Sometimes you hear something that refuses to go away. Such is the case with the words of Fr. Richard Rohr. Some friends were sharing a meal several years ago in Alberquerque, NM. During the course of dinner Fr. Rohr said, “Without great suffering there cannot be great love.” I return to that statement often. Especially when I am made aware of the way others are suffering.
Pastors come by the sad news of suffering often. On occasion the events of suffering are highly visible. In other instances the suffering is very lonely and unknown. Then there is the range between these two poles of human experience.
There is little doubt Fr. Rohr had Jesus on the brain. Imagine arms outstretched. Without great suffering there cannot be great love. What keeps love from taking seed, then, is our unwillingness to enter into suffering – our own or with others. Maybe it is our cultural penchant for the narcissistic. Oddly some people seem to enjoy their own suffering. That surely does not resolve into great love.
I read with interest Scot McKnight’s piece, A Comment on No Comment. He begins,
It is the silence of the megachurches and pastors that bothers me. I have just finished writing a commentary on the most famous sermon in history, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, a sermon that calls followers of Jesus to a kind of life that issues into “good works,” and I must speak out.
I refer to the recent post by CNN’s John Blake on the CNN Belief Blog about the coverage gap in 25 states where, it is estimated by Kaiser, that some 5 million Americans will not qualify for insurance coverage. That is, part of the Affordable Care Act entails increase in coverage by Medicaid, while a SCOTUS decision gives states the option of implementing Medicaid expansion or not. The sad gap is that some will make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for ACA’s subsidies. 5 million Americans in approximately 25 states, most of them Southern.
So John Blake went on a mission to see what Southern megachurch pastors had to say about what will be a sad lack of coverage for poor Americans. Time after time he got no comment, and his article ends with a stunning “no comment” from one of America’s (northern) finest pastors, Tim Keller from NYC, whose state did expand Medicaid but whose leadership extends to evangelical Christians throughout the world, including those states that did not expand Medicaid coverage. That “no comment” troubled John Blake. (I wish Blake had asked more non-Southern pastors, like Rick Warren or Bill Hybels whose commitments to justice for the poor are unquestionable.)
Twice in the past seven days or so, Scot goes on record. First, he renewed his “commitment to women — beginning at the local church and moving out.” Now he must speak out. I am glad he did. Especially when he concludes,
There is no reason, ever, for any Christian leader to have “no comment” when it comes to saying something on behalf of the poor and needy in our country.
Suffering is to be avoided, or so it seems. I wonder if the “one another’s” in the Scriptures could be construed as an invitation to enter the experience of the other even when the risk is suffering. “Bear with one another.” Too often our focus in removing what we bear. Little wonder that we would not be interested in bearing anything from the other among us. We could not expend the energy to comment.
Maybe Oscar Romero could help us a bit.
Therapeutic religion, especially a therapeutic form of Christianity, does not allow us to express, much less experience, the inter-connectedness of humans’ experiences. Other- ing the poor and needy keeps them out of our experience, away from empathic impulses. And there is no love. There is the illusion of no suffering. If there is suffering then it is all the sufferers fault.
Local pastor friends, if the mega-churches will not comment, how about the rest of us?
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