Sunday, January 13, 2008

He did NOT just say that!

Today in church, Father Blanck started his homily by pulling out a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit. He read from a section of the story in which the Velveteen Rabbit asks the Skin Horse "what is real?" and the Skin Horse tells him that you only become real if someone loves you very much for a long time. The Skin Horse tells the Rabbit that becoming real can hurt, and that by the time you are real, your fur is mostly rubbed off and your joints are wonky, but that when you are loved those things don't matter. From there, Father talked about how we should look for Christ in every person, and how beautiful other people are when we see Christ in them. Then he threw this out: "Some theologians say that unwanted fetuses are not really human Because they are not loved... and you are not truly human unless another person loves you." I scraped my jaw off the floor and looked around to see if anyone else was visibly reeling in their pews. No one else looked shocked, but maybe they were daydreaming and weren't listening at all? Then I hoped that he was going to Go somewhere with his train of thought, something along the lines of how Everyone, no matter how apparently unloved or unlovable, is precious and loved and truly human in God's eyes. Nope. According to our priest, abandoned babies, children in orphanages, all the abandoned, lonely people in the world, are not truly human if they are not loved by other people. Paul, with his "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord," (Romans 8: 38-39) is put properly in his place when we realize that what is really valuable is the love of other people.

Just to be sure that I hadn't misheard, I asked Ed if Father had said what I thought he said. Ed said that indeed he had, and that he (Ed) had also been shocked and had been hoping that there was going to be an explanation of how those theologians were Wrong, but there never was. Then I asked the next people down the pew. They'd heard the same thing. We were among the last people leaving before coffee, so I asked Father Blanck as we were shaking hands if he had meant to say what he'd said. Yup. There was a brief pause, and I hoped that he would volunteer that of course he didn't agree with those theologians he'd mentioned. No luck. As a last ditch "just throw me a bone" question, I asked, "Well, that isn't the position of the Episcopal church, is it?" "The church doesn't have a position on that issue," he said. Now I realize that he was talking about the fact that the church doesn't have a position on abortion, but I just didn't have the strength to explain that what I was asking was whether the church agreed with him that our value as human beings depends on the affection of the people around us. I'm sure the Episcopal church doesn't hold that position. I hope.


CeCe said...

Oh my goodness, that is HORRIBLE! I cannot believe that!

How could someone say that? How could they believe that?!?! Crazy!

PariSarah said...

Yikes, Melora!

Well, I guess some theologians do indeed think that. Misguided interpretation of Aristotle, probably. Aristotle made the point that humans are necessarily social people--that a person can't be really a person all by himself. No man is an island and all that.

Theologians tend to like this, because it highlights how God's plan for humanity really is for humans to be in community with each other. You can't be a good person all by yourself--you need to show love to others, receive counsel from others, have others show mercy to you.

So, the way I would put it (and the way the *good* theologians tend to put it) is that you're not fully human unless you love someone else.

To reverse that (to justify killing someone who is not beloved, no less!) is to make a fundamental theological mistake.

Especially since each of us is beloved of God. There can't be anyone, then, in the category of "People whom no one loves."

But maybe that was his point? I hope?

Or maybe he was trying to say, Hey, there's lots of people in this world who don't have anybody to love them. Their lives are hardly human at all--we all need someone to love us! Let's get out there and love such people!

Any chance that's what he was saying?

Melora said...

Maybe you had to be there!

Thank you! I do hope that was what he meant to say, but then he forgot to actually say it.
I told Ed afterwards that I wouldn't have batted an eyelash if he had said that we are More human the more we are involved in loving relationships with other people. Becoming a mother, becoming part of a caring community, etc. are things that have made me feel more human. But, as you say, Reversing that to say that you are Not human if you are not loved, just sounds totally wrong. Logically, maybe it is right -- if you are more human the more you love and are loved, you will be less human the less you love and are loved -- but to take it to the extreme of saying that someone who is not loved is not human just feels wrong. I really appreciate your explanation!

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Wow. That reinforces my concern about sermons every week. We didn't used to have them in Judaism, but then the early reformers got a bee up their...well, anyway. Many times, clergy--which rabbis are NOT supposed to be, by the way--are so busy in the week that they write some real boners.

Melora said...

I didn't realize that Jewish services Didn't have sermons every week, but that is definitely an idea that has appeal!

Caitilin said...


Really??? That's scary. What "point" did you feel like he was trying to get across to the congregation? (This was the sermon for the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord??) I can't imagine how one could take faith in Christ seriously and simultaneously entertain such an idea. I think you ought, must, ask him in private what he, personally, thinks about this, and why he thought that it was an appropriate message to give to his parishoners (or ANYONE!). I sought the Episcopal church as a bastion of FAITHful thought--this is not reassuring!

Peace be with you, and God bless,

Melora said...

I think parisarah was right that what he Meant to get across was the importance of seeing Christ and serving Christ in others. He talked about visiting AIDs patients back in the 1980's, when AIDs transmission was poorly understood and patients might be isolated and "untouchable," and holding them in his arms, so I think that his point was that we should love people who are unloved. Maybe when he put in the part about unwanted babies not being human, he was thinking of going somewhere with it, and then just forgot? It certainly stuck out like a sore thumb for me, but it can be hard to proof-read your own writing! Even for the Episcopal church, our particular church (or at least the priest and a fair number of the congregation) is very liberal. I am pretty liberal in many areas myself, but would actually prefer a slightly more conservative church.