To Apologize for Kindness
You may recall that after the Newtown massacre where 20 children and six adults were murdered, an inter-faith memorial service was held.
Reverend Rob Morris, a Newtown Lutheran Minister, one of whose young parishioners was among the dead, gave the benediction at the service.
Reverend Morris was subsequently forced to apologize to his church leadership for participating in the service since mingling with different denominational ministers violated their prohibition against joint worship with people of other faiths.
The man who demanded the apology, Lutheran President and Reverend Matthew Harrison eventually apologized for his original demand offering up a contorted rationale.
A Civil Society?
The Church and the State form two of the most important institutions underpinning modern or civilized life. Both are associated to varying degrees with compassion. Many citizens, religious or not, would see the role of the pious as teaching, modeling or extolling the virtues of compassion, kindness and comity as a key tenet of earthly life. Faith relies on the future while kindness exists in the moment before us. And, few acts of kindness are more powerful than comforting the bereaved.
How jarring then, in the midst of such a devastating catastrophe as Newtown, to have God’s minister rebuked and forced to apologize for an act of healing and kindness. What aspect of that reinforces the concept of mercy or the sanctity of human life?
It’s fancy for “wicked” which is a powerful word. It basically connotes an evil willfulness. Demanding what would effectively be a public apology from Reverend Morris for his kindness was an act of villainy. He was forced to betray his personal sense of kindness and sense of community in order to satisfy the peculiar tenet of a religious doctrine.
God created “man” and we have created an endless series of sects and divisions jostling and preening for first place in the eyes of the great one. Though it has long since been proven that we are all essentially the same, the role of much religion is to somehow convince us that we are actually different, and damned because of it.
The synonyms for power are better than the word itself: might – force – strength – potency – authority. In the world we inhabit, it seems that no institution, of God or man, can long exist without some combination of strength and authority. Institutions of power are characterized by hierarchy, status and the ability to punish. Punishing human compassion is an exquisite abuse of power normally associated with the cruelest of regimes.
Tragically, the cost of power-based organized religion is the requirement to subordinate the inclination to be kind or merciful in order to reinforce a sense of difference or specialness.
Christ En-route to Calvary
Look, or look again, at Raphael’s masterwork but see the faltering Christ as the grieving people of Newtown. See the beseeching Mary on the right as those who would offer compassion including Rob Morris. Lastly, see the towering and unmerciful guards, centurions who willingly inflict pain to protect their power as the kings of religion.
Thus has the message of mercy and kindness been subverted by religious dogma and the lust for power and control.