Thoughts from Fr. Marshall - All Saints Episcopal Church
The Last Judgment
The idea that sin or pathology, if you will, is completely a matter of individual choice and responsibility seems to me to be very shallow and in fact ignorant.

We are corporate creatures. We are born into a history and a society and a culture. We inherit constructs that can at their best communicate the wisdom of many generations of lived experience and sometimes deep insight and at worst can truncate our human potential and enslave us to false and confused understandings and assumptions.

While I believe in individual responsibility it seems foolish beyond all credibility for people to claim not to see and not to admit that both through our actions and our failures to act, through our choices and the things we put into the ideosphere, we share in a collective shaping and forming of our reality and our global environment on every level from material through the ideological and even the spiritual.

We are our sister's and brother's keepers.

On 9-11 the few brave souls who suggested that we look deeply at what had happened in order to find out not only what had prompted the attacks by a radicalized minority within Islam but also what larger social factors including the role we as a people through our government and its policies and we as a people acting in a global economy may have played in encouraging and enabling the attacks, were vilified.

These voices were not suggesting that the attacks could ever be justified but were attempting to communicate the profound necessity for taking a brave and completely honest look at the situation in order to find a clear understanding of what was happening so that we could stop it and prevent further attacks, further dysfunction. They knew that what was required was a deep examination of the situation from every perspective. Nothing on this planet happens in a pure vacuum. We are complex creatures and we have developed complex realities that are increasingly global.

In theological terms, recognizing the corporate heritage of sin and confusion is what I think we mean by original sin.

Wisdom, in my opinion, has nothing to do with blame or punishment or judgment, all of those are for God, it has to do with solving problems beginning with understanding the source and nature of the problems and then formulating responses that are able to address them in effective and successful ways. It has to do with understanding and then acting in order to avoid, as much as possible, the destructive and pathological eruptions that break through into our corporate life from the lives of those most diseased and damaged and usually isolated in our collective exercise of living.

Yes, it is enlightened self interest among other things.

The uncontrolled growth of our punishment industry, which is crushing us economically in many places, is forcing us to look at issues of crime and punishment more deeply. The military, on the front lines, has been teaching us about approaches to problems in these most often chaotic places that can effectively address the sources of the pathologies that grow where there is great anger and little hope or opportunity for healthy living. These successful military strategies use force to protect and not to punish, to clear space for the building of hope and possibility in places where the lack thereof promoted the anger and destruction that  often arises in response to despair.

Of course, some individuals will always make selfish and destructive choices. We must protect ourselves and our children and society at large, but we can best do this if we look into these matters deeply and find what can be changed that can ultimately change our corporate life for the better. This almost always includes being willing to change ourselves and our attitudes and understandings.

An honest and a wise person is one who also examines one's own life, attitudes and heart in order to be aware of ways in which we may be, even unconsciously, contributing to the growth of pathology.

Wisdom teaches us to seek to prevent and to heal and if necessary to protect and shows us the shallowness of seeking to blame and to punish and to label as evil instead of doing the hard work of understanding and engaging.

There are times, no doubt, when employing force, even deadly force, is necessary but wisdom teaches us that we can minimize these times, which tend to perpetuate violence and prove to be very expensive in every way, by looking deeply and responding lovingly to the disease that we find in our midst and in which we all share. "For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God." Romans 3:23.

Love and light,
Lewis Marshall

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