Paris is worth a Mass (Paris vaut une messe) Henry of Navarre (King Henry IV of France)
Tolerance is a Christian virtue; permissiveness is not. Diogenes Allen
I did not spend the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday dancing in the streets of New Orleans or frolicking on the beach in Rio (maybe next year). For that matter I did not even eat pancakes (though I did sneak half a donut). Instead, I lectured on the religious wars of the 16th century and the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere with the arrival of the European conquerors and their diseases. For me, this lecture is always the most sobering and disturbing reminder of both the history of failure of Christianity and the “shadow” side of providence. One can hardly blame students of history for doubting both God and humanity. Ash Wednesday is more that a date on the calendar this year for me or a extra service I must lead; it feels like an existential and spiritual necessity. There is something of both the religious and political divisiveness of the current time that reminds me of the “ghosts of Christian past.” While currently the daily killings and bi-weekly massacres in this country are not religiously driven (Lord have mercy on our national violent soul-another shooting happened a few hours after I wrote this), Jesus did say when you hate you kill (Matt. 5:22,23; see also I John 3:15). If He was right, then social media is a massive killing field. I am not ignoring the political dangers and religious errors of our time this Lent, but I am going to try to walk a little closer to Jesus. I am not presuming to be able to imitate Christ, but I need to know Him deeper as friend and master, because I am suspicious of whatI am blind to in my own soul and psyche, particularly in my assessment of others. Jesus once spoke to the sectarian tendencies of his disciples by stating “whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:38-41). Lent should be about trying to reduce our tendency to live and believe in opposition to our Lord and Savior. I think any semi-honest attempt at self-reflection will always lead to some type of confession and recognition of the need for mercy. Christ in granting mercy would remind us of the necessity of being merciful to others (Matt: 6:14) and the danger of not (Matt. 18:21-35). Henry IV is criticized in some circles (he switched between being a Catholic and Protestant 5 times), but I think Paris was worth a mass and attempting to stop the religious driven slaughter of his people was certainly worth a personal theological compromise. There might actually be somethings more important than being right. When Jesus encouraged us to address the beam in our own eye before addressing the splinter in our neighbor’s (Matt. 7:5), was this not a call to both confession and tolerance?
Maybe something to pray and think about for forty days or so.