09 February 2017

Have You a Spare Garret?


Today's readings:

  • Genesis 2:18-25
  • Mark 7:24-30

"This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken."
Genesis 2:23

One of the Greek Myths that so parallels our creation story is, I think, from Plato: the gods made all humans conjoined, but as punishment they split us apart. We thus spend our lives looking for our other half. The creation myths of Scientism haven't really have a reason for sexual bifurcation - it's one of their weaknesses. Moses, in telling the same story, makes the division to be done before any fall: not as a punishment but as a healing. In Genesis 1 God makes humanity as "male and female". There is no "man and woman" in the earlier story. Here, that Male-Female creature is split in half and becomes Ish (Man) and Isha (Woman). This is done because God sees that it is not good that Ha-Adam - The Male/Female Earthling - should be alone - and so, Ha-Adam becomes Ish and Isha. And as in Plato, it is for us still: a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.

Today we need to learn the lessons though that The Earthling learns in this passage: God knows it's not good for us to be alone. We make jokes about crazy cat ladies and batchelor farmers. (I think there is such a joke in this text: because what does God do first in seeking for a partner? He brings the animals one by one to be tried out and none of them are a suitable partner.) We know that rarely do the men and women we find homeless on the street come from solid families and they often just move singly through the world. Addictions and diseases are found in higher numbers among the single.

What should the Church be doing about this? When people marry later, if at all; when the elderly live longer and so, should one die, the other is alone longer, what should the Church be doing? In traditional societies the answer was "What do you mean, the Church?" for families took care of their family members. There may have been old maids in the garrets or bachelors out on the farm, but they all came to dinner. They all had a place. They all knew that they were to be taken care of. It was not the Church that did this, it was not the state: it was the family, the culture. It was the culture that gave rise to the state - which supported the culture. It was the Church that blessed and guided the family and the state in the nurture of persons in God's image.

What should the Church be doing about this? Families are rarely all in one place any more, when multiple generations of the family are nearly never in one state, let alone one city, and certainly never in the same parish (if, even, in the same religion). I think the Church of Christendom is going to be lost in this world. It's the Church of Pre-Christendom, the Post-Apostolic Church that needs to come back to fix this: the Church that gave us communal living and monasticism, the Church that sustained us through martyrdom and that startup phase. That's what we need now, again.

Here's a story I heard told by an Orthodox Monk: when he joined the EOC, his new priest said, "Are you the marrying kind?" And the monk said, "No." So the priest sent him to a monastery. It's an easy way to get rid of people who might cause trouble in your congregation, I think: ship them away. Of course, in America, that "away" is not the same as it is in "the Old Country" - wherever that is. Here Monasteries are not sitting on endowments, they don't have massive networks of financial and communal support. One monastery was thrown into financial implosion when a wealthy brother left. All the monks personally known to me are on welfare - food stamps and/or medical assistance. This, dear friends, is not caring for our single folks.

It's not good for any Earthling to be alone: and life even with a mass-a-day habit can still be lonely. What can the Church do about this? In our culture today we can speak of "urban tribes", of "families of choice", or of "logical families" as opposed to "biological families" - to borrow from Armisted Maupin. These constructs don't work very well in rural communities, but I know of at least one "urban tribe" that rescues lost sheep in rural Western North Carolina, and I am aware of one in the sandy lands near where Mt Olive pickles are made. Humans don't function well alone - and we will make up things to support us. Shouldn't the Church be stepping in, as part of Evangelism or else as part of faith support systems, to create tribes that are moral goods to plug into?

Jesus reached out in healing to people he - a good Jew - shouldn't even have been talking to. But Jesus wasn't a good Jew, he was God: the very God who made Adam and Eve out of the Earthling because the Earthling should not be alone. How can the Church, the Body of God on Earth, reach out beyond the comfort zone of her people - just as God did - to bring in those who are alone?