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Integrity

I think it is appropriate to begin a blog post in which I point out something that I think is deeply wrong with a few words from a profound song by Alanis Morissette, One. I cannot speak about integrity without acknowledging that I too forget all that I am about to say.

I am the biggest hypocrite/ been undeniably jealous/ I have been loud and pretentious/ I’ve been utterly threatened… I have abused to your power to forgive me. – Alanis Morissette

I am seeing a lot of posts on facebook that really really bother me. They mock our leaders. I am not a fan of Prime Minister Harper or our Mayor Rob Ford. Some of the policies and decisions make me sick to my stomach and make me want to cast away my Canadian citizenship. But I am disturbed by the really offensive mockery that has become so easy in our society. Furthermore, I am disturbed that Christians are behind some of this propaganda, or at the very least, freely share it.

Mockery makes enemies not friends. You aren’t going to build a campaign based on mockery. Those who already do not see the cause you are putting forward do not react kindly to mockery. It offends them. But not in the way a prophetic voice does. I think Walter Brueggemmenn’s words (from The Prophetic Immagination) prove instructive: “The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us” (pg. 3). Mockery offends in a way that gets people to react in defensiveness and to focus on the words used in mocking rather than looking at the heart of the issues.

Mockery lacks imagination. It fails to provide an alternative to the situations of injustice it mocks. It is cheap. Easy. It’s easy to forward a cartoon that makes our Prime Minister to look like a total fool. It’s much harder to get involved in social justice and advocacy and to do something that actually makes an impact. Occupy, Idle No More, and many other movements lose credibility in their opposers when mockery is used.

Mockery stoops to a level that undermines any act towards justice. Why is it wrong for one person to oppress a person, but it is fine to oppress the oppressor? I recognize that not all my readers are going to agree with me on this one. But I hope this causes a pause to reflect.

As a Christian, I think we are especially not off the hook with mockery. Look at Christ’s response as he was mocked, flogged, crucified – his words were calculated, intentional and purposeful. His silence speaks of humility. He did not stoop down to the level of those who treated him so very badly. I was recently reading about how physically painful it would have been to be nailed to a cross and how each breath would take a tremendous amount of effort that I take for granted. And one of Christ’s last words were “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” THIS is our example. We are told to pray for our enemies, to do good to them. This is not a complacency that allows injustice, but a subversive response of integrity and love. I left my Wendell Berry book at work, so I can’t find the quote at he moment… but in a speech opposing the Iraq War, he spoke about radical forgiveness for the “embittered few”. And he takes a moment… a realistic moment… to say, if this is too hard, think of the innocent children who will die. I think we could take it a step further. The “embittered few” are someone’s children. Perhaps even more importantly, they are made in the image of God. People are free to squander the beautiful imprint of God’s image… but Christ died for them too. Christ loves them, like he loves you and loves me. This is the radical life we are called to as Christians.

It’s always dangerous to build an entire theology on one verse, but there is a verse that is frequently on my mind as I think through situations I am in. It’s found in my favourite Psalm (25) which has provided challenge, comfort and encouragement as I’ve dealt with my family situation. At times I have recited the verses in my head over and over and they have become a shield to flaming arrows and, at times, have allowed me to act with integrity under duress.

May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you. – Psalm 25:21 (in the version I memorized years ago, it says preserve me).

Integrity is a beautiful word. “The state of being whole and undivided”. When we move and act and speak with integrity, we cut at our opposers in a deep way. Ironically, our own integrity can show up the other’s faults in a way that underscores them far more than mockery ever could.

Integrity is the hard road.

But it is the one we are called to. Let us oppose injustice and oppression with integrity and righteousness.

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