by Charles LaFond
The image from our Te Deum window over the West Doors of the cathedral and around which the new Antiphonal Organ is being raised, is one I find striking. It is of St. Michael the Archangel. It reminds me of a church and a church history with which I am uncomfortable. Might. Power. Authority (in the midst of deep mystery! Too many theologians are too sure of too much!) Armor. Shields. Helmets. The Holy Spirit uses wind and whispers!
I am an avowed pacifist. I know that many I love disagree with my stance, but I am simply unwilling to agree to killing a living being outside of the need for protein. I carry beetles outside on a little plate. I move moths and bees with classes and cardboard to the streets from my living room. I am sorry. I am not unaware that what I eat was killed. There is hypocrisy. But I will not kill.
Life feels quite precious to me after having been told I would die three hours from a train accident, and then, suddenly awakened five days later. And though I know some must kill in order to protect family or their own life, and I allow for that, I wonder where it begins and where it stops. Violence and warfare confuse me.
Pia Melody, who writes on co-dependence and many other things, says that we humans need a scapegoat. We search for one, and we find one, and we destroy that one with the use of power. I see it in families. I see it on staffs of businesses, dioceses and churches. I see it in government and in society. Pia says, and I agree, that if there were no more scapegoating, there would be no more murder, no more fighting and no more war. Without scapegoating we would have no warfare, no battle. I suppose there would have been no crucifixion.
Today I wonder what that kind of world would look like – a world without anyone in armor – and how we might make choices today towards that peace.
I want to look at my life. Where do I scapegoat others? Where do I punch or manipulate or push or insinuate or rumor-monger in order to feel the juices flow in my blood which tell me I am powerful? What scapegoating do I do? And what would my life (our lives) look like, if we were simply able to be gentle and kind? What would the church look like if people were more gentle and kind and less successful and powerful? What would the church look like if power was in silence and not in word? What would the church look like if it was run by the poor instead of by the rich? What would vestries and Bishop’s Committees look like, act like, decide like if they were populated by the weakest and poorest people of a parish and not the richest and most powerful? What if the vestry sat in circle and not around a table as we do in The Art of Hosting Meaningful Conversation which we use at the cathedral when possible (see http://www.artofhosting.org/)? What if vestries were playful instead of agenda-driven? What if vestries sat for 45 minutes in silence and then held a meeting in the remaining 15 minutes? What would it look like for minutes of meetings to be replaced by a series of drawings depicting ideas? What if there was no head of the table, no “chair” but everyone sat on pillows in an equal circle? What if everyone got to speak before anyone said a second thing? What if minutes were a page long? And the prayers and longings of intercession were ten pages long?
What if Saint Michael the Archangel is not in armor after all? What if Saint Michael is in chiffon or silk, or spandex, or well, nothing? His wings and love big enough not to have to fight?