"If they are right," she said to me, "And following Christ is about right and wrong, and the rules that we follow ... if they're right about that, I'm going to Hell."
She said it a month ago or more, and I've been chewing on it since.
A life of faith in Alabama is an interesting thing. Southern culture is inundated with religion. There is - hand to God - a sign close to our house that says "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and seek Ed for all of your tire needs." It is also the breeding grounds for fundamentalism, and an understanding of Christianity that is far removed from grace or love. The world is black and white, and very small, all around me. Brian even had someone make a comment to him a few weeks ago about the "Catholics and the gays." I was astounded. My response was, "Did you tell them the Catholics and the gays have been ministering to me for a while now?"
It is in this climate that I'm faced with my own calling to love God and my neighbor more than I love myself. I'm not exempt from loving those who hate the people I love, who think I'm wrong, who do not love me back. And I'm faced with the responsibility of raising children who will choose their own path of faith. I cannot choose their steps, but I do have some measure of control over their trajectory. I will tell them who God is, and - terrifyingly - they will probably believe me.
And the whole thing would be overwhelming, except that I find consolation in Christ. It was Jesus who was most angered by Pharisees, who had taken their own understanding of the law - which was meant to protect the community, not fracture it - and were using it as a means of elevating themselves and isolating others. To them Jesus said, "Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice."
The two opposing ideas of mercy and sacrifice have been my meditation lately. and ...
Oh, I give. There's a penny flute in my ear and the baby's breakfast is over, and now I must go. We'll call this part one in a stream of consciousness series on grace and sacrifice. Chew on it too - maybe even post on your own blog about it. For that matter, I may go ca-razy and learn about Mr. Linky. But seriously, think on it. We'll talk more at nap.