Saturday, January 10, 2009

Reflections: Have a Rice Day

To close this previous, semi-snarky post, I wrote: “…I am hoping that the final quarter of Anne Rice’s latest book will be inspirational.”

Having now finished that book without major reassessment of my previously expressed opinion of it, I can report nonetheless that, if the final quarter of the book lacked inspirational impact, it was not for any failure on the part of Rice to try to make it hard-hitting.

She reports that as she groped her way back towards an ever more urgent commitment to Christ

…I found myself reading the Gospel of Matthew more than the other Gospels. I found myself entranced with the Sermon on the Mount.
And something came clear to me that had never been clear before. Loving our neighbors and our enemies is perhaps the very hardest thing that Christ demands. It’s almost impossible to love one’s neighbors and enemies. It’s almost impossible to feel that degree of total giving to other human beings. …One has to love the rude salesclerk, and the foreign enemy of one’s country; one has to love those who are “patently wrong” in their judgments of us. One has to love those who despise us openly and write and tell us so by email. One has to love the employee who steals from you, and the murderer excoriated on national television.

One would think that the above goes without saying for any Christian. But more often, I think, these words are talked-but-not-walked. This is perhaps the perfect example of a Great Truth that we’ve heard so often, and accepted so entirely without reflection, so entirely without contemplation of its meaning for our daily lives, that it has become just background static—mere wallpaper in a room that we rarely enter.

Rice later says:

The more…I listen to people around me talk about their experience with Jesus Christ and with religion, the more I realize…that what drives people away from Christ is the Christian who does not know how to love. A string of cruel words from a Christian can destroy another Christian. [p.227]

Yeah. There’s a lot of that going around. Persons interested in a practical demonstration of this phenomenon can browse the grounds here. Rice next asks the crucial question by quoting some Scripture:

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
XXXHow can this not be enough?

How, indeed. Rice immediately answers that question by posing another:

How is it that I, unlike Him, am a broken creature of my time? [p.243]

While I can’t say that I am exactly inspired by the judgment implicit in the question, I can certainly admit that it nails my predicament.