Psalm 119:81-88 Kaph A Prayer

When is this going to end Lord? When will you intervene on my behalf? If I am to keep your truth, I need your help. You are my only hope Lord. I have not forgotten you nor forsaken your word. But a trap waits for every step I take. The arrogant seek my humiliation.

~~~

A short prayer because this octave is one of lament. Many of the Psalms argue against my thesis, but I think those in deep distress don’t usually have time to compose poetic prayers of artistry. But I don’t want anyone to feel they are not getting the full value of their subscription: so a few extra notes.

Note how every verse alternates between condition and request.

Note the several couplets: longing soul and eyes (1,2); not forgetting or forsaking (83, 87); persecute me (84, 87); and “do not live” (85) with “give me life” (88). So every verse has a connection with one other verse, but it is not a rigid connection. That is to say, all of the requests do not match other requests; or conditions match other conditions. There is not chiasmus or inclusion. It is the art of the Psalms- the pattern is there, but it is not firm. It is a regular irregularity.

Psalm 119:25-32 Daleth A prayer

When my soul is dry and dying; when I am weak from weeping- according to your word give strength, give life. You know my ways and you know that when they are mine they are false. So teach me. Teach me your law and statutes. Make me understand your way, choose your way, run in your way. O Lord I cling to your truth. Make me love it.

Psalm 119:17-24 Gimel A prayer

You have spoken wondrous things. Reveal your revelation to me. Open my eyes to the glory of your truth and do not hide it from me. Not the sight of a quick glance, or unexpected epiphany; but the vision of longing and meditation. I seek it. Not as something to be found and lost again. You will show me when I love- may I love what you show.

Sex and beauty

For the unbegotten and incorporeal beauty, that knows neither beginning nor decay, but is unchangeable and ageless and without need, He who abides in Himself and is Light itself in secret and unapproachable places, embracing all things in the orbit of His power, creating and arranging them—He it is who made the soul in the image of His likeness. This is why it is endowed with reason and immortality; for, fashioned…in the image of the Only-Begotten, it has an unsurpassed loveliness.

St. Methodius. The Symposium: A Treatise on Chastity

While this quote comes from A Treatise on Chastity¸ I am going to end up in quite a different place.

God is beautiful. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty.

The Lord is beautiful. In his perfection of beauty he created. The Master Artificer fashioned man and woman in his image and likeness- in beauty. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Creation flows from the Beautiful One. Supreme in loveliness, God is not a narcissist. Beauty is not closed off or opaque. Beauty is open. Beauty creates. Beauty gives life.

Sex is beautiful. Sex is beautiful because man and woman-as mankind-are made in God’s image: the beautiful One who creates and gives life. The command to be fruitful and multiply is a command to be like God.

Now perhaps I tread close to the wrong-headed teaching that the only virtue of sex is procreation. As if rabbits are the holiest of all God’s creatures. That is not where I am going, but I understand how the church got there.

Beauty is ordered. If sex is beautiful, it is ordered. It is ordered by the command given to a husband and wife. One man and one woman.

Homosexuality is sinful. It is not sinful because it is gross, or weird, or abominable. It is abominable because it is not beautiful; it is not creative. It is anti-God. Homosexuality is fundamentally selfish in that it is inherently non-creative. Beauty gives life. Homosexuality is impotent.

Sex with a man and his wife is beautiful. Two people, fundamentally different yet essentially the same, submit to the will of the Creator and are open to an intruder into their love. Not content with the love and compassion shared between them, a man and a woman do something beautiful. A man and a woman join together and bring into their love a third.

In the splendor of beauty God creates. God creates a man and a woman in his beautiful image and ordains they create. In unsurpassed beauty, God’s creation images him in creating.

Meditation on a ruptured Achilles: thoughts of the temporarily disabled.

On February 19th I ruptured my Achilles tendon playing basketball. Six days later I had surgery to “sew” it back together. About six days from now, I might be out of my walking boot and back into shoes. Having a ruptured Achilles has slowed me down. I’ve gone from a walking boot, to hard splint, back to a walking boot. It has given me an opportunity to briefly walk in the shoes, or shoe, of the disabled.

People are inconsiderate. Inconsiderate is the best word I can think of. People are not rude to me, they are just inconsiderate. People think of themselves and their situation and not the other person.

Don’t get me wrong, some people are more than inconsiderate. Like my boss who asked me the very day I had my hard splint off and went back into a walking boot if I could go back to regular work-duty now.

Most people are just inconsiderate. Most people mean no malice. They do not seem to think poorly of me, or look down on me, or try to trip me, they just do not think of me as needing anything out of the ordinary. People are not rude, at least not intentionally; they just do not care about those in need.

Maybe it is just me. Maybe I should have missed more work. Maybe I shouldn’t be so introverted and stoic. Maybe people do care for those who are truly disabled. Maybe abled people do look out for those missing limbs and not for those whose ailment is obviously temporary. I don’t know.

But I hope this temporary injury makes me more considerate. I hope I become more compassionate. Especially toward those who are suffering.

 

The waters of judgement and restoration

I change up my Bible reading every year- do something different to try to break up the monotony. Every 3 or 4 years I will read 10 chapters a day- which takes me through the OT twice in a year and the New Testament almost 4 times. It is good because you are always reading something different, even when you are reading chapters you have already read that year. It is bad because it is 10 chapters spread out over all the Bible…and the mind can wander.

To combat the wandering I look for particular themes. I am always looking for Trinitarian passages; Day of the Lord passages; and in Proverbs I am looking for verses that talk about wine. I am also looking for connections between passages that I would not otherwise see. Today was a fruitful day for such a connection: water. Following are the passages I read today that spoke about water. It is quite the story of sin, judgment, repentance, and restoration.

