Into My Arms
I don’t believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
Not to intervene when it came to you
Not to touch a hair on your head
To leave you as you are
And if He felt He had to direct you
Then direct you into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms
And I don’t believe in the existence of angels
But looking at you I wonder if that’s true
But if I did I would summon them together
And ask them to watch over you
To each burn a candle for you
To make bright and clear your path
And to walk, like Christ, in grace and love
And guide you into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms
But I believe in love
And I know that you do too
And I believe in some kind of path
That we can walk down, me and you
So keep your candles burning
And make her journey bright and pure
That she will keep returning
Always and evermore
This Nick Cave song has not left me alone for a minute during the last few months. I first became aware of it when it was used in the funeral scene in my favorite movie, About Time.
The opening line goes straight for the jugular. He doesn’t believe in an interventionist god. I wondered if I did. And then, I was amazed that I dared to wonder at all.
When I first heard the song, I googled Nick Cave. I’d only known him from Red Right Hand, the theme for Peaky Blinders. I pegged Cave for a cult act, an underground independent artist. Well, what a surprise! Cave has a long, successful music career of about thirty years. Thirty years and I’d not heard of him. He just wasn’t on my radar. Nick Cave had begun and built his career during the same time I was completely trapped inside a religious cult.
I spent a good part of my religious formative years in that family owned cult of a church where the most important thing you could do, the most spirituality you could demonstrate, was to not think. You were to learn the dad/pastor viewpoint and be able to parrot it whenever needed. Of course, the dad never said not to think. In fact, he told us often that, if we agreed with him, it proved that we didn’t “leave our brains in the parking lot” when we entered the building. But, we did. And the people I see on Facebook who are still in the cult, still parrot the party line, whether spoken by father or son.
Add that to the cult’s devotion to a sexual deviant named Bill Gothard and it’s a wonder any escapees can think at all. Gothard is the man whose “cause and effect” teachings about an interventionist God were credited often by dad as being foundational to the success of the family business.
Do I believe in an interventionist God? I did. I believed in a God who chastised you for every wrong decision you made. I knew of a God who punished you for sin committed by family members. I believed in a monkey’s paw God who would give your loved ones cancer if you played their birthdates in the lottery.
But, out of the cult and free to think on my own, I now know it’s permissible, even right, to wrestle with God and angels. So, like Nick Cave, I don’t believe in an interventionist God. I believe in a God who is good and kind. I believe in a God who is the Good Shepherd. I believe in a God who will shield and comfort me.
Does God intervene in my life? Only for good. Only in love. Especially as He presents Himself to me constantly during my day, offering Himself to be chosen by me.
So, I’ve learned to think. And. I’ve learned that thinking doesn’t make me a disloyal Christian. I’ve learned that, even in American Evangelicalism there are different from those the dad held. And, looking back, I can see how strongly feared new ideas. He would not let a Christian book be put up for sale in his Book Shoppe without his approval. He judged the live and ministry of each author looking as he said, “for cracks” that would disqualify he author’s opinion. And, even though the dad would not let the church bookstore manager order a book that held a different but nonetheless valid viewpoint, the truth finds a way.
And the truth sets us free.
I’m moving this blog to http://www.Patreon.com/brokenthinking because that platform gives me an opportunity to use my blog to support the food pantry at my parish.
See you there, I hope.
I spent a lot of Wednesdays and Sundays in a church that really didn’t recognize Lent. The pastor preached instant forgiveness and promised that God could not even remember your sins once you confessed them mentally to Him. He preached about Lent, Confession, Penance, and other Catholic practices only to mock them. He had a special vendetta against Catholicism and preached against it often. Until I entered the Church I always bought the story that, for Catholics, Lent was a dark time. It was a time for self flagellation. You beat yourself up for your sins. I was taught that Catholicism provided no outlet for the forgiveness of sins.
After being received into the Church I began to see the beauty in Lent. I saw that Lent was also a time for deeper praying. Our Lenten journey was to allow us to walk closer to our Lord and to hold Him all the closer. We do that through those Lenten sacrifices and through a deepening of our prayer lives. And, alms giving. That’s such a beautiful and sacred part of Lent. and, so fitting that a church which shares God’s special love for the poor would prescribe a season of charity so that we might enrich our own hearts by giving.
Lent was always important to my mom and me. She was a single mom and took me to church often. She sang hymns around the house during the day and quoted Bible verses to me that, I now realize, were learned directly from her Small Catechism. She grew up in a Lutheran Orphanage, the daughter of a Lutheran minister.
Her father had a brutal effect upon her life. Not only was he a bad father, sending her and her twin sister to live in an orphanage, but he was a terrible minister. He was defrocked due to poor moral conduct and ultimately wound up working on the custodial staff of the very home where he’d sent his daughters. For some crazy reason, my mom grew up distrusting ministers. Even crazier, I think, she grew up without her faith in God shaken.
