Week of 1 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   13 comments

Above:  Crown of King Christian IV of Denmark

Image Source = Ikiwaner

The Destructive Allure of Conformity

JANUARY 12, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Samuel 8:4-22a (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him,

Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations.

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said,

Give us a king to govern us.

And Samuel prayed to the LORD.  And the LORD said to Samuel,

Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.  According to all the deeds they have done for me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you.  Now then, listen to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.

So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking a king from him.  He said,

These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you:  he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.  He will also take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants.  He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants.  He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your donkeys, and put them to his work.  He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.  And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said,

No! but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.

And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD.  And the LORD said to Samuel,

Listen to their voice, and make them a king.

Psalm 89:15-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

15  Happy are the people who know the festal shout!

they walk, O LORD, in the light of your presence.

16  They rejoice daily in your Name;

they are jubilant in your righteousness.

17  For you are the glory of their strength,

and by your favor our might is exalted.

18  Truly, the LORD is our ruler;

the Holy One of Israel is our King.

Mark 2:1-12 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.  And many were gathered together , so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them.  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,

Child, your sins are forgiven.

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,

Why does this man speak like this?  It is blasphemy!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?

And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit what they questioned like this within themselves, said to them,

Why do you question like this in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk”?  But that you too may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins

–he said to the paralytic–

I say to you, rise, take up your pallet, and go home.

And he rose, and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying,

We never saw anything like this!

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 1 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/week-of-1-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Matthew 9 (Parallel to Mark 2):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-thursday-year-1/

Luke 5 (Parallel to Mark 2):

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/ninth-day-of-advent/

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God was supposed to be the King of Israel.  Judges governed, each in his or her own time, but there was supposed to be only one king.  In the ancient world, however, monarchy was most common form of government.  Being different can be very difficult, especially in a social species, such as Homo sapiens sapiens.  The rest is history, culminating in the Pharonic reign of King Solomon, after which the kingdom ruptured.

The wrath of God is not so much God afflicting us actively as it is God backing off and doing nothing as the chickens come home to roost.  But at least God gives a warning far in advance.

Sometimes I am a conscious contrarian.  One of the most effective ways to persuade me not to do something, such as see a certain movie or read a specific book, is to point out how popular it is.  The “join the bandwagon” appeal backfires with me much of the time.  If other people are trying act like others, I try to do the opposite, within my sense of self.  Other times I act without regard to what others think, but I just happen to emerge as one with very different tastes.  Either way, peer pressure has a limited effect on me.

So being different makes great sense to me.  It does, of course, limit my social mixing.  It has done so for most of my life, and deep introversion has become my default mode.  I am not quite the death of the party, but I am far from its life.  I recall that, when I grew up, many of members of my age peer group made my life difficult because of these tendencies.  They succeeded in violating the Golden Rule and in driving me deeper into myself.  Why would I want to emulate those who taunted me?  I hypothesize, by the way, that my childhood experiences in school contributed to my dislike for children, and therefore have informed my choice to remain childless.  I also suspect that my staunch nonconformity with regard to certain conventions (namely social and cultural history, given my preference for old-style institutional and Great Man history) in the study of history contributed to the premature demise of my doctoral program at The University of Georgia.  But this was a matter of principle; whatever I did academically, I was determined to do it with respect for my intellectual integrity.  By the way, sometimes the cost of maintaining one’s integrity is painful and high, but the price for prostituting one’s soul and mind is higher.

This above all:  to thine ownself be true,

And it it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not be false to any man.

–William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene III, lines 78-80

Anyhow, the desire of the people in 1 Samuel 8 to be like their neighbor nations makes no sense to me; I stand with God and Samuel.  But, as the text says, “the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel.”  They wanted to conform to the example of those around them.

Of all the words in the English language, the most profane ones, in my opinion, are “conform” and “conformity.”  God, you see, has granted each of us gifts to share with others.  Consenting to conformity stifles the unique blessings we can bring to the table and extinguishes the light we are to be to the nations, or at least to those in our vicinity.

May we never fear to be properly different, for the glory of God.

KRT

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