The Problem of Redemption

I told you all how much it shook me to learn that my dad had let me spend a lot of time with a man he knew did bad things to women, without telling me.

I left out the part that this is the second time this has happened, that I know of. One of my dad’s best friends was accused of some kind of inappropriate sexual conduct by his niece. I think, though he doesn’t want to, my dad believes her, because he’s apparently always thought this friend was squirrelly with kids. And my dad sometimes seems to carry a tremendous amount of worry/guilt that this friend may have done likewise to us. As far as I know, he never did. But my dad claims to have always had these worries AND he let us hang out alone with this friend.

And, like, I suspect there’s a lot going on here that I don’t know about. And Christ, I do not want to know about it, like I wish I didn’t know about my grandfather trying to force my dad to shoot him. Like, these are profoundly damaged people whose rage and grief is a monster loose to damage others. My dad believes he is all in, that he would do anything for his kids (and, hell, he has tried in many cases), but there’s a way in which he gets to a certain point–a point where you really need him because he has knowledge you don’t–and he just can’t do it.

I have been wondering a lot about this. And I think it’s just a perfect storm of his own shortcomings and his theology.

How can a person be redeemed if he is not allowed to prove that he is not longer the man he was? And how can he prove that he’s no longer the man he was, if he’s not allowed to show that, under the same circumstances where he used to be bad, he no longer is?

The reason I think this is a deep theological problem, as well as just my dad’s own bullshit, is that I see other ministers doing it. And I don’t see a way around it, if you’re a Christian. If you believe in the transformative power of Christ and especially if you’re Christian clergy, how do you not give God the opportunity to work on people, even very bad people?

But it means choosing to put others in harm’s way for the sake of the redemption story of the person who would harm them, believing that God is going to keep those potential victims safe.

I can’t bear it anymore, being put in harm’s way for the redemption narrative of bad men, being a hurdle or a temptation in the way of their being good men. Without my consent. Without even my knowledge.

Every once in a while I think of how easy it would be to slip back into Christianity. I live in a really Christian culture. My dad is a minister. I like the familiar rhythms of the liturgical calendar. There’s enough satisfying mystery, enough mysticism. I don’t think I could ever be a monotheist again, but I could fake it well enough.

And then there’s shit like this and I just can’t even consider it. I mean, I, too, hope people can change. But I wouldn’t offer up any kid I know to find out. And I resent, so deeply, having been offered up.

The argument I always hear, too, is that this isn’t God, this isn’t really what Christianity is about, but, you know, that shit starts to sound like people defending an abuser after a while. Oh, okay, God didn’t really mean it. He’s a nice Guy, if you get to know him. Sure, some of his friends are dicks, but He’s not like them, even though He hangs with them all the time.

I can’t do it. Maybe it’s a personal failing. Maybe it means Hell forever for me. But I can’t pretend I don’t see how this works. Redemption comes at the expense of people like me, and the choice to use us in this way is often kept from us. Christianity is supposed to be in opposition to human sacrifice, but I don’t have a good way of understanding what happened to me other than that I have been put in the labyrinth with the minotaur and not even told there was a monster in the maze and I just don’t see much of a difference between what the Church did to me and what happened to the Athenian girls.

I mean, I’m not dead yet, but then, I’m also clearly not out of the maze.

 

 

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