Monday, September 28, 2009

‘Who touched me?’

The following ramble on slavery, freedom and love is something that I grabbed off FaceBook, not a place where I normally go for edification. These words were posted by my oldest son Jacob Gorny, and they touched down in me like lightning to earth at a number of places. How little we know of each other's sufferings, thoughts and loves. I found these thoughts worthy, and I hope you do too.

"Being a house slave is better than being a field slave, but you are never part of the family."

It's related to another quote I read someplace about someone who went to do missionary work... "I wanted to be a missionary in the Congo because I wanted to help the poor. Then I realized I wanted to help the poor because I wanted to feel rich. Then I realized that when I got home I thought I was rich but was actually poor. Then I wanted to be with the poor because that was my real home."

Hmm... there was definitely a time when I thought it was because I wasn't Greek. But that's not it, because there are Greek house slaves too. Then I thought it was because I wasn't rich… but there are rich house slaves. It was also possible that it was because I was not part of the family... but I have seen a lot of family members get treated like house slaves... No, I think it is simply because I'm not cool enough.

I do think my statement applies to converts primarily, but I think it also can affect Greeks who are trying to be who they want to be, and not be driven by trends and what other people want. And yet, at this point in time perhaps, it is worth looking at Malcolm X's understanding of the house slave.

"You have to go back to what the young brother here referred to as the house Negro and the field Negro back during slavery. There were two kinds of slaves, the house Negro and the field Negro. The house Negroes—they lived in the house with master, they dressed pretty good, they ate good because they ate his food—what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near the master; and they loved the master more than the master loved himself. They would give their life to save the master's house, quicker than the master would. If the master said, "We got a good house here," the house Negro would say, "Yeah, we got a good house here." Whenever the master said "we," he said "we." That's how you can tell a house Negro.

"If the master's house caught on fire, the house Negro would fight harder to put the blaze out than the master would. If the master got sick, the house Negro would say, "What's the matter, boss, we sick?" We sick! He identified himself with his master, more than his master identified with himself. And if you came to the house Negro and said, "Let's run away, let's escape, let's separate," the house Negro would look at you and say, "Man, you crazy. What you mean, separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?" That was that house Negro."

Perhaps this is even why the unspeakable tension caused by people who believe that American Orthodoxy should be autocephalous... who knows. For me, there is an underlying sense that no matter how hard I strive to maintain the Orthodox faith, I am a commodity—owned not by Jesus Christ and the mandates of the gospel, but by the hoops I am asked to jump through and the hazing I am expected to put up with, in order to be a 'member.'

I think part of the Southern Gospel struggle comes from this idea that people are not supposed to own other people, and that we are suppose to live freely under the eyes of God, and to live out a life of service to fellow humans as Jesus Christ did... that through deliverance through Christ they could throw off the shackles of race, social status, and especially of the work of building capital for someone else's dreams.

Well, the situation with house slaves could be pointed at as being a sign that 'slavery works'… Ask the slaves, and they are happy. Ask the masters, and they are happy.

The Church is nothing more than a modern name for the tree of life. Such a structure will always succeed… grows a branch, for example, and branches will fail if they become more concerned with the sturdiness of the branch at the expense of the fruit. A diseased branch consumes the energy to make the fruit… it becomes sterile. The trunk says, 'What's going on here? I'm sending water and nutrients through the system and yet there is no fruit.' It is a misallocation of resources.

I allow it because I hope it will cultivate something good… sometimes a seed, sometimes a plant. But sometimes it is a waste… life goes where it does not belong, because I'm foolish, and I can't see where the true need is.

However, the tree of life is inescapable… I am born into it, because of it, and will live in spite of myself because of it. It's a mysterious grace we have inherited. Slavery has always been about milking that life—that grace—from others.

There are people who believe love is only possible through enslavement. God operates against this and eventually it will fail… through death or isolation. It is entirely inevitable… we aren't designed for it. We were made to be free.
Freely have you received, freely give.

I admit it, I allow people to seduce the energy God gives me away from where it should go… to petty projects, or to dead-end relationships, or to feed their compulsions and addictions. I don't know if knowingly entering into these situations with delusional hope is sinful. But I feel stupid every time it happens… even though it helps me recognize who is trying to use me, and who is not.

"Who touched me?" …I wish it was that easy for everyone to know when they have loved someone or something as God hoped they would.
— Jacob Gorny


yudikris said...

awesome! :) and I find this is axios! A thought provoking writing. We are Christ's and "We were made to be free", to abide and live in Him Who surpasses everything, and holds all.

Thanks for sharing this with us, brother!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the treatment of this piece - interesting to see where the lightning struck in emphasis.