View from the Vicarage
I wonder if some of you remember that old Henry Fonda movie ‘Twelve Angry Men’ (it is easy to get on line!). There is a moment at the beginning when the jury room is filling up and Henry Fonda’s character is standing at the window with his back to the room. It is clear from the buzz of conversation that all the other 11 men are convinced that the boy is guilty of murder and Henry feels that he is not so sure. The whole play is an analysis of human nature when it comes to the influence of others, the need to identify with the pack, the way that we are led by others. At one point one of the characters jumps up and says, ‘don’t change your mind because others have… what to you think?’. Towards the end there is the great line, ‘Well…...You’re alone’: but I wont give away the plot be telling you who says that!
One of the teachings of Jesus that we have been wrestling with this month is this saying from the Beatitudes or Blessings…. ‘Blessed are you when people hate you, revile you and exclude you on account of the Son of Man’. (Luke 6:22)
As humans, evolved mammals, we have a very great need to be part of the pack. Being excluded, a lone wolf, is a very scary place to be. Ask our new puppy, she knows that outside the pack she is very likely to get eaten! This need has driven humans to great atrocities as people will do things in a mob or under Orders that they will never do as an individual. Martin Luther King knew this in the 1960’s America as the mob was lynching black people and he was adamant that his movement for civil disobedience would not become a mob. He preached that every man and woman must come to the rallies because of their own conscience.
This is the danger of reading Jesus too simply today, the earliest Christians came out of their normal lives and were welcomed into a new sect and the ‘world’ hated them for that. But, then they are loved in a new group, their identity had become one that is formed by being against others. When we looked at Jesus teaching we saw that he does not stop at calling people into a new safe group, especially one using his name. He is calling us all to a new evolution of humanity. One that is not afraid to be alone. One that stands up for their beliefs in all conscience, unmoved by the need to be loved by other people.
In this time when the search for identity on the internet is out of control Jesus makes great sense. By all means we must speak out for the truth we hold dear, gather with others in campaigning and creating, but we must beware of falling into cosy gangs that define enemies. We must each of us alone stand apart, as Henry Fonda’s character did and listen to our own conscience.
We have been led by our culture and our genetics to believe that we are anything but ‘Blessed’ when others hate, relive and exclude us but maybe we need to face ridicule if we are to live the lives that we are called to…. To follow the difficult paths of justice and peace that our understanding of God leads us into. But beware….. if you have found a cosy group of like minded people to walk that path with you, then maybe it is time to step out alone again, on the unexpected and uncharted journey of life that Jesus is describing.
God Bless Ali