It’s easy these days to see how full the world is of evil. Orlando and Brock Turner are buzzwords no matter what website you open. The American election is bleak. People are sad.
I’ve been reading L’Engle. (Nothing new there, right?)
This time it’s a whopping volume: The Genesis Trilogy, in one. (From Derek, for my birthday, and I didn’t get the chance to finish more than the first third before I left for Sweden.)
What’s been hitting me hard this time is her plea for bringing repentance back into the forefront of our minds.
I was raised Lutheran, and the main thing that kept me from taking L’Engle as gospel (probably a good thing) is that I thought, as many others have, that she was a universalist.
“As far as I can gather, universalism means that all of a sudden, and for no particular reason, God is going to wave a magic wand, and say, ‘Okay, everybody, out of hell. Home free,'” she writes in And It Was Good. “Now that I know what it means, I can, and do, reply, ‘No, I am certainly not a universalist. That plays trivially with free will.’ And about God’s great and terrible gift of free will I feel very strongly indeed.”
I love that. It reminds me of C. S. Lewis: “Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” That’s the crux of human existence – the choice. If you have a Get Out of Jail Free card waiting for you at the end of everything, then your actions before that point cease to have any meaning for you.
At one southern university one young man…pushed me further. “But you do seem to indicate, in your writing, that you believe in God’s forgiveness?”
That seemed to me an extraordinary question, considering that it came from a student in a Christian college.
Fortunately, he qualified it. “You seem to believe that ultimately God is going to forgive everybody?”
I said, “I don’t believe that God is going to fail with his creation. I don’t worship a failing God. Do you want God to fail?”
He said, “But there has to be absolute justice.”
[L’Engle’s response] “You’re maybe nineteen or twenty years old. When you die, is that what you want – absolute justice? Don’t you want the teeniest, weeniest bit of mercy?”
Judge not, that ye be not judged, Matthew tells us. Yours it is not to decide what justice must be for others.
I wouldn’t deal very mercifully with Brock Turner, but I am not his God. (“Don’t worship me, I’d make a very bad god,” said the Ninth Doctor.)
And for my part, I’d like to receive mercy when it comes to be my turn. I’ve never raped or murdered, but I’ve hurt people, and not just unconsciously. And I do not want absolute justice for myself. Does that make me selfish? Maybe. Can you blame me?
Where that story of L’Engle’s really gets interesting to me, though, is the question of whether or not the young college student wants God to fail.
God, who is supposed to be omnipotent, omnipresent, all-knowing and all-loving – would that God surrender one of his creations, one of his precious children, to hellfire and damnation for all eternity? Would that God, who can do anything and love anyone, and who is outside time enough for it to not matter, get tired of waiting for his children to come home?
I think not. I hope not. I am one of those children.
It might take me many more years to come home and mean it. I hope to God (ha) I can trust that I will be welcomed in no matter how late I am or how long it took me to turn to God.
In A Stone for a Pillow, the second part of the trilogy, she talks about being asked to serve on jury duty for two greasy, sour-faced men who attacked an old woman with knives. Clearly the malicious intent is there. Clearly punishment is appropriate.
But, as she says, the point of punishment is a lesson. And that lesson? Love.
We can recognize the horror of those men’s actions, we can even want punishment for them, without demanding that they be shut out of God’s love for ever.
I refuse to be glad that Brock Turner went out and raped someone. I refuse to be glad that Omar Mateen opened fire in a public place and killed. I will stare that crime in the face and condemn it (and on a side note, the fact that some news outlets and even the FBI are refusing to mention Mateen’s name reminds me of L’Engle’s concept of un-Naming, but I digress).
But I can do that without damning those men to hell.
For one thing, that is not my place, as I am not the God of this universe.
But for another, that would be to exclude them from God’s love. For all eternity. And I don’t want that for them, because I do not want it for myself.
If selfishness prompts you to love others, perhaps it is not selfishness.
Evil people are evil. I will not deny that. But they are also part of all creation, and I refuse to deny that either.
On another note, today a Facebook friend posted something. Long and ranty it was. He was angry that Orlando had to happen. He was angry that people worried, in its wake, that their Second Amendment rights would be infringed. He wanted to encourage people not to support Donald Trump in the election.
He began with, “If I say anything that offends you or makes you go, ‘I should let him know how wrong he is,’ save your time. I will delete your comment.”
He ended with, “I am here for you even if I disagree with you.”
I quoted those two lines, and I commented them. It was deleted.
(What can I say, I wanted to be a cheeky shit.)
In my friend’s eyes, perhaps I am evil. Perhaps his deleting my comment was his way of telling me that.
Was that a refusal to let me be part of creation? I do not know. I can suspect, given that other more supportive comments were let stand.
(It made me say to myself, I can be friends with people I disagree with, but I cannot be friends with people who do not listen. Is that me shutting people out? Maybe. Am I right? Maybe, again.)
In any case, I am part of creation. I am. I will not be shut out of my right to that.
But neither will I shut anyone else out. I have done nothing to deserve God’s love any more than Brock Turner or Omar Mateen have, and yet I receive it: why should they not?
And, in the unlikely event that my friend ever sees this, God loves the Trump supporters, too.
A tough thing? Seeing other people’s relationships move forward. I miss my boyfriend pretty hard in these last days before we see each other again, and Facebook is rife with people getting engaged and/or moving in together, and I just want a damn kiss. And time to enjoy it. Please and thank you, universe.