Breaking My Heart

Posted by Melvin Bray on July 22nd, 2007 filed in Useful Perhaps

One of the most troubling things happening in my life of late is that so many of my friends are either divorcing, cheating on one another or otherwise putting each other through hell. It’s killing me. A friend of mine just had her indiscretions of a year ago put on blast. Now she’s trying to deal with the fall out. It’s a mess. Institutional religion all too often gives us only two categories in which to understand indiscretion and/or brokenness: victim or victimizer. Thus, when one’s brokenness is discovered, everyone, including the principal players, seems to rush to take up sides against the category they despise the most. It’s awful. In the meantime, little or no healing takes place, because we’re not taught how to seek that for the good of each other. Instead, the principal players retreat into self-interest–“I have to protect… love… find healing for… provide for… myself (and my kids).

Many want to blame my friend for not coming clean from jump regarding her affair. I’m convinced that the reason there is no sacrament of confession in much institutional religion is because there is no sacrament of forgiveness. We just don’t have the tools to embrace brokenness, and we’re too inhibited by bad theology. We believe we have a divine obligation to hand out scarlet letters, though we know that’s not love. We do it even when it makes no sense–even when everything inside us cries out for something better–even to ourselves. It’s tragic.

One of the major obstacles to loving better, I believe, is what we rehearse when we gather together. We rehearse karma instead of grace, “righteous” indignation instead of forgiveness, doctrine instead of faith. Don’t get me wrong. Karma is legitimate and probably the best human beings can hope to apprehend in their own strength. But the way of Jesus is predicated on the hope of living beyond one’s own strength. Nonetheless, we don’t rehearse such victory, only the pitifulness of being “a sinner in need of saving” week after week when it’s time for the alter call.

The question that comes to my mind as I watch these tragedies take shape time and time again–or hear people defend the structures that facilitate them–is “How is that working for us?” Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have all the answers, but I know the reason why few are asking Christianity for its take on the matter. Whether we’ve been blessed with any answers or not, how we live in committed relationship isn’t working any better than those who claim not our sense of accountability. And that breaks my heart, for I know the way of Jesus is better than that.

One Response to “Breaking My Heart”

  1. Richard Harty Says:

    Hi Melvin, I wanted to first thank you for reading my blog. I like your comparing human understanding to karma. One of the things that I have learned about the Budha’s view on karma is that the word nirvanna means to extinguish. And the flame is sustained by the burning of karma both good and bad.

    I realized that this is another description of grace. It is both the trying to be good and acts of harm that cause the generation of the fuel that causes things to burn. The way between these is referred as the middle way or often simply the way.

    The fire cleanses by destruction, but water cleanses without destroying the person. I believe that love is the defining awareness of consciousness. And love is the only way to know how to cleanse with water.

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