Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Thus we make the world...

May 1, 2014, a brother saw his sister being attacked. He tried to protect her. He was killed for his efforts. Not an unusual story. But the brother was eight year old, trying to protect his twelve-year-old sister who was being assaulted by a sixteen-year-old boy.

One of my favorite movies is The Mission, set in the 1750s, depicting the struggle between the indigenous GuaranĂ­ and those who captured and sold them into slavery, amidst the efforts of the Jesuits to convert the Guarani to Christianity. Via the Treaty of Madrid in 1750, Spain ceded a portion of Paraguy to Portugal. Much as with American history, the indigenous and rightful owners of the land had no say-so in the process and precious little compensation. The film culminated in the Guarani War of 1754-56, during which the Guarani fought the Spanish and Portugues troops trying to enforce the treaty.

No need to discuss who won.  
You already know.  
It is not an unusual story.

The soundtrack is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard.  In fact, even now, my three most favorite soundtracks are ones from the movies of my past:  Out of Africa, Empire of the Sun, and The Mission.  For years, one of those was playing in my ears as I fell asleep at night.  None of the movies are beautiful stories.  In fact, they all depict the wretchedness of man and the sins we commit against each other.  But, to me, the music of the stories is beautiful.  Comforting.

I also like the story of The Mission, historical inaccuracies aside.  I like the tale of a man seeking repentance, expecting only death.  His sin ... knowing his sin ... gives him no hope.  And yet he finds compassion instead of death, which leads him first to seek out and then to bring the forgiveness of Christ crucified to others.  No, I do not ascribe to the theology of the Jesuits, but I do believe in the forgiveness of Christ and I like the tale of repentance that is told.

Moreover, even before I knew what original sin was, I liked the story for the message of that portion of the true doctrine.  I liked the story for the fact that we are shown, in the end, there is no escaping the sin of this world, the sin of mankind.  At our core is not goodness, is not godliness, is not compassion or love or sacrifice.  At our core is evil, deceit, and self-preservation.  In the flesh, we are and will always remain sinners.  

In the movie, the crux of the problem is that, while the land has been transferred, the Jesuit missions remained.  However, the Portuguese feared the work and influence of the Jesuits would impede their slave trade.  The Vatican sends a cardinal to investigate, a former Jesuit, and decide the course of action the Jesuits should take.  His choice is either to support the Jesuit missions in protecting the Guarani, risking both their protected status and an ensuing schism in the European Church, or to support the Portugese in their claim over both the land and its inhabitants and order the Jesuits to withdraw from their missions.  

Again, you know the outcome.
Mankind is ever so skilled at that.

At the end of the movie, the Portuguese governor and the cardinal are ... reviewing ... the outcome of the cardinal's decision to support the Portuguese claim.   The governor's summation is: "We live in the world; the world is thus."  I love the cardinal's response:  "No, thus have we made the world.  Thus have I made it."  

The end of the movie is as stark as the final slaughter scene.  A black screen with a single line of white text: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  John 1:5!

I am not a theologian, clearly, but I do have many, many, many theological thoughts about the movie, the history, and the Church then.  When I was a missionary in Africa, I showed it to my 7th and 8th grade students.  We had long discussions about it.  I shudder to think of the errant theology that surely much have laced those conversations.  I really remember nothing of what we said or concluded.  But I do know the outcome was for more of them to come to the mission church services.  Why?  I cannot say.  I would like to think that the movie showed them the depths of original sin and that there is no escaping its reward—death—except through Jesus.

Knowing me ... then ... I imagine much of the talk was about godliness.
I wish someone would talk to me about godliness now.
How godliness fits in the pure doctrine, in the Truth of Christ crucified.

The imaginative part of me, the writer in me, would pen a reason for why I loved the soundtrack:  It was beautiful in the midst of horror.  That is the answer I would give now, for I still play it.  Sometimes, I still fall asleep to it.

I wish I could remember for true, but I do think that the verse hanging in the darkness of the theatre, the hushed, stunned theatre, was the real reason that I liked the movie.  I wanted its truth.  I wanted the Light to shine in my darkness.

I know that this world is full of sin and will remain full of sin until Jesus returns. I know that thus is the world.  But I also agree with the cardinal. I believe we make the world thus.  To me, I actually think the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah is example of just how we can make the world thus.  I think, in this last century, the Holocaust is a great example of just how we can make the world thus.  We can make or shape the type of sin in our world.

For isn't that the real reason behind those who fight so ardently against abortion?  Are they not trying to remake the world?  At least in America, are they not fighting to limit, if not remove, that particular sin?  Actually ... that particular slaughter?

I agree that the slaughter of babies ought to be stopped. I do.  But I wish that the slaughter of the sexual innocence of children would be fought with equal zeal, with equal shouting and marching and article-writing, and social media sharing.  

Today, I read an article about a woman who filmed and then posted her abortion, smiling throughout, to help give voice to the women who are silent about their abortions because of shame or fear of shame or whatever silences them.  That kind of silence is about the only kind of silence I can think of when it comes to abortion.  Because, on the other side of the fence, there is a lot of noise.  A deafening protest.

I have written several times about the power of silence in the perpetuation of sexual abuse, in the perpetuation of that particular slaughter.  This is the one written most boldly.  For even I, who longs deeply for the silence to end, oft remain silent because I know that for the survivor, life can be easier in silence.  Easier and harder.  But the easier is attractive, despite the toll silence can take on the survivor.  People who know treat you differently, judge you differently, making wrong assumptions about you that can (and often do) have a detrimental affect your spiritual, medical, and educational care, as well as your career.

But I also believe, rather strongly, that the story of a brother who died last week, trying to protect his sister, might not have happened if we stopped the silence.  I believe this because it is no real surprise, anymore, to read about sexual abuse where the perpetrator is a young adult or even a child.  We've made a world where sexual activity is accepted or expected from the age of the onset of puberty and where sexual crimes are common place, are even a favorite weapon of war.

Just ask the school girls kidnapped in Nigeria 22 days ago.  As this article reporter notes, the story of those girls remained largely silent until it was passed around social media enough to warrant notice.   
Our government finally took notice today.  The White House response: "Time is of the essence. Appropriate action must be taken to locate and to free these young women before they are trafficked or killed."  I wonder, what do the occupants of the White House believe has been happening to those girls in the past three weeks?

When it comes to the prevalence of child abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual assault as a weapon of war, I feel as if when I try to talk about the matter, the response is: We live in the world and the world is thus.  But I believe: Thus have we made it.

I believe breaking the silence can change this particular sin.
I believe breaking the silence can curb this particular sin.
I believe breaking the silence can bring light to this particular darkness.

And, honestly, because the Church is where we face sin, where we receive forgiveness and healing from sin, the Church should be place where the silence is broken.  Boldly.  Fiercely. Without shame.

Would that it were I lived in such a world.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!  

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