“You can’t handle the truth!” Saturday I watched A Few Good Men. Again. Some youngsters have a crush on Justin Bieber. I like Jack Nicholson, Kevin Bacon, and Kiefer Sutherland. There are not a few poignant scenes. Aside from provoking Colonel Jessup (Nicholson) to declare Lieutenant Kaffee (Cruise) could not handle the truth, there is a scene where Cruise and Moore are debating how to manage Kaffee’s (Cruise’s) new case. In a fever pitch of emotion trying to make his point, Cruise tells Moore, “I only believe what I can prove.” Moore had just told Cruise she believed in the innocence of the accused but had no proof. Classic. (My weekly video in the right sidebar on the home page offers another important clip that forms seed for this post.)
How do we proceed? Many people we encounter outside the Church, and make no mistake inside the Church, look for some kind of verification – either affirmation or a falsification. We in the Church have become very adept at shouting our affirmations. But, we seem to be singing in a barrel on many occasions. My last, admittedly snarky, post raised the question in a different way. At its heart I rejected the idea that any kind of transformation comes in a system where figure heads speak for the majority from a distance, detached and disconnected.
Our theological impulses must derive from a well thought out understanding of our own humanity, presence, embodiment. In short, we must do more than refer to the Incarnation in our Creeds and Confessions. We don’t quite know what to do with it. Skeptics just dismiss it as part of our mythos. And why not when it seems to have little real footing in the day to day, Monday to Monday living out of our faith. Incidents reported like the CNN piece that provoked my snark do little more than give a public forum to disseminate the idea that we do not think nearly as deeply as we pretend. See Ben Witherington III’s response here.
Back to Reiner’s work. The verdict is in. The worst possible scenario – dishonorable discharge. Pfc. Dawson had already noted he would rather sit in jail than face the prospect of “dis-honor.” In this final scene young Pfc. Downey attempts to figure out what the ruling means. He contends he was doing what soldiers do – follow orders. He insisted he had done nothing wrong. He followed the code. Pfc. Dawson turns to let him know the wrong was in following a code that superseded their commitment to fight for those who could not fight for themselves, the code. We have but one. Live in the Way of Jesus.
I could not help to see this latest news out of techno-church a colossal adventure in missing the Incarnation. You see it is not about presentation but presence – yours and mine with others who get bypassed on the way to spending others hard earned dollars for a way to extend an unreal presence. And, in our world it is the how of our presence and the what of our action that communicates the presence of Jesus.
Father Richard Rohr offers a way to think about the depths of living an embodied life in the Way of Jesus. Rather than look for the least possible cost and the path of least resistance in the codes we opt for rather than choosing “the” code. He suggests what he sees as the most radical of Jesus’ teachings (“the” code”).
Question of the Day:
Do we really want our leaders
to love our enemies?
The greatest and the summit of Jesus’ commandments and the most radical of all of his teachings is, “You must love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). How many of us love other people who kick us around or those who make it hard for us? Do we even know how to do this? Is it something we desire to do? Let’s admit that our culture sees this as weak, capitulating, soft, dangerous, and “effeminate” for men—and is even seen this way by many women. Christian countries have never been known for obeying this commandment, to my knowledge. In fact, you would never be elected or admired if you even talked this way. We have a problem here.
We do not really like or understand love as Jesus teaches it. As Fr. Zossima says in Dostoevsky’s, The Brothers Karamazov: “Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams. It may very well kill you.”
Now, if we want to take embodiment, presence, our humanity seriously then we must conclude with Dawson, we have been fighting for the wrong people. Rather than fight for ourselves and putting ourselves out there for ourselves, we would more closely follow the Way of Jesus by putting ourselves out there fighting for others – those who cannot fight for themselves. This is a job sans holograms.