When I was a child, I drew endless crayon drawings of cliffs cut by a river with a bridge across the divide. In Czechoslovakia, I bought an etching of the same dream scene by a Slovak artist.
Although you can’t see it, there is a great chasm between the column on the left, and the one on the right. If you build a bridge between those cliffs you have one kind of religion; if you do not, you have another.
|Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 22: 37-39||Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 2 Cor. 6:17
|Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4: 7-8||And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. Ephesians 5:11|
In the LCMS*, Paul trumps Jesus every time.
I thought long and hard about drugs, alcohol and sex. I didn’t want them for their own sake, but for the experience of them, the life outside of the LCMS. And it all came down to what I would tell my parents about them.
- If I didn’t do them only because my parents didn’t want me to, did I have any merit myself? I was simply acting out of fear of my parents.
- If I did these things and lied to my parents, I would be internally accepting that there was something wrong with them. I would be living something I didn’t really believe was morally right.
- If I told them, they would shun me, damn me, cut off contact with me. I would have to drop out of school and embark on the unknown alone. But I would be living an honest life based on my own values. (I had recently read Thoreau.)
In February 1984 they shunned me. My mother said, “You don’t get between me and my religion or you’ll lose every time.” After some time, we did talk again in a stilted, pleasant way. They still held their disapproval over me high, and I felt that if they just understood why I was making the choices I made, they would agree it was the most upright way to live.
The next time they shunned me was when I came out to them a decade later. My mother said, “You don’t get between me and my religion, or you’ll lose every time.” She said, “I don’t know how we can possibly be happy in heaven, knowing you’re in hell.” I still felt that if they only understood why I made the decisions I made, they would see things my way.
Before she died, my mom said, “Why is our approval so important to you? You know you can never have it.”
They had mini-shunned me all my life when they disapproved of me. My husband pointed out that when I get mad, I cut people off: Shun them. Shut down. Not a bridge between cliffs, but a gulf.
The bridge in my dream is rope, with ropes sides to hold on to as the bridge sways. There are missing boards under your feet, and cows on the ground far below. I’m wearing a red triangle dress, like on the bathroom signs, as I cross.
*Lutheran Church Missouri Synod