Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Changeling

The Changeling, the recent Clint Eastwood movie about social justice, has a line that Angelina Jolie (the Mum) tells her young son Walter: "Don't start a fight, but make sure you finish your fights." The real-life mum of the movie, Christine Collins, showed us the importance of not only feeling deeply, speaking up but and most importantly, taking action. She publicly criticized the LA Police Department about their policies. With good reason. Walter was missing; and for whom her search never stopped. Christine, herself, had been physically and psychologically abused by the system. If you disagreed with the police force, you stood a good chance of going missing or being locked up in a mental institution, or dead. She pursued her feelings and her criticism with action.

Part of my faith journey has included studying the history of the church, especially the Lutheran branch. I wanted to understand what it meant to be Lutheran. That's when I discovered the shadows of the Lutheran Church. Two large dark ones.

Martin Luther was an anti-semite. There is no question about this, one need simply read his words. He preached anti-semitism. Some historians trace Germany's anti-semitic roots to Luther.

The Lutheran Church, the official church of the Germany, yielded to Nazism. There is no question about this one either, one need only to read the biographies of Dietrich Boenhoffer.

Criticism in Germany was dangerous in the Thirties and Forties. It could cost you your life. The church took the easy road on this one. Certainly there was compassion for the plight of those who were persecuted by the political regimes. But compassion without action is pointless.

As we are learning from our indigenous people, apologies are the first step to healing centuries-old hurt. In my mind, Luther and his followers (and that includes me!) owe the Jewish population a long overdue apology. These shadows of the church (and not just the Lutheran branch) continue. Today’s discriminated social sector are those with non-conforming sexual identities. Today, we are oozing with compassion for the portion of the Anglican Worldwide Communion whose religious convictions preclude them from unconditional acceptance of the LGBT sector. Hence the continuing moratoria on making a decision about how we will include the ‘sexual niggers’ of our society.

In this time and place of our lives, we have the great ability to exercise our freedom of speech and voice our concerns. We have the freedom to question authority without risk. With this freedom comes responsibility. Criticism is a form of freedom of speech. With it comes a heightened responsibility. It requires self-questioning, removal of reactivity and compassion. If criticism does not walk hand-in-hand with this trio, we have meaningless, hurtful diatribe. However, without out action, thinking and feeling are the incense of Christian life; only a reminder of what we are called to do: love radically.

Think (critically), Feel (compassionately) and Act (love radically). Think of these as alchemical elements which need to be balanced to equal Life.

Criticism is not just bad. Compassion is not just good. Criticism without responsibility or purpose is as destructive as compassion without action. Christine Collins provides us with a simple piece of wisdom: “Don’t start a fight but make sure you finish your fights.” I might add: thoughtfully and compassionately.
Nicola Adair


mackie100 said...

I will see your ‘Changeling’ and raise you a ‘Milk’. I watched the latter movie this weekend and amongst other things was struck by the movie’s portrayal of the protagonist. Despite being a movie about his important role in promoting gay rights, not all of Harvey’s warts were hidden. For a place famous for too many ‘white hat (good), black hat (bad)’ metaphors this Hollywood movie is a welcome relief. However it is not my intent to become a movie reviewer. My reflections are based on your Hinc Videndum blog posting and some thoughts that I have been having recently. We seem to like to see our past with rose coloured glasses, 60’s comfort food, Motown’s wall of sound, muscle cars all are seen without the high cholesterol, racial inequality and pollution that went with them. I must say that the tint on my Lutheran glasses has recently faded as well.

However, I worry than when we realize that we have been coasting on a rather glossy picture of our heritage we can quickly become mired down dragging the chains of our own sins and those of our ancestors. Perhaps it is time to realize that we are all in a desperate, life threatening, individual fight, not totally of our own making and definitely not something we can finish or win without the power of God working within us doing what we cannot imagine.

By the way, a criticism, the last two paragraphs of your blog should be framed. They are some of your best words.

Web Scribe said...

We just viewed Milk this weekend as well. Another excellent interpretation, from Hollywood, of a powerful social justice activist.

In my Lenten study of prophetic spirituality, Harvey Milk is my hands-down modern Hosea.

It is hard to believe how relatively recent is the Harvey Milk era. I know that the walls of injustice will continue to crumble and I hope to see in my lifetime, the church's complete and unconditional acceptance of all people without any bias or discrimination; notwithstanding
Saturday's Beacon Herald article about a mega-church in America's Bible Belt and its Anita Bryant views about human sexuality.

I would like to place your second last paragraph on a billboard across the street from that church!

Web Scribe said...

One more thing!

We invite movie 'criticism' to be posted here at Hinc Videndum.

There is much to be found in a good movie, thoughtfully created. I wonder if Shakespeare would have embraced the medium. I would like to think so. And thus, I look to movies as well as the stage, and of course, novels, for the Chaucers and Shakespeares of today, shedding light on the nature of humanity.