Sunday, May 22, 2005

Giving Grace Away

The infamous "Bush Fish" -- the President's name surrounded by the Ichthys symbol, a bumper-sticker exercise in pseudo-Christian nationalistic idolatry that's almost breathtaking in its awfulness -- has come in for some harsh and necessary criticism from my fellow citizens in the blogosphere, especially in this week when many of us who claim Christ as Sovereign have been reading Matthew 28:16-20, where he declares his authority over all things. If Jesus is Lord, then Bush...or Dean...or a particular political ideology...or a particular ecclesiastical institution...or Wall Street...or Madison Avenue...or the little highchair monarchs throwing tantrums in our psyches...can't be. (Speaking for myself, and what happens when I try to be my own sovereign, it's good not to be Queen.)

I was going to add my voice to the critics of the Bush Fish...but as the week progressed I found myself less and less able to speak from a position of moral rectitude. For one thing, I got involved in angry, sarcastic, ad hominem arguments elsewhere online -- a duking-it-out for truth and justice that turned into a petty bout of neener-neener-neener. I even found myself becoming a bit high-handed with people I consider friends. And I became short-tempered, defensive and petulant at home, saying things in a tone that I shouldn't have. All of which led to a feeling of unsettled not-quite-rightness; but I didn't really get it until I read the Sabbatheology commentary on the Gospel text linked to above, from the Crossings Community, where Lori A. Cornell describes Jesus' commissioning of the disciples as his empowering them to give grace away -- to give love, mercy, forgiveness away -- as he does.

Giving grace away. How many Christians lusting after temporal, political power understand what Jesus' delegation of authority in this text really means? How many of them want to use whatever power and influence they have to give grace away?

For that matter -- how many times did I give grace away last week?

Why is it so hard to give grace away?

A few weeks ago a pastor in one of my lay ministry trainings hit the nail on the head: If you don't really embrace the grace that's been given to you, you can't pass it on -- because you don't really believe you have any to give. You become defensive; rigid; grasping.

This morning during the Eucharist I heard the "for you" with more clarity; The CEO giving me yet another opportunity for a do-over. Afterward I prayed: Help me with this grace thing. Help me appreciate the grace I've been given, so I can give more of it away.


M.P. said...

beautifully done -- p.s. even when you're nasty, you're probably still at bit nice. God Bless You! M.P.

J.C. Fisher said...

LC, do you ever feel like you can't win?

I, too, have been caught up in graceless arguments: particularly at the Thinking Anglicans website.

I feel like I can't say what I need to say (that which, if I hold my silence, I'm silencing the Holy Spirit), without being at best obnoxious, and at worst uncharitable.

One post stands out in particular: a conservative to whom I was responding, was obviously poorly-educated, w/ many mis-spellings.

One such word she misspelled was "orthodox" (she had it as "orthordox"). This seemed especially ironic, considering that it is orthodoxy which my conservative opponents claim (solely) for themselves.

Furthermore, the poster in question---a woman who ID'd herself as a member of one of the six ECUSA parishes in Connecticut which are trying to secede from their diocese---had negatively defined her beliefs as "not in the way [her bishop] does".

Ergo, to communicate this irony, I quoted her above definition, and commented

"orthordox-y revealed?"


I felt like I needed to put it that way . . . and yet at the same time, I felt dirty (like I was just assuming the role of generations of over-educated elitists before me, mocking "my social inferiors")

Can't win.


Kyrie eleison!

greg said...


We've all done it a million times. And the answer is always the same: We have to respond to hatred with love. As LC says, we have to give grace away. We have to forgive seventy times seven.

Do I know how to do this? No. After reading a self-righteous gay-bashing letter to the editor in my paper yesterday, I spent about 3 hours composing responses in my head. In the end, I was unable to come up with a suitable response. The snippy, combative ones that feel so good at first all got ruled out for the reasons we are discussing here. On the other hand, all of the responses that attemped to show love, give grace, etc. failed because they just did not ring true to me. I haven't in my own mind come to find love and grace to spare for hate-filled people.

It's hard to be a liberal, because in the end the problem is always our problem, and the work that needs to be done needs to be done by us. Good thing the Holy Spirit is there to help; I sure don't have the energy to do this on my own.

*Christopher said...

LC, great post. Reminded me to breath a bit and be a little more rooted to give grace away. BTW: Since I don't have trackbacking, just to let you know, I pointed folks toward your Trinity post.

LutheranChik said...

p.s. even when you're nasty, you're probably still a bit nice.

No, not really...I can be pretty bitchy. [rueful grin] But thanks for the vote of confidence, as misplaced as it is.;-)

LutheranChik said...

J.C. Oh, sure, I feel like I can't win. I have a hard time balancing moral outrage -- "If not me, who? If not now, when?" -- with composing a response that's mindful enough to not sink to the other person's level.

I have friends on Beliefnet -- Dan, Justin, Ranchhand, Robinsgarret -- who exemplify Christian grace under fire; they are always positive, kind and calm while still speaking the truth, and they have a better discernment skills than I do when it comes to knowing when to jump into the fray and when to stay out of it. (If any of you are reading are my heroes!)

LutheranChik said...

Christopher -- I'm blushing; I've got publicity? [grin...actually, in real life I do PR]

It was one of those serendipitous, Spirit-led instances when, just when you really need to read something, it's right there.;-)

J.C. Fisher said...

I know what you mean: about friends who "who exemplify Christian grace under fire; they are always positive, kind and calm while still speaking the truth."

I am constantly amazed by Louie Crew.

This man has been out longer than I've been alive (and partnered almost as long). He's received, quite literally, several generations of bullsh*t . . . and yet he keeps returning good for evil, grace for abuse, joy for rage.


Lord, make me more like Quean Lutibelle!

daninbigd said...

You are my hero too! You've help me work through some false dichotomies I had built into my theology and made me realise that I can hold to a traditional faith with an open heart and a thinking mind.

And it's okay to be bitchy. Jesus had his moments too!

Lutheran Zephyr said...

I appreciate your struggle and your ability to hold your fire. But please don't forget that in the cause of justice we can sin boldly. And it may not be too big of a sin to boldly object to political takeovers of religious symbols . . .