12.17.2008

Merry Christmas to All...

I have a hypothetical question that I'm trying to think through--want to play along?

Since reading Fenhopp's most recent inspired post about California's Prop. 8, and specifically about what seems to be a divide that's drawn especially deeply between generations, I've been thinking about one of Jesus' more enigmatic teachings (Luke 14:26): "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple."

That's one of those verses that you don't hear sermons built around very often. My interpretation involves a somewhat subtle understanding--Monica might even call it midrashic--of the word "hate." As I picture the disciples and followers listening to Jesus say these words I cannot imagine that he was speaking about a kind of verbal test that must be passed: "Do you hate your mother?" Ans: "Yes." Ans: "Then you can be my disciple."

Rather, I think there must be something about hating one's family (indeed one's own life) that is a kind of symptom of the psychological state that would lead one to be with/like Jesus.

If this teaching is understood in the context of social Justice, it might lead us to imagine Jesus as having an understanding of Justice that transcends the historical moment: perhaps it's not that Justice itself changes; but our ability to see it, and to keep track of it, may come and go as we mature and then grow old.

My latest objection to my parents' way of life has to do with food: they want to eat mashed potatoes and steak like it's still 1961 and I want to eat Thai food and steamed broccoli and raw almonds and pomegranates like it's 2012. I wouldn't say this leads me to "hate" them, but it might put me on the path.

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But: if we truly believe that there is a "seasonal-ness" to our ability to understand Justice, we might recognize that we are less entitled to the feeling of moral righteousness. I know that my grandparents were explicitly racist. Maybe by learning to "hate their parents," my parents largely rejected that ideology... but it was as much a product of the wheel in the sky (keeps on turnin'!) as it was of their deep sense of virtue. It's our turn now, and maybe equal rights for homosexual people is "at bat." The question is, is it possible to avoid becoming like our parents, who became like their parents? What is our blind spot? How is it possible that we will not be able to hear the voice of our children when it tells us, finally with passion, that we have been wrong? How can we "wise up" to avoid the generational trap?

Jesus has an answer: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple."

Did you catch that?--even his own life! For now, though, have a happy Christmas.

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