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Friday, January 8, 2010

The Quality of Mercy


Dr. L.C Simon-Hazlewood

As someone who responded in writing to Shelton Daniel's article on homosexuality in his Man Matters series, last year, I feel compelled to respond to his recent article in which he wrote about the backlash he has received.

Mr. Daniel now seems to understand that some people (speaking for myself) responded to his epistle not because they are homosexual or homosexual sympathizers. He hit the nail on the head when he noted that his article might have conveyed a holier-than-thou, talk-down-to-you condemnation. Additionally, some people (speaking for myself again) just love to take on an argument. We studied theorems in school.

But we must understand the basis of this condemnation to which he so apologetically and manly referred. I wish to posit that the fundamental problem is acceptance of a false premise: that of being a Christian. There is no such thing as being a Christian, until just before our last breath. It is not like the practice of “Walking for Confirmation”, that we, Anglican children, endured, and then, voila, we became confirmed. I am registering an obvious fact. Mr. Daniel and all others who profess to be Christians, are in fact in, or should be in, a constant, daily act, indeed an hourly, raging battle, at times, of becoming a Christian. The word Christian should be changed from a noun or adjective, to a verb in its present continuous tense, or a gerund. We are “Christianing”. “Christianing” all the time.

Simply put, my dear Shelton, at the real core of Christianity is a constant battle of becoming Christ-like, with the eternal paradox that we are forever and ever becoming and improving our chances of actually being a Christian. If this act of constantly becoming a Christian were to replace the claims of being a Christian, and become the mantra of Christianity, the world would be a better place, starting inside the very church itself.

The recent article might also raise (higher) the ire that the initial article generated. Daniel claimed that, “No Christian should ever look down on others for their sins or faults – be it homosexuality or anything else”. And then he dropped the axe by saying that the reason for this is because, “…we ourselves also were once foolish, disobedient,…serving various lusts and pleasures..…” (Titus 3:3).

The foolishness, disobedience, etc. are dynamic definers of becoming a Christian, of “Christianing”. You are only less foolish and less disobedient than before. Mr. Daniel should probably have quoted more of Titus chapter 3 because it goes on to explain how the change from being once foolish and disobedient, etc. was realized: “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us…” (Titus 3:4-5).

The fundamental problem I had with the original article had very little to do with homosexuality. It had to do with the response given by some of us when we confront a difficult topic. Throwing the book (the Bible or the law books) at wrongdoers is the easy part, and we can always find the scripture and laws to do so.

I am sure Mr. Daniel is familiar with the Christian principle that Shakespeare inscribed in our hearts. “The quality of mercy is not strain'd. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven” (The Merchant of Venice). This, unstrained mercy has nothing to do with being sympathizers or empathisers of homosexuality or of whichever act is being brought to whichever book. This unforced mercy that drops as the gentle rain from heaven is the first radically conscious, Christian, ethical step, in beginning to grapple with a very difficult problem. This is where the original article failed miserably. Daniel’s subsequent attempt to try to understand the backlash he is enduring is highly commendable. Elementary, my dear Shelton.