"Sons of Adam" we have been called, and quite rightly; for just as Adam was charged with naming everything around him, so we have felt at liberty to name and define everything around us.
So we have felt at liberty to grab this thing or that person, name it, define it and then shoehorn it into a box of our own construction.
Oh, how clever we are.
And just think, we made that box with our own hands!
Biological male? Into the box labeled straight male.
Biological female? Into the box labeled straight female.
Of course, sometimes the fit is not perfect, requiring us to exercise a little violence in order to make the subject fit the box.
In the course of which we may duly earn for ourselves the title of “Sons of Cain”, for blood will spill when round pegs are pounded into square holes.
Blood, literally, when we take a hands-on approach to the pounding; and blood, figuratively, as a metaphor for the wounds of soul murder, when we convince someone that our box has primacy over their identity.
Sons of Cain, indeed, when people are lynched or beaten senseless on the grounds of their race or sexual identity; sons of Cain, indeed, when people of various racial identities find that they can curry favor by appearing and acting like white people, or when people of various sexual identities find that they can advance in our culture by appearing and acting as straight.
Whether the African American of the sixties straightens her hair or the gay man of the current decade “butches up”, the sons of Cain have carried the day; for while no one has been killed, and no one has been physically wounded, souls have been pounded into boxes of our own construction.
And just think, we made that box with our own hands.
How perfectly delightful! How clever we are with our hands!
Oh! How clever we are.
“God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
Whoever thought up that little gem probably lost sleep while preening with self-satisfaction before the nearest mirror.
And rightfully so, for not many of us have been granted the authority to so wittily define and describe a goodly chunk of our population.
And not many of us have been granted the authority to define, describe and circumscribe the limits of the all-powerful and ever-living God.
But it would seem that such license has been given before: witness the inspiration and spirit that descended on the nineteenth-century preachers who declared that slavery was the will of God.
And witness the sheer power of godly discernment that seems to have been granted unto those who declared that all African Americans and American Indians were untrustworthy and shiftless liars.
I suppose we should bow our heads in respectful obeisance to those unto whom such great powers have been given.
And I suppose that we should praise their generosity in extending their gifts to the youngest members of our society.
For our youngest members have been suffered, indeed, to enjoy the benefits of these miraculous revelations as well as the handcrafted coffins that they produce.
The teens and the adults can be duly lynched, murdered and abused in all manner of ways, but even the youngest have not been spared the power of our divinely-inspired rods.
And while some of us would never dream of touching a human embryo for the purposes of abortion, stem-cell research, genetic manipulation or in-vitro fertilization, we have no difficulty in pounding children into senselessness as we force them into the boxes of our own contrivance.
So children have been compelled from their earliest memories to conform to white ways; so children have been compelled from their earliest memories to conform to straight ways.
And rather than face psychic torture at the hands of those who are entrusted with the care of their psyches, some would commit psychic suicide and submit to the pounding.
Resulting in a psychic mutilation that is pain in itself, as well as a denial that is buried; a denial that is denied, but a denial that must surface…
murder will out…
…leaving it’s mark in depression, in acting-out behaviors, in all kinds of clinical ways…
…and leaving it's mark in ways that affect you and me, for these victims will leave a trail of broken commitments, broken relationships, broken intimacies in their wakes, hundreds of them, perhaps, as they try to be what they are not, as they suffer the not-quite-blank looks of those with whom they interact, those who may not know consciously, but feel somehow that something doesn't quite gel; something about this person, on some level, doesn’t quite make sense, I’m missing something, I’m trying to see something, what…
…a community of people who cannot connect, not completely, even if they don’t quite know that there is a problem.
Which is the final, fatal isolation of the victim.
Surrounded by many.
At a distance.
It has been my privilege to know people who have survived such fires, who have ended their personal cycles of self- and other-mystification.
And it has been my privilege to watch the delirious epidemic that we call democracy, which however slowly but surely creeps across all aspects of our lives, asking for no permission, granting equality to everything that it touches, marching far ahead of our expectations and wrenching us apart when it leaves our precious notions of spirituality and our precious boxes behind in the dust of it’s wake.
It is a rapacious thing, this democracy, for it has an insatiable hunger for equality; and while we can stay it for awhile, for the sake of our preconceptions and preoccupations and assertions of what we think is right for this brother or this sister or for whole groups of people or for all of us altogether, it will find a way out and, like a dam bursting, will bring great violence into the lives of those who could have been spared...
...in the havoc that is wrought on those who come to a delayed realization about themselves; perhaps a sudden realization of their value; perhaps a sudden realization about their identity; but in all cases, a realization that will shake their lives and the lives of those around them.
Free to be you and me…
That call of decades past, still unrealized, still beckoning, still welcoming those who would come in the name of peace.
If we can lay aside our arrogance, our carefully-crafted categories, our terrible presumptions about God that are laid down as gifts before the altar of God…
If we can come to a place where we can admit that God created the heavens and the earth and all that is therein, and that to God alone belongs the mystery of sacred identity and the right to create and define all parts of creation…
If we can come to a place where all children feel themselves free to be who they are…
Oh! For the love of God, harm not one of these little ones…
…then they will be spared their pain, and other innocents will be spared the pain of their wounds…
…and we will have well and duly laid down our crowns as the inheritors of Adam…and Cain.
I post new articles twice-monthly in “Author’s Corner”.
If you live in or near the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, and you would be interested in meeting with others for discussion and/or prayer, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All are welcome, regardless of identity or personal choices. Please understand that I do not have the resources to guarantee that I will be able to read or respond to all other correspondence.
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We are pleased to announce that Toward Dawn has become an ally of the
Progressive Christian Alliance. You will find us so listed on their website, and they are included on our Links page. We share their core values regarding inclusion and the primacy of love, and we invite you to visit them.
Rob Wright holds advanced degrees in education and performing arts, and he has been a professional teacher for over seventeen years. In his home denomination, he has served as a lay minister in liturgical, educational and ecumenical activities. He lives in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire with his spouse of twenty years and their daughter.