Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Truth and the Internet, letting the nazis march through Skokie.

A Friend whose wisdom and friendship I treasure, deeply wrote on her blog recently, in regard to a post of mine, where I admit to the human frailty of a lack of precise exactitude in minuet facts in blogging...

"I don't want to sound as though I feel there is no place for fun and silliness and less than ponderous discussion, because of course I think we have room for lots of the above. But without a sense that we are upholding truth and mutual understanding to the full extent of our abilities, no matter how heavy or light the subject, I find it difficult to have a meaningful and fruitful discussion about anything, let alone the deep, tender subjects that seem to be Quaker blogger mainstays."

I wrote more than a bit in answer to this, yet I still feel there is much more to be said when the word truth is spoken among Friends. I could not sleep tonight, as I thought of the advice read today at the meeting for worship with a concern for business. It was about our tradition of not speaking oaths in court as we spoke the truth in ever word we say.

This is a heavy thing, when we as Quakers divide ourselves out from the public who, it is felt, must place their hand on a bible to be trusted with truth. The search for truth takes both courage and a tough skin. If we are to approach truth, more than that to be truly honest, takes the courage to look in a mirror and ask have I sinned against the truth in ways that shock me to admit.

Some feel that I quibble over trite phrases when I shudder at the danger of the myth of the man without sin, or imperfection, the man who stands over Fox, and Pen, and Hicks, and thee and me, to guide us to the kingdom of God.

But, I come back and back to the question of totalitarianism and the pluralist society. What role is there for totalitarian thought, and is the sin of totalitarianism the murder committed in its name, or the act of damning the "other" in the act of saying our image of God is perfect, rather than saying, only God is perfect. Is there a damnation inseparable from the word perfect, or without sin?

Let me present a query, then a hypothetical then return to the query.

Should nazis be allowed to march in uniform through the town of Skokie? This was a real question for the courts, which is revisited again and again in asking how to be tolerant of intolerance.

There is real harm, as in Skokie, it was chosen by the American nazi Party, because it has the highest population of death camp survivors in the US. The harm to such a survivor, at the age many are, is a life endangering threat, to see thy former killers march past thy house.

OK. Hypothetical. What if these nazis proclaimed, "Hitler was a heretic to true nazism, which really is only the worship of the old Teutonic Gods as expressed by Bismark."
"Wait, thee says. Bismark had nothing to do with nazism."
"Oh, ye of little faith", they reply. "Our faith tells us that Bismark was the true founder of our faith and was in fact a good nazi and so, we reclaim all the nazi images, from our dear swastika to our brown shirts and even the dear old horst weasel song, and will parade it in love through Skokie. We are the good nazis."

Well... are we to say, "Oh, right boys, no harm in that, well met hail fellow, and sig hiel to thee, friend?"

Well, not me, not yet, I need more convincing.

By this symbol will you conquer cost the lives of uncountable millions in a holocaust of over a thousand years. Every year of my life, someone was damning me for seeing Jesus in a different manner then they did, even when I accepted Jesus as perfect, though not God. At the deep root of the evil of Christian totalitarianism was the symbols that made conquest possible, the cross, the crown and yes, the Christ.

But, Friends say, we are the new, user friendly Christians. We are not the movement which even killed OUR forefathers and hanged our foremothers. We seek truth, though we hold back one symbolic tie to totalitarianism which we cannot bring ourselves to abandon. In this we forsake the evil done in the sin of division out from God and our fellow humans, but not the sin, the separation of saying we hold a image to be perfect or sinless, and yet, we stand on our tradition to speak truth in every word.

When we weigh the symbols of totalitarianism... are we brave enough to look at our own? Are we deniers of the Christian holocaust, and planting seeds of the next years crop of totalitarian sin and war?


At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Joel said...

If I were you, I'd come home to your own. We'll take you back. Let them worry about who Jesus is.


At 3:57 PM, Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Lorcan: the silence is deafening.

For the record, I find this post and many of your recent and comments on sites to be quite rude. This is not how Friends treat Friends or anyone for that matter. It is intolerant to dismiss an entire religious tradition. That you seem to be singling out younger Friends for your critique is even more disturbing and no amount of "friendship I treasure" language makes up for equating Christian Friends with Nazis.

You've violated a kind of trust that's existed in the Quaker blogger community, which has been able to grow to amazing diversity because we've all had the discipline to hear beyond the words, to listen to the spirit that we all try to point to in our all-too-human, all-too-muddled way.

I'm very sad and disappointed.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Martin:
I will only respond to this in love. I hear thy accusations, and I tell thee, thee does not know me.

At 8:18 AM, Blogger Johan Maurer said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:21 AM, Blogger Johan Maurer said...

I do think that both symbols and perfectionism are potent devices. (The subtitle of the biography of Marina Tsvetaeva that I'm reading now comes to mind: "The Double Beat of Heaven and Hell.") But ALL spiritual matters are potent and hazardous, which is why I'm convinced that discerning companions are always essential.

Symbols can be powerfully misused, but they are essential for communication and community-building. Perfection can be the Devil's road to neurosis and worse, but can also be the divine antidote to shame-based spiritual oppression. Sorting these things out alone or under the influence of an unaccountable, presumptuous leader seems unlikely to me.

I have a "high christology," but I also have a "high anthropology." Christ's perfection is ours, potentially, as well. To acknowledge my present imperfection is not to put an impossible and oppressive distance between Christ and me, but to acknowledge that I'm not disconnected and unaccountable in this world of obvious imperfection and cruelty. The work and advocacy that I do to try to push things in a redemptive direction has to be inward as well as outward.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Johan:
I am not in unity with thy expression about misused symbols... but I remain open to the question and process.

