A few months ago, President Obama was heavily criticized when he gave a speech where he criticized some of the not-so-positive parts of Christian history. Here is the Washington Post’s article about it from last February. Personally, I didn’t find anything offensive about it – I found it to be an honest reflection of things that have been done in the name of Christ in history and we need to be honest about that fact even as we look at the ways that extremist fundamentalism today is distorting the teachings of many different faiths – Christianity and Islam especially.
I am deeply appreciative of the saying that notes that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. I came within a few credit hours of having a history minor in college and have always loved digging into history and I see the truth of that statement over and over again. I unfortunately see it played out in some of the very problems we are seeing in our world today. So to me, there’s no issue in acknowledging that Christianity, while having done amazing things in its history, has also been complicit in many atrocities with many dark chapters that we don’t want to revisit today. This doesn’t make me any less a Christian but instead one who is willing to acknowledge that we, as a faith, have scars.
This came to mind for me in two readings today. First as I read Genesis 19 this morning, I found myself seeing the scars of our faith once again. Genesis 19 is up there with other parts of scripture that are disturbing. The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah are disturbing enough without the added part telling Lot’s willingness to send his two daughters out to be raped in order to protect the divine visitors who came to his home. Not that he should have offered the visitors either! But I cannot read this passage without wondering about how to deal with this. There’s honestly no explaining away the story – finding some interpretative loophole to try to make it “feel” better. Its not there. Its just like the fact that I cannot understand how Christians used the Bible and theology to justify some of the actions that President Obama noted in his speech. I just can’t understand it. But I cannot deny it. It is a scar on our Body just like the scar here on my hand in the picture.
I got this scar on my thumb when I accidentally broke a window pane in my church office about a year ago. The window was stuck and I was trying to push it open and I was apparently pushing more on the glass than on the lead between the panes and crash and ouch. The thing about it is that it still doesn’t feel “right.” My thumb works fine, but when I push on the scar, I can still feel it just being “off.” And that’s not going to go away.
whether its scars from our own personal lives or the scars that we have on our physical bodies, we will all often be reminded of the brokenness of what has happened – either actions that we took, actions others took against us, or just our own “stuff.” The healthiest response to these scars is not to deny their existence but instead to integrate them into our daily lives. Find the ways that we can work with, use, live with our scars and our brokenness. Same with our faith. Same with this story of Lot. We cannot deny that this is a troubling story that does not have an easy way to explain it away.
I noted previously that there were two readings that spoke to me today. The other came from a book I am reading called The Jesus Creed. Scot McKnight, the author while sharing about understanding our identity in Christ, quotes Roberta Bondi from her book Memories of God
“…even Jesus was resurrected with his wounds.”
This was a new way for me to think about the wounds of the risen Christ. Yes I know they were there as we read in the Gospel stories, but there’s another level to it when we think of it in this way. The physical wounds that Jesus felt were there as he was resurrected and later ascended. But also all the other wounds were there – the wounds he experienced in his life on earth were there as well – including the betrayal and denials he experienced in the days just before his crucifixion.
So, yes…Jesus was resurrected with his wounds. His scars were there and stayed there. The scar on my hand isn’t going anywhere. The history of our faith (the good and the bad). Stories such as Lot and his daughters. They’re all there and will remain there. But one thing that I remember each time I look down and see that scar on my thumb…be careful when pushing a window open…Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.