Monday, May 30, 2005

If I have done wrong...

Psalm 7
Journal entry dated February 26, 2005

"If I have done wrong, if my hands are covered with guilt..."

This psalm is full of an ebullient confidence, bordering on arrogance, that the psalmist is blameless, and that God will therefore vindicate him "according to the justice and innocence that are mine." "If" here is clearly a kind of contrary to fact supposition--"If I have done wrong (but of course I have not)." "If" is simply a show of confidence, like the statement attributed to Madeline Murray O'Hare: "If there is a God, let Him strike me with lightning right now." "If," in other words, means "not."

But in a modern setting, perhaps as a result of global communication, this confident "if" loses its certainty and becomes haunting. "If my hands are covered with guilt, if I have returned evil for good..." Can I really say with any absolute certainty that there is not blood on my hands? I did not pull the trigger, perhaps, but I paid others to do it for me.

"Oh," I say, "but I am a peacemaker, a pacifist." Did I go out into the streets screaming, tear my clothes, weeping and wailing? No. I shook my head and clucked my tongue at the headlines, and turned to the comics. And this silence became my consent. For when it comes right down to it, I am a beneficiary of those who are paid to pull triggers in my name.

"If I have done wrong... then let the enemy pursue me and overtake me." This is the "then" that corresponds to the "if." The enemy, the one who was formerly in my crosshairs, will put me in his crosshairs, will do to me what I have done to him.

Is there not some other way, some other option than this arrogant "if" and this terrible "then"?


Eudoxia said...

I'm so thrilled to have found your blogsite! This post reminds me of a situation in my life. My parents had their own small manufacturing business making refrigeration equipment for the Dept. of the Navy. Our family thrived during the Vietnam War because of the war. I can remember as a youngster (10 yrs. old)wondering about my responsibility in the quagmire of my situation -- I thrived because children, women, old and young men were killed on the other side of the planet. My ultimate response -- I am responsible "to" that reality, not for it. I must live my life fully cognizant of the fact that I am alive because of a war that killed others. We all have done wrong, all of our hands are covered with guilt. We must take up the cross of responsibility to that wrong, whether we pulled the trigger or not. Consequently, my life has become a life given to serve others. I hold the responsibility to make my life one filled with grace and love, to not harm others, and to take nothing for myself. But isn't that truly the responsibility of all of us?

Minor Clergy said...

I am very glad that you are addressing the very difficult issues, the ones that make the way of salvation narrow. I certainly see myself in the situation you pose.

Sampson said...

Dear Eudoxia,

Welcome! Thanks so much for your thoughts on this subject. My father was also in the military, and made a very good living for our family. But it came with a cost that we are just beginning to come to grips with. I wrote in an earlier post that my Dad was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, at a pretty young age. We are now facing the possibility that his cancer may be related in part to exposure to hazardous chemicals in the military, possibly Agent Orange, but more likely TCE, a solvent that was used in large quantities by mechanics and electricians without proper warnimg of its carcinogenic properties. My Dad used to work all day up to his elbows in the stuff, and came home with his hands tingling for hours. TCE was dumped by the military in large quantities into wells on the base near my hometown, which severely contaminated the groundwater, leading to a rash of birth defects in our town. My brother was born without a left eye.

War kills us in so many ways, takes so much from us. When the bombs stop falling like rain and the bullets like hail, the casualties have only just begun.

Minor Clergy, thanks for your recent recommendation on your blog. I do writing on my blog kind of like I do haircuts--wait far too long and then cut off way too much--but thanks for your kind words.


weorwe said...

Nice to see you again, Sampson.

I've often wondered at such claims in the psalms and in Job... if the NT is right, and "there is none righteous, no, not one," then how did life actually work in the OT? How come everyone wasn't stoned and "purged from among you" -- who gets called righteous and why? Hebrews suggests it's faith -- and certainly Abraham, David, and Job had faith -- they held tightly to God, even when wrestling with him. Interesting stuff.