A Greater Testament
I used to talk to myself. Not a lot, but sometimes. Maybe I was preparing statements I’d present in court. Maybe I talk through parts of sermons to be sure certain points get across. But aside from these, there was a time when I would argue a little with people who weren’t there, maybe people from my past or people from work. I’d be in my car or alone somewhere and pick up my side of the conversation or argument, maybe only to see how it sounded coming out. Many people I know actually still do this. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this as a way of processing ideas or feelings.
It came out again yesterday when I read the headline in the Washington Post that a report from Pennsylvania disclosed actions undertaken by authorities within the Roman Catholic Church to hide or otherwise cover up violence against children by 300 priests in that state over many years. And of course my response is horror, but sadly it is not shock. Revelations of this nature are not new to anyone paying any attention at all. But my other reaction is one of a Unitarian Universalist, who seeks to understand the theologies and beliefs of others as completely and fully as possible.
“If God did come back to earth in the way that many people of faith believe will come to pass, sitting in judgment, how would that conversation go?” This is the rhetorical question I ask when I witness one group claiming theological or historical authority over others. I imagine the appointed leaders of those who profess particular faiths all making the case as to why they were really doing God’s work the best. And then I imagine God stopping them all from talking, “Wait, we can get to who’s right in a little bit, but before we do, let’s talk about how you are each protecting the most vulnerable among us. Tell me about the sick, the needing, the wanting. Tell me about the children.”
I try not to judge a group by some of its members. But when I learn about the systematic, intentional, and affirmative actions taken to shield and protect the perpetrators of these heinous crimes and not the victims, I don’t just want to argue with people who aren’t there anymore, I want to scream. And blasphemy be damned, I’m pretty sure God would be screaming, too. Because these victims are real. They are not a figment of imagination.
That is why I am sharing Jim VanSickle’s story. You can read it by clicking here. He is one of the thousands of victims of this trauma. There are parts of his story that are hard to read, so be warned of that. But what he is making in his life from the pain he endured, connecting victims across the country seeking assistance, is a greater testament to this brave man than I could ever make.
I pray almost unceasingly for a world where horrors like this are vanished. But until they are, we owe a duty to talk to the people who were really there, and to listen with care to what they endured.
Rev. T. J.