“Contrary to what people often think, the key to easing people’s suffering is not in offering some insidious theodicy, but in allowing a place for people to mourn, and to meet others who know what it is to have been burned by that same black sun. This is not about providing an answer, but rather offering a site where we can speak our suffering. This may seem a little depressing, but such spaces are really sites of liberation and light.” Peter Rollins
This past week I was messing around online; you know, checking up on the Twins, checking Facebook posts, the usual wasting time. I happened to look at my Twitter feed and noticed a whole string of tweets about the CRC Synodical meeting that was happening down the street. The issue (surprise surprise) was homosexuality. I was told this discussion was supposed to happen next year, but somehow it came up through a discussion of “advocating”. I don’t know the full story, I just know that a particular classis put forth a motion or overture… whatever they’re called… that said churches that openly advocate for sin should be censured. A fascinating debate ensued and the twitterverse blew up.
“Advocate”—the etymology of the word is interesting. It comes from the Latin: “ad” which means “to” and “vocare” which means “to call.” “To call to one’s aid” is the way it’s been translated. There’s a biblical connection to the word Paraclete in the New Testament. Jesus said that he would send an “advocate” – a helper. And yet, the word has taken on an entirely different meaning. To “advocate” for something means you not only agree with something but you also encourage others to do it, or love it, or promote it. Thus, to “advocate” on behalf of homosexual friends, neighbors, or children, has come to mean that you are on a particular side of the homosexual debate. Too bad, really, that we’ve lost the original sense of the word. I like the older use much better. I mean, who doesn’t need a little help now and again? Who doesn’t need someone in their life that’s been “called to one’s aid”? Life is incredibly hard on its own terms, let alone having to deal with issues like racism, sexism, sexual orientation, etc. Thank God for people who come along side to help us on our way.
I’ve always apprecited the exchange between Digory and Aslan in The Magician’s Nephew when Digory pleads with Aslan to heal his mother.
“But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?” Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.
“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another.
Grief is great…life is hard…let us be good to one another. Isn’t this what it means to become an advocate in the biblical sense? Not that we always agree with each other, but we recognize the immense hardships of this life, and we come alongside to help each other the best we can—the best we know how. There will always be differing views on issues like homosexuality; I’m ok with that—everyone doesn’t have to think like me! (Or you for that matter.) Meetings like synod provide an important place for the church to wrestle with these issues, respectfully disagree, and try to find a way to live together in the midst of our differences. (Heck, that’s my recent experience of a family vacation!) In a strange and funny way this means that every single one of us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is an “ad-vocate”—one called to the aid of others. So here’s to “advocating” for each other in the biblical sense—I’m all for it. I’m also all for “knowing” in the biblical sense (married “knowing” of course) but that’s a different post…