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:12-13)

The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. (Proverbs 9:13-18)

The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.  (Luke 16:22-25)

 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3)

God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land. O God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, Selah the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel. Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad; you restored your inheritance as it languished; your flock found a dwelling in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

Your procession is seen, O God, the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary— the singers in front, the musicians last, between them virgins playing tambourines: “Bless God in the great congregation, the LORD, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!” (Psalm 68:6-10, 24-26)

White Fragility: chapters 7-12

Chapters 7-12 went by rather quickly and are summarized here. Chapter 7 further repeats elements of white fragility: responses of anger, withdraw, emotional incapacitation, guilt, argumentation, and cognitive dissonance. White people tend to resort to one of these coping mechanisms whenever they are challenged in racial discussion. Chapter 8 further repeats elements of white fragility by focusing on “trauma.” White people react so strongly to racially difficult situations, that “trauma” becomes a frequent description of their response. White people are emotionally and physically moved by such confrontations. Chapter 9 is a further restatement of the feelings, behaviors, claims, assumptions, and functions of white fragility. Chapter 10 offers helpful critiques in framing and guiding discussions about race with white people. I agree with pretty much everything she says. Chapter 11 further repeats elements of white fragility through the lens of white women’s tears. White women often resort to emotional outbursts to deflect and control racially difficult situations.

The final chapter, “Where do we go from here?” lays out a course for racial sensitivity. After(once again) laying out the defensive characteristics of white fragility, several guidelines are offered. Apologies must be genuine and not conditional: no, “I’m sorry if…” Secondly, white people should reflect seriously on the messages they have received, privileges they enjoy, how they have been socialized to feel superior, and how these things are showing up in their daily lives. Next is a too-brief discussion of white guilt. I appreciate the statement, “When I start from the premise that of course I have been thoroughly socialized into the racist culture in which I was born, I no longer need to expend energy denying that fact. I am eager—even excited—to identify my inevitable collusion so that I can figure out how to stop colluding!” We are then told that there is no such thing as a good white person. To be white is to be racist. The only hope for a white person is to be less white.

White Fragility addresses an important topic. Unfortunately, it falls short in offering meaningful solutions. White people are inherently racist. White people revolt in disgust and denial whenever this racism is challenged. After establishing the facts of the case (and I do believe they are facts) DiAngelo spends multiple chapters restating the facts through lenses of various illustrations. In the concluding chapter, DiAngelo tells white people not to feel bad about being inherently racist; that white people cannot not be racist; and that white people should continue to try harder to not be racist. It is a rather hopeless conclusion to a vexing issue. As a book, White Fragility suffers from repetitiveness. The main text is scarcely 150 pages, but just as well could have been 75. As a way forward, White Fragility suffers from hopelessness. If to be white in a white society is to be racist, how on earth am I to suddenly find the answer to my whiteness by just trying hard to not be white?

A Christian Reading of White Fragility: chapter 6.

Chapter 6, “Anti-Blackness” addresses the sting in the tail of white racism. In understated ways, DiAngelo has recognized that all people groups tend to view themselves as normal and other as abnormal. Racism, in some form or another, is the default human condition. We all look at other races in particular ways. White racism against African Americans is particularly virulent because white racism is anti-black. “In the white mind, black people are the ultimate racial ‘other.’” A 2015 study found that the highest level of segregation in American society is between blacks and whites, the lowest is between Asians and whites, while the level of segregation between whites and Latino occupied an intermediate position.  “A majority of white, in both the expression of their beliefs and the practice of their lives, do not want to integrate with blacks.”

DiAngelo asserts that the fundamental driving force of anti-blackness is white guilt. White people, as a race, feel guilt about what they have done and continue to do and their complicity in the past and continuing torture and subjugation of black people, as a race. White people, as a whole, hate black people, as a whole, because of what blackness reminds white people of: that we are guilty of perpetrating immeasurable harm and that our gains have come through the subjugation of others.

One way to assuage white guilt is to view black people as those we can “save” through our own mercy. DiAngelo uses the film The Blind Side to illustrate the common ways we denigrate black people and see them as in desperate need of white rescue. When poor black youths do succeed, it is often through the goodness of white labors. The Blind Side reinforces many common white avenues of domination through patronization:

  • White people are the saviors of black people
  • Some black children may be innocent, but black adults are morally and criminally corrupt
  • Whites who are willing to save or otherwise help black people, at seemingly great personal cost, are noble, courageous, and morally superior to other whites
  • Individual black people can overcome their circumstances, but usually only with the help of white people
  • Black neighborhoods are inherently dangerous and criminal
  • Virtually all blacks are poor, incompetent, and unqualified for their jobs; they belong to gangs, are addicted to drugs, and are bad parents
  • The most dependable route for black males to escape the “inner city” is through sports
  • White people are willing to deal with individual “deserving” black people, but whites do not become a part of the black community in any meaningful way (beyond charity work)

Having never seen The Blind Side, I cannot speak to DiAngelo’s evaluation of it. Her list of charges have the ring of truth about them though. I have seen these things in other media, and felt them to varying degrees in my own life and experience.

This chapter, like those preceding it, does not offer any solution to the problem- perhaps that will come later. Nevertheless, the chapter is shot-through with the language of sin, guilt, and salvation. Throughout the chapter, DiAngelo is careful to couch her accusations corporately: white people as a whole are antagonistic toward black people as a whole. How then, does a 21st century white person find redemption for sins committed historically and corporately? How does a 21st century African American grant forgiveness for sins committed historically and corporately? How can white people repent? How can black people forgive? I am not sure DiAngelo will have the answers to these questions.