After 20 years in ordained ministry, I have begun to put 2 and 2 together. I have been looking and listening and watching and even hearing. And what is becoming clear is the default of the church and the state to dominate. And in that way, church and state are not at all separate. Cells are cells if they are in monasteries or prisons.
Oh sure, the clergy, individually will do backflips to posture as meek and mild. But in the end, there are as many vicious clergy as there are politicians as there are prison guards – as there are any insecure people living life. They are everywhere.
I believe and have experienced many politicians to be very good, honest people. As Chaplain to the New Hampshire State Senate for five years, I met with them every Wednesday and many were kind, honest, hard-working people trying to make change. I loved them. They loved me too. We would gather at the farm, and I would make a huge batch of Nigella Lawson’s sausage and chicken bake with mustard, apples, lemons, and onions and we would laugh and talk and live. I did the same thing with the New Hampshire clergy as the Bishop’s Canon – many meals and pottery retreat days at Blackwater Bluff Farm. And like the Senate, many clergy were kind, good, hard-working people trying to make change. And even as a chaplain in the jail and to the Katrina Disaster Morgue I found good, kind, hard-working people trying to do good things.
But here is the hard thing. There are others.
Other clergy. Other politicians. Other police. Other prison guards whose insecurities and childhood wounds make them evil-on-legs. And how do we identify insecure, dominating people? We let them dominate.
That’s right. We let them dominate. We let them play out their insecurities and we watch them as they do it.
To watch history unfold is to watch evil empire and evil actors unfurl their terror onto others. And yes, innocent people will be hurt along the way. And yes, that agony is unfair. But life is not promised to be fair. It is only promised to be beautiful. And only that when seen as a whole.
From Glen who beat me up as a nine-year-old to others who lie about or beat me up today, I simply must let them. They can’t help it. They have no other emotional-sobriety skills. They cannot help doing what they are doing. And if they have ecclesial or political power, then they can do it with process and with paper-work; tools that say they can do it. Legally.
So what does one do about dominators? We let them dominate. But we tell our story.
We tell our story on Facebook. We tell our story with cell phone videos. We tell our story in poetry and in art. We tell our story in novels and in pottery and in cooking and over tea with friends. We tell our story. To anyone who will listen. We tell our story of abuse and of neglect and of domination. And our story will meet their procedures and good will win out. But not immediately. Only over time. Rome fell. Hitler fell. They fall. In time. Will the church fall? Do attendance and pledging math. Follow the curve. Math has no opinion. But when groups collapse, they turn in on themselves so brace yourself. There will be plenty of Title Four Charges and plenty of trials and plenty of lawyers with new cars.
The Ego-people will demand we not tell our story. The people in the villages around Auschwitz were told to be quiet or else. The people in government will be told to speak the party line or else. Prophets of the ages are told to be silent or else. The clergy and laity will be told that blaspheming church leadership is blaspheming God – a “sin” that is just another “or else.” And they will tie money to the silence -“ Keep quiet as you leave and we will give you a $30,000 bonus.” I was told leaving one Diocese recently. “Just sign here…and here.”
I wonder why every church institution I have even left in 20 years of ministry gave me a half-salary “purse” but also a set of papers to sign promising my silence. The Diocese of New Hampshire. The Diocese of Colorado. The monastery.
It is slow work to fight domination with words. It feels weak. It feels placid. It feels intellectual. It feels like it abandons people with knees on necks. It feels like we are letting the dominated die. And we are. It is the basis of Christian faith to let the dominated die – even to stand there watching them die – but then…THEN…to tell the story.
Tell your story. Don’t firebomb your politician’s home. Don’t firebomb your Bishop’s offices. Don’t shoot the bully. Talk about them. Write about them. Tell your story. Tell it to anyone who will listen. If it is true and if it is honest and kind and detailed it will improve on the silence and it will take flight and it will make change long after you are dead. But it will.
How do we fight domination? We tell our story. Our unexaggerated, un-embellished, un-romanticized cell-phone-video story. We tell it often. We tell it passionately. We tell it publicly.
Words are like water. They can move mountains when they flow, but are hard to catch. They can crack wood when they freeze. They can escape domination when they slip through the bars, thin and soft as a trickle.
There is not much left of the Nazi program today. Just a few angry white skinheads with tiny tools. But the words about the holocaust are many and remain. They were spoken. They eroded the evil; making stones into sand.
In time there will not be much left of the Church except the kind Christian people who gather around soup and bread to tell the story. We will be back to how The Way was originally designed.
Dominating regimes will fall. They fall not because people are good. They fall because the planet was created VERY good. It seems to be a living organism. Something is connecting the good of the planet between people and between all living things. Something like mycelium. And it seems oblivious to monstrance and zucchetto.
Discern your story. Tell it. And when people tell you not to, or pay you not to, then tell it louder. Tell it better. They will lie about you and they will seek to undermine your story by seeking to undermine your character but keep going. Truth takes time, lead where it may, and cost what it will.
Put down your torch. Take up your pen.
Charles LaFond is an Episcopal priest, author, speaker, potter, and fundraiser living on the cliffs of an island in the Salish Sea. He writes The Daily Sip (thedailysip.org); which is neither.