One Lenten Wednesday night my mom took me to church. The lesson was about Jesus’ agony in the garden. It was told using a slide show. I can remember to this day a slide that was shot from above, through the trees, of Jesus praying while the disciples slept a short distance away. Something stirred in me at that time. I still cannot put it into words but that feeling has stayed with me. Today, writing this and seeing the picture once more in my mind, I am stirred with a desire to walk with Jesus.
But, Lent was also a time of mild fear for me. I knew very little about it but I knew that there was a time during Lent where the congregation washed each others’feet. Believe me, I wanted no part of that!
It was during Lent of 2013 that my RCIA course drew near the close and I prepared to enter the Church. It was a turbulent time for me, a pretty staunch Protestant, as I came face to face with the reality of what the first fifteen hundred years after the Cross meant. I realized that, if the Holy Spirit was real, and in charge of guiding the Church into all truth, Catholicism had to be the right choice for me. Otherwise, I thought, the first thing the Holy Spirit would have done after being charged with leading us to truth would have been to guide us into error. That just could not be. So, during Lent, I took the plunge into the Tiber and swam to the other side.
It was as Lent ended in 2014 that I sat in our congregation on a Holy Thursday and was swept up to heaven in worship as the choir filled the church with beautiful notes. Those notes seemed to swirl upward toward the great vaulted ceiling and were joined there with angel voices. It was the most beautiful time I’d ever experienced in church.
And, this Lent is sure to be a special memory for me, too. As I was on the handshake line after Mass, my priest asked if he could have a word with me. Was I planning on coming to the Holy Thursday Mass? Even though I knew immediately what was coming next, I admitted that I was.
“Would you be willing to have your feet washed?”
With the possibility of the repeal and replacement for Obamacare, my Facebook timeline has been abuzz. One side calls for compassion to the poor, the other complains of higher premiums they blame on Obama. I can understand the desire to have a bit more money but I can’t understand valuing that money over the lives of the poor and marginalized.
Neither the Church nor our Lord calls us to value personal wealth above humanity. We aren’t called to hoard our money. We are called to be our brother’s keeper. Logically, if you cannot do that within your own resources, the next step is to see that it gets done by an entity that can do it. Pope Benedict wrote ” To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity. To take a stand for the common good is on the one hand to be solicitous for, and on the other hand to avail oneself of, that complex of institutions that give structure to the life of society, juridically, civilly, politically and culturally, making it the pólis, or “city”. The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practise this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis. This is the institutional path — we might also call it the political path — of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbour directly, outside the institutional mediation of the pólis.”
My wife and I once went to a church where the pastor was very keen on pointing out the differences in the way Christians and non-believers act. he definitely felt that the way people behaved could tell you about their spiritual life. He told us (over and over) that he would be careful to count the change he got from the store cashier because, if too much, it gave him the opening to “present the Gospel.” How? He would announce to the cashier that he was returning the money because he was a compelled to by virtue of being a Christian. Once in the parking lot, he would proudly push his cart into the cart corral because that is what Christians do.
And, yes, to this day, Liz and I laugh about that every time we shop.
Somewhere along the line, a new generation of Christians bought into this delusion. Christians, more and more, seemingly believe that their belief can be summed up in being nice. In being exemplary social creatures. Say, Merry Christmas. Please and thank you. Pardon me. Allow the other guy to turn left in front of you at the intersection. And, why not? That’s the reason Christ willingly went to the cross, isn’t it? So we’d all have good manners?
Well, it’s great to have good manners. But, of course, Christians are called to do more. We are called to care about our neighbor and to act upon that caring. And, it isn’t just a caring out of convenience. It sometimes costs us something.
So, I link that to the health care debate I see on Facebook. A number of Christians have recently advanced the argument that it isn’t the government’s Biblical responsibility to collect taxes to take care of the uninsured. Plus, they work hard and their taxes and premiums are already too high to now subsidize the poor. One poster responded to me by writing “The problem with the govt doing it is that it is no longer charity for the poor. Charity for one’s neighbor must be out of one’s free will. Therefore, the govt imposing high premiums on some to support others is not consistent with our Christian faith. The missing element is freedom.”
Freedom? Freedom to ignore the needs of the marginalized is not a Christian tenet. Yes, the gospel states “freely have you received, freely give.” But, clearly, the one who opposes the government caring for the poor must now take it upon herself to do it. Yes, I will support your desire to have lower premiums as soon as you commit to paying the $200,000 for your neighbor’s hip replacement.
So, to claim that taxes to help the uninsured are wrong because they deny the taxpayer the “freedom” he is entitled to is a weak excuse to go on turning your back on the poor. It exposes the desire to hoard your wealth, to build the bigger storehouse of Luke 12.
It’s a darkened heart that closes an ear to the cries of the poor. And returning all the shopping carts in the world will never make up for it.