Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Condemning Faces

The Meyer Minutes from the other day reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite books, Special Deliverance (p.68-70):

Mary, Lansing, and Jurgens have made camp for the night:

"Lansing woke suddenly from a sound sleep. He fought his way to a sitting position, pressing against a force that tried to hold him down.

In the flicker of the firelight, he saw Jurgens standing over him. The robot's hand was gripping his shoulder and he was making shushing sounds.

'What's the matter?'

'It's Miss Mary, sir. There is something wrong with her. Like a fit.'

Lansing turned his head to look. Mary sat upright in her sleeping bag. Her head was tilted back so that she looked toward the sky.

He... stumbled to his feet.

'I spoke to her,' said Jurgens, 'and she didn't hear me. I spoke several times, asking what's the matter, what could I do for her.'

Lansing strode over to her. She seemed carved in stone--stiff and straight, held in an invisible vise.

He stooped over her, cupping her face in his hands, pressing gently.

'Mary,' he said. 'Mary, what is wrong?'

She paid him no attention.

He slapped her with one hand, then slapped her with the other. The muscles of her face relaxed and shivered. She collapsed, reaching out for him--not for him, he knew, but for anyone.

He seized her and cradled her close against him. She was shaking uncontrollably and began to sob, soft, subdued sobbing...

'Where am I?' she whispered...

'I woke up and they were bending over me, looking down at me...'

For a time she said no more... a softening of tension... had gripped her...

'That was frightening... I've never been so scared...'

'What was it... a bad dream?'

'More than a dream. They were really there, hanging in the sky, bending from the sky... I woke up,' she said. 'A nice, easy waking up. Not jerked out of sleep. I was lying on my back so that when I woke, I was looking straight up at the sky... They were three... the three of them--or I think there were three of them. There could have been four. Three faces. No other parts of their body. Just faces. Big faces. Bigger than human faces, although I am sure they were human. They looked human. Three big faces in the sky, filling half the sky, looking down at me. And I thought how silly to think that I am seeing faces. I blinked my eyes, thinking it was my imagination and they would go away. But they didn't go away. After I had blinked I could see them even better...'

'Dammit... You're thinking hallucination aren't you?'


'There was nothing wrong with the faces. Nothing outrageous. Quite ordinary, now that I think of it. One of them had a beard. He was the young one, the other two were old. Nothing wrong with them, I said--not to start with. Then it began to seep into me. They were looking intently at me. Interested. The way one of us would be interested if we came across an odious insect, an abominable creature of some sort, a new sort of life. As if I weren't a creature; as if I were a thing. There was, to start, what I thought might be a look odd compassion for me, then I saw it wasn't--it was, rather, a mingled contempt and pity and it was the pity that hurt the most. I could almost read their thoughts. My God, they were thinking, will you look at that! And then--and then...'

'And then they turned their heads away. They didn't go away. They only turned their heads away, dismissing me. As if I were beneath their notice, beneath contempt, unworthy of their pity. As if I were nothing--and, by extension, the human race was nothing. Condemning all of us to nothingness, although condemn may be too strong a word. We were not even worth their condemnation. We were a lowly form of which they would think no further."

Intense, right?

And, sadly most people have probably given in to this idea with God. Even if they were to believe that a god existed, they would fall into the trap of Aristotle and insist that god would be too great to care about us.

There's something inside each of us that knows that we aren't even worthy of God's notice, contempt, or pity. We don't even deserve His consideration let alone His attention. Like a higher-than-life role model, we cannot understand why He would willingly heed us at all.

With this consideration, it would be easy to give up on God. We would give in to the secular philosophies that the world is meaningless, worthless, and hopeless. Nihilism is the only other option.

But, to say we are unworthy of God is to say that He is unworthy of us.

The moment we give in to the secular philosophy, we turn the tables around. We would begin (and have begun) "looking intently. Interested. The way one of us would  be interested if we came across an odious insect, an abominable creature of some sort, a new sort of life."

As if God weren't a living-being creature, we then degrade him to "a thing."

And, then we do exactly what God has never done to us. Like an "adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband," we turn our face away from God for our own solicitations.

We don't leave His presence. He remains present. We are the ones who stay and turn our heads away, dismissing Him. As if He were beneath our notice, beneath contempt, unworthy of pity.

As if He is nothing. As if He doesn't exist at all.

Many people condemn the very idea of God. But, even more-so, they act as if He isn't even worth their condemning. As if He is the lowlier form and we are somehow greater. And, to tell the truth, we are greater. But, only in arrogance.

God is unchanging. His look that we saw, the glimpse of odd compassion, it remains. It doesn't turn to contempt or to pity, although we wish it did. We know we are worthy of something much worse than condemnation. Our ever-doubting, ever-questioning, and ever-whoring with false ideas deserves something worse than an eternal fire.

But, God's compassion is a very odd compassion indeed. It is the sort of compassion that we can only begin to see in an artist's compassion for their creation; a father's compassion for his child; and a husband's compassion for his bride.

Although we wander astray, to false idols of philosophical doctrine, God remains. "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." Jeremiah 31:3.

This compassion, this loving faithfulness and faithful love, has been made complete in the person of Jesus Christ. "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness [to complete all that is good in the eyes of God]." Christ's first recorded words in the Bible, Matthew 3:15.

The bridegroom remains faithful to His bride.

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