Friday, April 18, 2014

"There Is No Such Thing As Foreign Suffering": Good Friday Meditation Points

Meditation points for Good Friday, all drawn from things I've read over the years, notes jotted down in my journals:

W.H. Auden, "Musée des Beaux Arts" (1940):

About suffering they were never wrong. 
The Old Masters: how well they understood 
Its human position; how it takes place 
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along . . . .

Jeffrey Moussaieff Mason and Susan McCarthy, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals (NY: Delta, 1995):

It has always been comforting to the dominant group to assume that those in subservient positions do not suffer or feel pain as keenly, or at all, so that they can be abused or exploited without guilt and with impunity. The history of prejudice is notable for assertions that lower classes and other races are relatively insensitive (p. 29).

Konstantin Simonov, as cited in Dorothee Sölle, Of War and Love, trans. Rita and Robert Kimber (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1983):

There is no such thing as foreign suffering (p. 125).

Ivone GebaraOut of the Depths: Women’s Experience of Evil and Salvation, trans. and intro. Ann Patrick Ware (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002)

Theology has never considered discrimination because of skin color to be suffering. European theologians have never undergone this suffering as their own or as a part of Christian ethics or as a fundamental element in the quest for justice. The existence of dark-skinned slaves, men and women alike was historically of no great concern to Christian ethics (p. 39).

May Sarton, At Seventy (NY: W.W. Norton, 1984):

The hardest thing we are asked to do in this world is to remain aware of suffering, suffering about which we can do nothing. Every human instinct is to turn away. Not see (p. 232). 

Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989):

Solidarity is not discovered by reflection but created. It is created by increasing our sensitivity to the particular details of the pain and humiliation of other, unfamiliar sorts of people. Such increased sensitivity makes it more difficult to marginalize people different from ourselves by thinking, "They do not feel it as we would," or "There must always be suffering, so why not let them suffer?" (p. xvi).

Philip Greven, Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse (NY: Random House/Vintage, 1990):

Religious rationales for physical punishments have been, and remain, among the most powerful and influential theoretical justifications for violence known in the Western world. For generations, they have woven the threads of pain and suffering into the complex fabric of our characters and our cultures (p. 94).

John J. McNeill, Taking a Chance on God (Boston: Beacon, 1988):

Despite their personal suffering, the loving presence of lesbian women and gay men is the oil that keeps the whole human machine running. If, somehow, gay people were to disappear from the scene, the whole community would be in danger of being seriously dehumanized (p. 99).

Ivone GebaraOut of the Depths: Women’s Experience of Evil and Salvation, trans. and intro. Ann Patrick Ware (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002)

One cross cannot contain all sufferings or all crosses. It would risk founding an empire of suffering, even if the end were to found the empire of love. Absolutizing the cross of Jesus is completely understandable in the context of the political theocentrism of the Middle Ages, but it has become problematic in our actual history (p. 120).

Sending good wishes to readers of this blog who keep Christian liturgical days, as well as to readers who are not so inclined — I think perhaps Steve and I will do our praying with our feet today, by participating in a "pilgrimage for peace" walk of peace and justice folks in our area.

The graphic: a medieval ivory carving of Joseph of Arimathea carrying Jesus from the cross, in the Victoria and Albert Museum; photo is by Lawrence OP, and available for sharing through Creative Commons at his Flickr site.

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