‘There Are No Bright Lines Here’

Matija Medved [The pointillism of its striking illustration evokes a key phrase in the article: “There are no bright lines here,” in this context: “It’s not always clear when we are honestly explaining how our heartfelt convictions play out in the public square and when we are ‘taking God’s name in vain.’”— JMN]

Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest, describes a recent baptismal service:

Baptisms at our church are a mixture of solemnity and unbridled glee, often full of laughter and tears of joy. Those who were being baptized, or in the case of infants, their parents, took vows to put their trust in God’s grace and love and to renounce spiritual darkness, evil and “all sinful desires that draw” us from the love of God.

(Tish Harrison Warren, “The God I Know Is Not a Culture Warrior,” NYTimes, 8-14-22)

An old hymn’s chorus goes like this: “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before….”

Warren’s essay exalts something different: piety nurtured by a radiant inwardness around two poles of behavior: affirmation, in the form of trust, and renunciation of… something or other. The “sinful desires” quandary is rotten fruit of the patristic tree. Humans can renounce harmful acts; thoughts, not so much. Warren’s strategic quote-marking of the phrase not only sets it off as liturgical cant, but lets her finesse the clash of theology with human nature by limelighting a joyful and forbearing style of devotion.

Warren’s oasis of psalmody shades us for a moment from truculent evangelism and religionist politics. For the last word of her refreshing homily, she quotes an ancient Christian soldier, Diadochos, the fifth-century bishop of Photiki: “… The soul, in its desire to say many things, dissipates its remembrance of God through the door of speech.”

(c) 2022 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Quotations and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to ‘There Are No Bright Lines Here’

  1. chris ludke says:

    That pointillist painting is an inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

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