The Steampunk Vicar

A Presbyterian Pastor on Neo-Victoriana and American Faith

Tag: justice

In caedem

I suppose that, after a Fashion, I might be considered a Faith Leader. Lacking a Community of which I stand in Leadership – excepting you, of course, dear Reader – I sometimes neglect the Fact. Nevertheless, I am a Teaching Elder of the American Church of Scotland, duly ordained by the Presbytery of Olympia on behalf of Christ’s Church. Thus it falls to me, unpulpited though I am, to speak in the Silence of the Unspeakable – to claim the digital Pulpit which is, I begin to suspect, my present Calling, and to use it in the Service of the One who ultimately called me.

Thus, today, I offer up an imperative Sermon to you, gentle Reader, to those persons of the Christian Faith to whom  I am privileged to preach. This Sermon is taken from the simplest, clearest, and most pointed Texts that I can locate.

First, from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, the Fifth Chapter, starting at the Fourty-Third Verse*:

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies: bless them that curse you: do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which hurt you, and persecute you,

45 That ye may be the children of your father that is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to arise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and unjust.

46 For if ye love them, which love you, what reward shall you have? Do not the Publicans even the same?

47 And if ye be friendly to your brethren only, what singular thing do ye? do not even the Publicans likewise?

48 Ye shall therefore be perfect, as your Father which is in heaven, is perfect.

And then, my central Text, from the Hebrew Bible, the Book of the Exodus, the Twentieth Chapter, the Thirteenth Verse. Listen for God’s Word to you.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

Let us pray.

God of heaven, add unto us Understanding of your Word and Will for us. Even as your Children mistake and trample your Word, guide us in the Way that you would have us go.

Amen.

Do not kill People.

I am stunned, as ever, that I must specify this to you, gentle Reader. Whenever once again I am forced to address Murder on a massive Scale, I feel that my Kindred and I in the Clergy have, somehow, signally failed to impart even the most basic, simple Commandments. Thus, in the Wake of the Mass Shooting in Orlando, Florida, with fourty-nine Persons dead, a further fifty-three injured, in the Wake of this depraved Act of domestic Terror, in the Wake of this wanton Assault on the Lives of Revelers in a Space of Safety for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Communities, many of whom were persons of Latino or Latina descent, in the Wake of Murder most foul, once again, I fear that we, as a Priesthood, as a Community, as a Nation, as a Church, as a World, must reconsider, once more, this Commandment of the God of Israel, and its Implications for our Behaviour – to wit:

Do not kill People.

Do not kill People because you dislike how they are dressed.

Do not kill People because you dislike how they looked at you.

Do not kill People if you disagree with their public Behavior.

Do not kill People for Money, or Possessions, or Glory, or Honor.

Do not kill People because you do not like the Grade or Performance Review that they gave you.

Do not kill People because they break up with you, or will not yield to your romantic Ministrations.

Do not kill People because you regard them as impure.

Do not kill People because you believe them to be irreverent.

Do not kill People because you see them as unjust.

Do not kill People because you think them insufficiently compassionate.

Do not kill People because you feel that they are disloyal.

Do not kill People because they are gay. Or lesbian. Or bisexual. Or transgender. Or queer. Or intersex. Or asexual. For all of these identities and more, do not kill people.

Do not kill People because their Skin Color differs from your own.

Do not kill People to try and start a War.

Do not kill People because they do not worship your God.

Do not kill People because they do worship your God, but incorrectly, you feel.

Do not kill People because they hate you.

Do not kill People because you hate them.

Do not kill People because they have committed, or intend to commit, a Crime. Do not feel absolved from this – if it is in your Power to resist the Commission of a Crime, by all Means you should do so. But do, I beg, try not to kill People in the Process.

If it is possible to avoid doing so, do not kill People who are trying to kill you. Likewise, if avoidable, do not kill People who are trying to kill other People.

Do not purchase Weapons, place them in your Car, and drive somewhere for the express Purpose of killing People. If you do the first three things, neglect, please, the fourth, and do not kill the People.

Just, simply, and I know this might be rather difficult…do not kill People.

 

I know that this will, for some of you, present a burdensome Commandment. “Ah!” I hear you cry, “But what if I really must kill this Person, or this enormous Group of People, for the following excellent Reason!”

“No,” I shall reply. “Do not kill People.”I shall then point to the Passage in the Scriptures that commands you not to kill. Then I shall point at the Words of Jesus, the ways in which He lifts up not hating our Enemies, but blessing and praying for them. I shall note that we are to be different – better – than the ones who harass and persecute us. We are to be more good than our Foes.

