anglican Primate's sermon on 'Mother Jesus,' and Pretty Lady can no longer remain silent. She has no personal issues with the gender of this minister of God; and as she will explain, neither does she challenge the conceptual underpinnings of her theology. However, she must forcefully declare that this sort of sermonizing is tommyrot. An excerpt:

This last Sunday morning I woke early while it was still dark. I wanted to go out for a run. When I ventured out, it was warm and still and quiet. The clouds were just beginning to show tinges of pink. I startled two workers coming out of the service doors of the Hyatt. I encountered a man I had seen at the convention centre. The I found a lovely green park and ran around it. A man in a reflective vest was waiting by some cones. Around the corner I came to a fellow with some bags who looked like he had been sleeping rough. Then I met a rabbit, one of us eyed the other with more than a little wariness. Around the corner was a woman getting out of a car delivering papers. I nodded at two guys on their way of work. There was some degree of wariness in each of those meetings. The unrealised possibility of a real relationship whether out of caution or fear meant we had long way to go.

Can we meet in a stance that is not tinged with fear. When Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world, he is saying that his rule is not based on an ability to generate fear in his subjects. His willingness to go to the cross means that fear has no import. King Jesus’s followers do not fight back when the world threatens.

Pretty Lady says, well, hmph.

Now and again, Pretty Lady will reflect upon the time she and a girlfriend were smeared into the asphalt in a Bay Area ghetto. The experience was an enlightening one in many respects; Pretty Lady was able to observe a whole range of states of human consciousness, to which she had not previously been privy. In addition, the long-term outcome of the event was overwhelmingly positive. Pretty Lady bears no personal animosity toward any of her attackers. This does not mean, however, that she is not in favor of things like self-defense training, heavy police patrolling of suspect areas, and avoidance of raucous party zones next to the projects, by young blonde females, late on Saturday nights. Pretty Lady and her friend simply got cocky, and paid the price for it.

Pretty Lady admits that she has always had the tendency to push the line. She relies, perhaps too heavily, on the fact that 1) she is tall, mesomorphic, and has a sufficiently confident aspect, when walking alone, to look like she'd put up a decent fight; 2) she seems to exude an aura of quiet friendliness that many persons, including potential thugs, find disarming. Witness that when she worked late nights downtown, her shortish male co-worker was mugged twice while traversing the dark alley just outside the office entryway. When Pretty Lady traversed this same alleyway at the same time of night, a disreputable-appearing person emerged from the shadows, handed her an armful of orange lilies, said "These are for you," and departed.

Go figure.

It is elementary street smarts that 'looking like a victim' attracts aggression. When Pretty Lady lived in the Bay Area during an economic downturn, she did not have a single white male acquaintance who had not been mugged at one time or another. The reason for this was simple; muggers assumed that clueless-looking white guys were more likely to have enough money their wallets to be worth the trouble. Since this was the Bay Area and not Texas, these same clueless-looking white guys were equally unlikely to be packing heat--the little twerps.

Similarly, the women who had the most to fear from attackers were the small, fragile ones who tended to flinch and cower when looked at sideways by a stranger. When interacting socially, people create and follow scripts, based upon their ideas and past experience. Pretty Lady knows firsthand the fact that when a sweet, gentle female roommate continually trembles and apologizes when one is speaking to her in a perfectly friendly manner, as though she expects you to paste her on the jaw, it becomes increasingly difficult to restrain oneself from fulfilling her expectations.

So Pretty Lady concludes that a large factor in one's ability to walk without fear is the confidence that one can maintain one's boundaries, if threatened; as well as the blanket expectation that the world at large does not intend to attack, until it determinedly and conclusively proves otherwise.

Jesus Christ, as our new Primate attempts to point out, proved that fear is pointless because he transcended Death. The Resurrection was the ultimate party trick--lookit me! You can beat me, flay me, nail me to a cross and bury me, and Sunday morning I'm all put back together, better than ever! Fie on your Cross, I say! Fie!


All of Jesus' admonitions, then, which were many and various, seem to be directed toward this point--if you follow Me, if you see the way I see, then Death will mean nothing to you, either. You will not even see it. All you will see is Life and Love. You will love your brothers without condition, because you know they cannot harm you.

The truth of it is, however, that most of us aren't there yet. We're still seeing Death and dismemberment everywhere we turn, and it makes us anxious. Some person getting into a pulpit and telling us to 'lose our fear' doesn't particularly help. What we need is practical advice, encouragement, and rhetoric that is not so mind-bogglingly banal that it puts us to sleep.

So Pretty Lady, though she is not ordained by any substantial church (Universal Life does not count), has a few suggestions. In addition to following the Ten Commandments, the Gospel and such--if you are in doubt, follow Love. Not the pretty girl in the short skirt. Love, as in, that little warm urging which is so quiet it tends to get drowned out when the car alarms go off. Love, as in, 'yes, I want this; I look for the best in myself and others; I do not need to put up with this negativity crap.' Love that blossoms in the peace which comes in silence.


Anonymous said...

Oh wow... Did you think this up yourself?

Pretty Lady said...

No, dear, Jesus told me.

The Aardvark said...

Woof...well done.
I am imagining Mother J at the Sermon on the mount, with such twaddle falling from his lips. It reminds me of Max von Sydow's portrayal of Jesus in 1965's The Greatest Story Ever Told . He did not seem to have a context for any of his lines...he would be walking along with his crew, when suddenly he would allow a Wise Aphorism to plop from his lips, like some animate vending machine.
Thanks for your input on this, from one who considered the Episcopal priesthood as a yout'.

Pretty Lady said...

He did not seem to have a context for any of his lines

Thanks, Aardvark, you have nailed it. I am beginning to believe that context is the paramount thing for any communication to be effective. Words in a vacuum are nothing. And I believe that it is this necessity of context which has created vast confusion among well-meaning persons who perceive a conflict where none exists.

If this sermon had been given on the Mount, we would all be Muslims. Charisma is vital when one expects one's communications to be remembered for two thousand years, let alone until tomorrow morning.