Friday, April 18, 2014

Grief and Discernment on Good Friday

The sermon tonight at the Good Friday Service was spoken out of grief, and spoke to the resonances this day can have with our own grief and loss. As Lent ended and we moved towards Holy Week I've been in a bit of a funk. Grief hasn't so much welled up. I have simply been a bit more aware that my dad is no longer with us. I have several posts sitting in draft form over at priestly goth.  Most of them have something to do with my relationship with Evangelicalism, they also have to do with gender and human sexuality.  They sit there in part because in a complex way these things are bound up with my dad's passing.   In a sense the rift revealed around World Vision's decision to hire those who are married to someone of the same sex and rescinding of that decision due to a vocal and active opposition to that decision, has touched on things in me that harken back to events in my college days and the recollection of how disappointed my father was (initially, he came to accept it) that I wouldn't claim the identity Evangelical.

I don't say that I left "Evangelicalism" because I don't think I was raised to be an Evangelical, or at least not its American variety.  The identity I came to peace with in seminary at North Park Theological Seminary was Lutheran Pietist (Lutheran Pietist in fact was in the title of the first iteration of this blog when I started it in 2004). The term was never used as I grew up.  Though I also don't I recall a great emphasis on being "Evangelical" either.  So it was a bit of a shock to me that my father was hurt by my refusal of an identity I had never held.  This difference between us did cause a rift for a time.
Lutheran Pietist, though is now something out of which I have come.  12 years or so after graduating from seminary I know longer so identify.  Not so much because I reject it as it has lost its meaning.  It can't contain what I'm seeking, it is too small, too constricted, too parochial in my search for the Mind of Christ.

 My father taught me to seek truth, and to seek to be Christ's.  Any identifying marker other than these things should either lead one to christ and the truth and should not hinder one in the quest for truth. (I understand that all this talk of truth sound odd coming from one who finds in Derrida a congenial conversation partner, though what follows may show how it fits.)  the quest is a quest because it can be difficult to know the truth and what it really means to have the mind of Christ.  My father warned me against those who believed they could rest in the certainty of having the truth and mind of Christ by setting up firm boundaries and identities that were supposed to be the guarantors of this truth.  Dad always said those inventions couldn't guarantee what only God could guarantee.  So, ya at 19 or 20 when my Dad took me out for Lunch and asked if I was an Evangelical, I hadn't seen that coming, and answered him as I thought he had taught me to: I refused to take on the identity that was supposed to be the guarantor of truth.

The thing is that I see most positions taken in the current American Christian landscape as seeking the guarantor of truth rather than seeking to have the mind of Christ.  So many labels we trust in, Liberal, Progressive, Conservative, Fundamentalist, Charismatic, Pentecostal... and on and on.  Somehow in my grief on this Good Friday I feel the pressure of my father's gaze that sunny Southern California day, yet it is multiplied, so many asking me to settle my identity, to come down on this or that, to be progressive or conservative or whatever.

I don't want these labels and positions.  I want to sit and discern together, in our pain, in our grief, and yes in our anger.  This isn't an avoidance of conflict, this discernment, my father and I went around and around, at moments as many can attest, our arguments were intense.  In part they were so intense as we each were testing.  For a time our discernment of the way and our seeking together to find the truth and the Mind of Christ wasn't quiet or mediative.

Dad and I did get there.... able to sit across from each other and peaceably discuss our disagreements and even see in our disagreement and difference the trace of what we sought.

On the issue of human sexuality my dad and I never came to an agreement.  Some might consider him homophobic (he wasn't, at least that is not what I heard in our conversations).

I hesitate to speak freely about such things, because I know they are painful.  I know discernment isn't easy, and I recognize the answers we seek may not exist.  We may never be settled.  Also, I'm hesitant because in continuing to engage things around which my father and I fought over, disagreed over and wrestled wtih, in moving forward, I say goodbye.  In seeking truth and the Mind of Christ, I must now let him go.  So, my grief and the struggles of our times are bound up together.

Is there discernment at the foot of the Cross, at death?  I hope so.  For the sake of us all, I hope so.  but really more truthfully the question is, do we have the courage to do so at this moment, in our grief, our anger and in the face of death?