An old buddy and coworker of mine – ex-Marine, Vietnam vet, Zen Congregationalist, hunter/angler, baker, gardener, musician, writer, surrogate brother; one of those riddle-in-an-enigma people we should all have on our life list of friends – was one of the most serene, peaceloving human beings I have ever known. But every so often some person or situation would rile him to the point where he could be heard to murmur, quietly but with great depth of feeling, “I’m just about ready to go out and commit slappage.”
That’s how I’ve felt for the past couple of weeks, toward a number of my sisters and brothers in Christ: I’ve wanted to commit slappage. Not only slappage, but in some cases knee-in-groinage. Hurtage.
When I encounter another bloodied casualty of Christian bigotry, ready to leave the family for good because it’s just too painful and tiring to endure any more abuse, I want to commit slappage.
When I encounter histrionic, culturally aggressive Christians like one of my state's legislators, who this week is embarking on a dog-and-pony show around Michigan with a slab bearing the Ten Commandments -- I want to commit slappage.
When I encounter Christians who so egregiously don’t get the holy mystery of the Eucharist that they kvetch about it, muttering and pointing at their watches even as it’s being celebrated (“It makes the service so loooooooong…”), I want to commit slappage.
When I encounter “usual suspects” online who delight in dropping rhetorical bombshells on Christian discussion forums because for them it’s all about “wrangling over words” and pissing people off, or who use the most tortured pseudo-logic imaginable to argue ridiculous points (“Be not yoked with unbelievers” = “We shouldn’t pay taxes”; I still haven’t been able to do the math on that one), I want to commit slappage.
If I were the Grand Wazoo of Christianity, I’d be doing the French Foreign Legion thing right about now: Leather glove in hand, stalking down a row of assorted Christian screw-ups, snarling, “You are a disgrace to the name”…miters flying, stoles ripping, WWJD necklaces yanked off necks…slap…slap…slap...slap...
So I’m reading this Sunday’s Gospel lesson. Great story. Jesus heals a blind man on the Sabbath, adding some guerilla-theater flair by kneading mud and spit into an ointment for the guy’s eyes in direct violation of the no-kneading-on-the-Sabbath rule. The religious bigshots freak out and direct their ire toward – hello – the (formerly) blind guy, kicking him out of the synagogue for having the audacity to get well on the wrong day of the week and not be as offended by this as they are. Jesus finds him, introduces himself (the guy having been...well, blind when Jesus healed him) and makes some caustic comments about who the “blind” and who the “seeing” really are in all of this.
I’m reading this, and suddenly the extremely uncomfortable thought pops into my head: I am a Pharisee. I am someone who wants to whap the rest of the Christian community into shape by making everyone else think and do all the right things, all the time. Because, deep down, I embrace the conceit that I have it right, or righter than most. Whatever noble intentions about "living Christ into the world" motivate me, in the end it all gets twisted into hitting back, into “those stupid [bleeps],” into “winning,” into what the old Transactional Analysis types called “Now I’ve got you, you SOB.” And instead of pulling more people onto the bus, I find myself wanting to push people off.
Now I want to commit slappage on myself.