Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Gift of Scorpions

The Cruelty of Heresy in the title of a book by Bishop C. FitzSimons Allison, retired of South Carolina. It was published in 1994. The title is inspired. In these days when people argue in the Episcopal Church about what is right or wrong, or whether there is anything absolute about truth, in his incredible book Bishop Allison reminds us that the divide is not so much between “right” and “wrong” beliefs, but rather between where true joy is to be found and the place where there is only suffering.

A few years ago, one of Blessed Sacrament’s associate priests visited a woman who was under hospice care. She was not a member of our parish, but had recently been moved into our area by her family, who then asked us to minister to her in her last days. For years, the woman had been a member of a large and prominent Episcopal church noted for its revisionist positions.

The woman was afraid to die. She lamented that she couldn’t believe the teachings about salvation and eternal life with which our priest tried to assure her. On her bedside table was a book by Bishop Spong. For years this woman had been told that Jesus wasn’t really born of a virgin, that he hadn’t been raised physically from the dead, and other “new teachings” from the revisionist agenda. At the time of her dying, she had nothing to hope for or in. She told our priest that she desperately wanted to believe, but couldn’t.

This tragic episode, played out across the nation who knows how many times, is the price to be paid by the victims of the revisionist agenda. This same priest recounted how he had attended a funeral in another Episcopal church during which the priest expressed his doubts about the resurrection. This happened in the funeral! This was not only outrageously cruel, but egregiously insensitive.

Here, here is the price to be paid by the apostasies of today! “Apostasy” mean “to stand away from”—to “walk apart” as it has sometimes been described. It’s not just a matter of having different beliefs; it is a matter of knowing where true joy is to be found or living—and dying—without it.

“Feed my sheep,” said Jesus three times to Peter in John 21. Elsewhere he said that even those who were evil knew how to give good things to their children. (Luke 11:13). He had just asked the crowd, “Which of you, if his child asks for an egg, would give him a scorpion?” —the point being that even “evil” people knew better than to do that!

To destroy someone’s faith is not just wrong; it is monstrously cruel. The battle today is not so much between truth and falsehood. It is much deeper than that. It is between joy and cruelty.