This necessitates not killing them.

In short, Brothers and Sisters, Children of God, Daughters and Sons, Kindred of one another, in all your Ways and Walkings, in all the Turnings Life yields unto you, to the very best of your Ability…

…do not kill People.

The Word of the Lord.

Amen.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5&version=CEB
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+20&version=CEB

Apologia, pt. 0 – Introduction to Apology

In a much bally-hooed and now discredited scientific Study, Researchers claimed to have discovered that brief Conversations had significant Impact in altering the Opinions of Participants with regard to Same Sex Marriage. In short, actually talking to People, personally, could, indeed, cause them to shift their Stances of the great Issues of the Day.

As noted above, this Paper was retracted for poor Data. It is a Difficulty for me, however, as there is Something about the Conclusion that speaks, deeply, to my Experience. Perhaps it is merely a Desire of mine and of those like me, perhaps an eternal Truth, but I feel it in my Bones, that Persuasion starts – and ends! – in Community with a Neighbour.

I worry, from Time to Time, that in the Echo-Chamber of the Aethernet, where it is laughably easy to expose oneself only to those with whom one agrees, that now, having so divided our Society, it will become only easier for no one to change their Mind. From there it is but a little Leap to believe that I, too, might begin to fear any Disruption of either my Facts or my Beliefs.

As I remarked to an Interlocutor recently, one who was also forged in the Fire of Knowledgebowl (or Academic Decathlon, or Quizbowl, select for yourself your Flavour), good Facts matter. I strive always to project a Humility in Disagreement over Facts, because I would ever rather learn good Facts. If I am mistaken, I desire Correction, for, in Knowledgebowl (and, I submit, in Life), the Path to Victory is paved with correct Information. Persons who become defensive when disproved only serve to shut down Dialogue, and deprive themselves of Victory by means of willful Ignorance.

Of Opinions and Beliefs however, having distinguished them from Facts, I aim for a Flexibility that acknowledges the Road I took to get to them. I believe a Thing now, and can tell you how I arrived at that Belief. Tomorrow I may be presented with new Data, may be forced to change my Mind, and will need the Cartograph of that new Route.

For any Belief to which I can currently Point, there was just such a Road – an Onramp or Origin which brought me to my present Site. There were Turns or Bends or Dips in the Way, and each of these brought be closer to the Waystation – and, I pray, to the Truth, distinguished as well from Opinion, Belief, or Fact, each one.

Combining these two Points – the Instinct declaring that in personal Discourse we have the greatest Chance to bring Others to our Way of thinking, and that each of my Beliefs has its own Highway, it occurred to me that many – perhaps most – of you do not know my Story, the Route that brought me to my current Encampment. I write this Series to give myself the Opportunity to Change your Mind, if even by the smallest Degree, in hearing where the Man you know Today came from. Whether your Acquaintance with me harks from Secondary School, or University, or Seminary, or beyond, or you know me only as “that mad Bloke what writes like a Gentry-Cove of merrye ol’ England on the ‘Net,” I hope that this Apology* will be fruitful for you. I feel sure that it will be for me.

 

* The word “apology” comes to us from the Greek apologia, a Word back, or in Reply. I use it here in both the Modern and the Classical Senses, for this Document will contain not only an Argument and Narrative, but also my sincere Regrets, Griefs, and Shames. At some Points it will, perforce, resemble a Confession – and an undirected Request for Forgiveness. For this, in Advance, I apologize.

De ritibus v. i (Or, The Unity Candle)

The Business of the Pastor is, in many Parts, the very Substance of Ritual. Some of the most moving and meaningful Moments of my Ministry are composed of Rite and Sacrament; Baptisms, the Lord’s Supper, Funerals, and, of course, Weddings. These Things Done, these Practices ancient and redolent with Power therefore, are at the very Core of the Cleric’s Work, the Warp and Woof of a Pastor’s Tapestry.

It causes me Alarum, therefore, to note that Weddings, especially, are becoming overtopped, with vain or troubling Ceremony. Traditionally, each Part and Piece of the Service is carefully considered, contributing to the Unity of the Whole. As the wedding Industry has become a Creature of Fashion, and of the prevailing Winds of our Society, the Demand for Uniquity has proceeded apace, and the Art of Wedding Liturgy has become top-lofty with unnecessary, meaningless, and problematic Ceremony.

Thus, I begin my new Series, De ritibus, which explores some of the Options and Alternatives for additional Ritual in your Service of Marriage. In this first Iteration, we discuss the Unity Candle, its Meaning, and its Implications for your Marriage.

