Monday, February 10, 2014

The Scarlett Letter

In High School I got to read the classic "The Scarlett Letter".  Unlike many of my classmates, I enjoyed it.  It has one of my favorite quotes - "Let man tremble to win the hand of woman lest he win with it the utmost passion of her heart."

It also was a rather scathing critique of Puritan culture and the idea of shaming as a corrective to society.  And I'll be honest, I don't like shame (which should be no surprise to anyone who reads this blog), I don't like it as a social tool.  It too often a tool of self-righteousness. 

There is a movement again towards shame.  Towards the idea that not only must a person bear the temporal consequences for their actions and sins... but that they ought to continue to be shamed the rest of their lives.  That the finger ought to be pointed, that the preface of "don't you know what this person DID" would be best articulated over and over to where we would never forget this. 

I was trying to think about what stuck me as so futile, so callous about the "shame" culture that seems to be making inroads into Christianity, or moving from radical protestantism into Lutheranism.  And then I realize I've said it before.

The following is what I posted in May of 2012

What changes behavior?  What makes a person new, what makes them to show forth love?  I would hope that anyone reading this blog would be quick to say, "The Gospel" -- that when we receive forgiveness from Christ we are given new life, that He creates in us a clean heart and provides a right spirit, that being filled with His love we then become conduits for that love... just as a branch is a conduit from the vine to the fruit.

Yet what happens so often when we see someone doing something we do not approve of?  We do not seek the end of the Gospel, we do not speak a direct word of repentance so that they might be restored.  Instead, we rely on shame.  We whisper cruel words about them to others and hope that the rising tide of disdain might trickle it's way back to them and that the weight of disapproval might coerce them into a different behavior.

That's not life.  That's just murder.

Seriously.  What life is given by shaming another?  What growth?  What creation?

No, all that happens (at best) is that a person is crushed even more, isolated even more.  That's what sin does -- it isolates, it kills.  At worst, they may be hardened, they may fall into even worse shame and vice simply to be defiant against your petty cruelty -- if you will complain, I'll give you something to complain about!

Christ our Lord does not say, "Blessed are the shame-inducers, for they have made the kingdom a bit nicer a place."  It's blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Shame does not make for peace.  Distant disdain does not make for peace.  Tarnishing a reputation does not make for peace.  Only words of peace and forgiveness make for peace, restore, give life, drive out fear.  Let us remember this.

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