Thursday, January 20, 2011


Amid the glory is the gory and this is worth examining for the truth on which it sheds light

ON THE HAPPY SIDE. Wouldn't it be nice to read and write only of pleasant things, of ideals realized, of harmony among friends and peace as an absence of differences? Wouldn't it be nice to write only of what is positive, what inspires? Wouldn't it be nice to speak only of uplifting examples and avoid or eclipse by sheer dint of will all that is hurtful, false, and foreboding?

GRACE BETWEEN THE LINES. Yeah, me too. This I attempt on this blog and elsewhere in my writing, in my reading, in my preaching, teaching and conversations. And, looking for this, I often find and try to articulate not only what is obviously good, ideal, and inspiring, but the more subtle "grace between the lines" amid the warp and woof of so-called non-spiritual matters and situations.

GORY AMID THE GLORY. At the same time, amid the glory is the gory. Amid pleasantries are poverties. Just beyond the walls of the Taj Mahal are ramshackle huts. Truth-seeking often takes place in a spiritual minefield. Fallenness is embedded in ideologies, images, and institutions. Behind some best-foot-forward facades are pathological contradictions that twist, hurt, and destroy without apparent awareness or overt intention. In the name of holiness, self-deception and ego-protection are sometimes at work. Beware the lauded leader who hedges the truth and sacrifices a friend for the sake of appearances and preservation of position. To not speak or write of this other side and fuller picture would be a denial of the truth.

BEYOND THE TAJ MAHAL. It's not that I cannot simply enjoy what I see or accept what is given. It is that I see more in context and see through--perceive at more than one level at the same time. At one level, I enjoyed being at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. It is magnificent. I explored it fully with as complete an appreciation as possible. At another level, I read of the forced labor that built it, of the many lives it cost, of the at-the-expense-of-the-poor resources it required, and of the pretensions it upheld (upholds). I am aware of both the groveling servitude and privileged absolute power it reinforced. I notice the poverty and pathology that today surrounds the walls of this "wonder of the world." Here, take a picture of us!

SEEING MULTI-DIMENSIONALLY. I am aware that I see paradox and contradiction in situations which many people blithely accept. I know that I readily see justice denied when others wouldn't notice anything out of the ordinary. I wrestle with my truth receptors that acknowledge complexity in would-be pat answers, that cannot reduce virtue to sound-byte religion, that perceive ultimate trajectories and potentially life-denying or life-giving outcomes in in-the-moment activities. What's more, I recognize my participation and complicity--direct or indirect, for good or ill--in this complex of decisions, relationships, and patterns. Others see a good thing; I often see a good thing that sacrifices a readily accessible better or best.

GRACE IS GREATER. I suppose this is the burden of both critical thinking and contemplative prayer. It is the weight of reading between the lines, of asking not-so-welcome questions, of not settling to accept appearances only. This necessarily complicates what might otherwise be taken as simple. But whatever burden this might be, it is transcended in the reality that grace remains at work in even in the downsides, that there is an intended wholeness and restoration still to be realized, that there is a sustaining presence and depth beneath the shallows in which we paddle, and that "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."

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