Porter, Bishop and the Weakness of God

And here too are quotations I have come across recently . . .  Guardini, “The Church is the Cross on which Christ is crucified, and Christ cannot be separated from his Cross.”

Dorothy Day

More than anyone else, those who want to follow God must understand that. We are his cross. He will not leave us, but we are his cross, regardless.

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A series of stories published recently by the Salt Lake Tribune revealed Joseph Bishop, who served as president of the Missionary Training Center in the 1980s, appears to have confessed to inappropriate sexual contact with at least one female missionary who served under him. When one victim went to a local bishop, he dismissed her out of hand. When asked to recount the conversation, which took place during the 1980s, that bishop explained he doubted her because an MTC president would have been thoroughly “vetted.”

The revelation comes a year after the Deseret News published a thoroughly admiring profile of Rob Porter, a Latter-day Saint who last month resigned from his position at the White House after several news outlets publicized his abuse of his two ex-wives. It praised Porter for his competency and style, for his educational achievements and his broad knowledge of British philosophy, and for the powerful people he hung out with.

Hal Boyd, who wrote the profile, has added an addendum explaining that he based the article almost entirely on an interview with Porter himself. He adds that had he known what we know now about Porter, we would have gotten a very different story. I have no doubt Boyd is totally sincere.

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There is no permutation of humanity in which Christ is not present. If every Bible is lost, if every church crumbles to dust, if the last believer in the last prayer opens her eyes and lets it all finally go, Christ will appear on this earth as calmly and casually as he appeared to the disciples walking to Emmaus after his death, who did not recognize this man to whom they had pledged their very lives; this man whom they had seen beaten, crucified, abandoned by God; this man who, after walking the dusty road with them, after sharing an ordinary meal and discussing the scriptures, had to vanish once more in order to make them see.

Christian Wiman

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Christ came, in large part, to save us from ourselves. Much of what we call success is simply the frantic denial of our own weaknesses, the papering over of our frailties beneath the lies of perfect meritocracy and effort rewarded. Those lies are seductive. They betray us into the reification of power and the presumption of its virtue. They betray us into the worship of strength.

This is idolatry, because we are not strong.

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The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt . . . do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.”

Deuteronomy 7; 9

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We humans worship power because we fear our weaknesses. By dominating the weak, by outspending our neighbor, by getting into Ivy League schools, by attracting media attention and praise on social media, by winning prizes and jobs at the White House or being recognized in the grocery store, we ease our anxieties.

We want to trust that power and that praise because we know how fragile we are. We want to believe—even if we claim, pro forma, otherwise—that we can build structures invincible against corruption, that our movement, our institutions, our government can be made spotless.

But we can’t. None of us can.

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Do we really want to see ourselves as God sees us, or even as our fellow human beings see us? Could we bear it, weak as we are? . . . It often has seemed to me that most people instinctively protect themselves from being touched too closely by the suffering of others.

Those who cannot see the face of Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.

Dorothy Day

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When in scripture God’s people become powerful, he shows them their weaknesses and their violence and he humbles them. It is invariable.

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Paul says that Christ’s power derives from his deliberate choice of weakness, and that this seems like foolishness to human beings. The Doctrine and Covenants says that the power of Christ is not the power to command, but the power to serve. Christian Wiman says that Christ saves us by suffering with us; that his suffering is the suffering of each person who is abused or violated.

Christianity is not a grinning celebration of success that ignores the pain of human experience. Christianity is the reality that the suffering must never, never suffer alone.

 

Comments

  1. That last sentence seems especially apt on Good Friday. Thank you.

  2. So many important truths here in this post. Jesus says to Moroni: “if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.” That’s why we don’t come unto him. We’re scared to death of being shown our weakness.

  3. We. are not strong.

  4. J. Stapley says:

    Gorgeous. Thank you.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for the very fitting Good Friday meditation.

  6. Kim S Colton says:

    This is perhaps the most beautiful post I have read on BCC. A blessed Easter to you and yours.

  7. Yes, we all have feet of clay.

  8. I read this on Good Friday and now again on Easter morning. Thank you.