Monday, August 18, 2008

Ethics Issuing from Silence II

Taking up the issue of injustice, we learn from silence that there are moments when we must cast all caution aside and stake our lives on an issue we regard as critical. A wise friend of mine once said, "You're going to get crucified anyway; you might as well get crucified for something you believe in." In other words, while working for justice as you are able in daily life, realize that something may come along that demands your all. Jesus, after all, drove the money changers out of the temple; he was rude and he was angry, and he got crucified. The Buddhists might say this was "vajra" anger. It arises when what is crucial to humanity is being corrupted.

What I'm trying to say here is very simple: everything that Jesus teaches us about living, including his life and resurrection is to be found in the work of silence, particularly as it is laid out in the kenotic hymn (Phil. 2:5-11). This is why Jesus is both the paradigm and parable of silence.

Equally, however, for those afraid of or damaged by religion, these ethics will in any event make themselves evident in the work of silence. This is one reason I don't use much "religious" or "theological" language in the hope that I might receive a new perspective and understanding of that language, so that, stripped of institutional distortions, it might actually refer to something, i.e., the work of silence.

Without making any generalizations about "liberal" and "conservative", it seems to me that the person who tries to live from silence is aware from within (as opposed to bowing to a rule imposed from without) of the need to be slow to judge and/or condemn. Such a person might leave open many questions that vex our current culture and certainly the Anglican Communion. Silence is inclusive not exclusive. It is significant that starting with the meeting in Ireland in 2005, the members of GAFCON have consistently refused to sit in silence with the rest of the bishops, an exercise that is often fruitful in resolving conflicts.

Being slow to judge doesn't mean, anarchy or "anything goes": for example, no one in their right mind would suggest that pedophiles should not be contained in a way so that children and others will not be hurt.

But it does mean exercising extreme caution, "respect", if you like, for the mystery of creation. We cannot live without exercising our judgment; but silence shows us how very inadequate and provisional those judgments are. Silence may lead us to ask startling questions: Why, for example, especially in an age of social instability, should we bar people of the same sex from having their relationship blessed? Why shouldn't the church provide some sort of commitment blessing for every group of people living together? Blessing doesn't necessarily imply a sexual relationship. We have grandparents raising grandchildren; siblings living together raising other siblings' children; completely unrelated people taking in waifs and strays, street children taking care of one another, and a variety of other combinations. Why not recognize and encourage their efforts with such an outpouring of love?

The respect that issues from silence means, at a personal level, refraining from stereotyping, even when a person comes up to you and says that on the Enneagram she's a 7, or on the Meyers-Briggs she's an INFP. In silence one needs to ask oneself what potentials these stereotyped results tend to lock out? Respect means seeking always to relate to the mystery of the other, what is unknowable, to provide a welcoming and open silence for that person's unfolding truth to be revealed, a process that never ends. In ancient literature this is called "reading of hearts", the meeting and self-revelation of two silences. And it means doing the same with our selves. Perhaps this is what loving our neighbor as our selves means.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew a hermit at The Bishop's Ranch in California when I was a teenager. She moved to Santa Cruz, CA and I lost touch. Does this sound familiar? It's been a busy few decades, but I still try to get up to the Russian River Valley when I can. I hope I've found you.

3:39 am, August 23, 2008  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

You have. Thank you.

As I moderate the comments, you can, if you wish, safely send me your email without fear of your address being published.

4:00 am, August 23, 2008  

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