Candela Unitatis

When first I began to attend Weddings, I bore witness to this particular Rite – the Couple being wed, each having lit a Taper, would then, together, light a larger, single Column, to symbolize their Unity in Flame. Having lit the larger Wick, the Participants will then usually blow out their individual Tapers, as Words describing Symbol and Act are read out by the Officiant. The two Persons, in the old Tradition of Scripture, become One Flesh, leaving behind entirely their prior Lives and welding one another together into one Family. At least, that’s the Idea.

two-rings-unity-candle-set-763-4

A Traditional Unity Candle Assembly

As a Christian and inheritor of the Jewish tradition thereby, I am, of course, moved by Candles in General. That’s all well and good. Too, there is something fundamentally beautiful about the Creation of a single Thing from its disparate Elements, which lies at the very Heart of Marriage. Truly, there is much that is deep and powerful about this Ceremony, and I have no Objection to much of the Concept, but rather to a point of Execution.

Quantae Candelae?

My Difficulty lies with one particular Portion of the Act, as each Person blows out the Flame which represents their individual Personhood. I find this profoundly distressing, as I am a proponent of Individuals, and their Rights and Obligations to Self-Determination and -Differentiation. The Erasure of the Individual is a dangerous Fallacy – neither Party to a Marriage should or will cease to exist as any part of the Agreement between them. They will surely be altered by the process, but the Abnegation at play in this Rite as it is described above is a Falsehood, and a toxic one.

My Solution, if the Ceremony speaks to you, is a simple one. Mere change the centre Candle in the following Way – add a second Wick, thus:

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Looks it not delicious?

Of a sudden, the Candle which symbolises your Unity now names also your Duality. Like the Blessed Trinity, you are at once two Persons, and One. You lose Nothing, and gain Everything. This is a deep Mystery, exactly as Marriage is, and all the most precious Wonders of the Universe.

On Trinity Sunday, most Years, I present just such a Light to my Students, and ask them the Question: “How many Candles have I here?” Responding they “Three,” I  point out that there is but one Wax. Responding “One,” I indicate that the Lights are triune. It is this cyclical Movement, this Tide of Thought which is the Centre of Mystery, and which lives in a truly mystic Unity Candle.

I am not displeased to perform this Ceremony for you, but I pray that you will buy into the meaning that I here attach, and that each of you will respect the Other sufficiently that you can let them keep their own Light shining. Indeed – is that not why you loved them first?

50132027-anjou-2wick-guipure-4

Blessings to you both

De Bellos Astrae

I’ve had a spot of bother, lately, on this Electro-visual Difference Engine of mine. Having made Connexion with the Transcontinental Optico-Radio Arachno-Network, I have been thoroughly astounded by the profusion of Weblogues, informational broadsheets in non-analogue formats, aetherial Newspapers, and the like.

That were bad enough, but the forms of Entertainment to be had! I would not consider myself a gamester, by any stretch of the imagination, but this is no form of gaming that I have ever before encountered. Most lately, I’ve been taken up with a sort of theo-political Fantasy, a retrograde visual novel of the genre I believe to be called “Space Opera” (though it suffers from the most abominable lack of the music of the human voice). I speak, of course, of, Belli Astrae: Republica Veteris, or, in the language of my home, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I am sure that I will write again – and often! – concerning my adventures in these Flights of Fancy. But I felt moved to share this single Anecdote.

Early in one’s adventures on the world of Tython, the wisdom of the Jedi Order is stated: that Justice requires Emotionlessness. The Just Person, they argue, must strip anger and compassion from action, in order that true Justice must be obtained.

I struggled for some time against this Dictum, first in the confines of the entertainment, but then more concretely in my theological reflexions. This, finally, I concluded, opposes entirely the Christian Gospel – for did not our Lord and Savior suffer upon the Cross in order that Justice might prevail? It was through the Christ’s Compassion that he was able to endure, and to serve as sacrifice, and it is through our own Compassion with Christ that we are called to preach and practice Justice.

Perhaps I refine too much on the Philosophy of that which is intended merely as a Novel, but I have ever felt that our Fiction reflects on our Society, and that, especially in a Work as binary and moralist as this one is, we should pay the closest attention to the finer points of our Differences in Belief.

I believe that Justice – true Justice, on the model of Our Lord’s Justice – requires our Emotion. It is not objective or rationalist, but truly humanist, in that it acknowledges all parts of the Imago Dei within us. Justice, as she is portrayed in public art, is blind – she is not heartless.