Yes we need symbols to comunicate, but they must be symbols that are truthful and honest. To declare perfection is to promote a harmful myth and a taking from the Jewish people. It is grave robbing.

We used to dig up Indian graves all the time, we who are not Original people here. We did so to make our truths.

Mike Hainey, a Seminole sub-chief, proposed that he and some other Original Americans, go to Arlington and dig up the US soldiers... to prove their truths... "how would you like that?", he asked. My dear sister Carol Kalafatic ( who I miss if thee reads this... ) and I sat at a repatriation talk by a woman from the Smithsonian. In the questions period, Carol asked. "Please tell me why you need to keep my Grandmother's corpse in a drawer, can't you give us her body to burry." The woman began, "Oh no! If you can show that one of our skeletons is your family... " "You just don't get it do you lady? " Carol said sitting down.

One can hear in the reaction to this post what the danger, inherent in symbols is... In a comment with a snide comment on silence, rather perverse for a Friend... as an ethnic Jew ( as well as Irish, like the comenter... ) my first reaction is that it is blatantly anti-Semitic. I have dealt in my graduate studies, deep examination of unconscious racism, and the comment goes well beyond that. It is the blind denial of prejudice. ( You just don't get it Friend, does thee? )I remain open to clearness with this Friend, and frankly, I think it is vital to come to clearness in order to be a Friend, and I have offered it.

Another Friend speaks of the idols of pain. That is on point and thoughtful and reaching for continuation of the conversation. But, dismissal in protection of any symbol by dismissive comments, begins to unwrap the harm of racism and prejudice, and so for that, I am thankful to the Friend... as long as the Friend is still open to process. Sometimes we need to see the racist in the sunlight, the holocaust denier, so that we can offer him understanding.

Johan... it comes down to who we are as Friends... and how to do proceed on our unending road to God. Any symbol of perfection ends the process, not in thy case, in the application of that symbol. I say not in thy case, as thee is still in the process of saying I am listening, as I am listening to thee. Let's begin at the beginning. (with thanks to Ryan, with whom I had much of this discussion a little while ago... )

What makes us Quakers, and what makes Quakers different than some other faiths is that all flows, not from a creed but from a relationship ... not with a distant God, but a God in us and others. Further it is the presence to the God in others that makes us living in the manner of Friends. All our testimonies flow from this relationship with the God in ourselves and others.

My question, which led to some painful understanding, ( and atonement ) is that the process of being open ... ends with a human symbol of absolute anything. It becomes the inarguable premise, which must lead to a perfect "I am right" and those who don't accept the perfection of this symbol are perfectly wrong. This is the meaning of perfection.

The opposite contention is that we all, even Yeshua, are fallible and sin, and as such, must be humble, must atone, must work, really work, to walk righteously before the God in us and others. This is how symbols divide. We have to say, to the other, I am possessed of an absolute truth... but will accept that thee is right in thy own way. Rather, if we say, as a Quaker, I am as flawed as any one, so I must hear thy truth, I must listen, I must give, and not seek perfection, but seek unity, seek humility, seek all that the best human can teach... that the best we are is not so perfect that the person needs to mitigate sins, which are not wrongs, but are sins, sin as a division from the beloved.

If we proclaim the perfect, in all the best intentions, then totalitarianism is the natural result, if we intend it or not. If instead, we accept all of us are fallible and need to come to the well... I wrote a small note, I think fits here...

For me, Merton's quote ( on another Blog that began this journey ) that God calls human persons to union with Himself and with one another... the church is the gathered community of love. This church is the office place, the bloggisphere, the sports field, the most out of control battle field or the middle of the moment of massacre in genocide... God calls us to union with Himself and one another - He does not come to get us in these dark satanic places... we go to him through going to each other. After Jesus' lesson, we do not expect the well to come to us, we go to the well, we don't say why are we Samaritans and Judean divided, lets work this out... we say, give me to drink, I thirst. God provides the well... the water, we provide the giving and that makes it water of life.

It is Hill el's "do nothing to another that which is abhorrent to thee, that is the Torah, and the rest is commentary"

Forgiveness based on... if only thee would... is not the letting go of pain, it is not the moving on into church.

It is not one church, in the intuition and symbols, it is the perfect unity, and the only way to achieve perfection of unity is to place no symbol particular to ourselves between us and the God in another. Especially a symbol of perfection, which takes the humanness from another.

It is this taking that is the great sin we have committed against my Grandmother's... my tribe. It is to objectify as something he was not, a human who said, we are all equal in our need to walk towards the God in each other, to take to drink from those with whom we are in conflict. That is the only perfection in Yeshua, it is the realization that we all need to walk towards the God in the most distant of us, the ones we have hurt and hurt us the most.

To the anti-semetic Friend who poked fun at Jews who ask, why do you put my Grandfather in a book, on a cross... I forgive thee, without thy need to atone, but if thee and I are in the same society of Friends, thee might consider my suggestion to meet for clearness. I'm thirsty Martin. Give me to drink.


At 4:51 PM, Blogger Lorcan said...

PS Serrious question... is it possible to redeem the symbols of nazism in a way comfortable to the holocast survivors? I still ask that someone reply to that.

It is an important question in seeking atonement for the Christian holocast. Thee can't atone unless thee fully understands the sin.

I can forgive without the other atonement, but that does not mean it is a question that must be ignored. I think Friends who use phisical and ideological symbols which has led to mass murder, and distruction of the humanity of others should ask themselves that. I don't care what the answer is... the questioning is the road away from unconcious racism.



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