Wednesday, March 15, 2006

God is purple; not magenta (or black, not white). Romans 3:19

I've seen several calls for reconciliation of Christians who are divided across political lines. The common metaphor is to be "purple", that is "red" (Republican) plus "blue" (Democrat). My take on the matter is that it is a good thing to call people to be purple, but I think that some of the uses of this purple metaphor are calls I really don't support-- they are really calling folks to be magenta.

Now for a primer on the difference between the colors in a computer monitor and the colors in paint. If you mix blue and red light, you get the color magenta, which has blue light and red light in it. If you look carefully at the color for the word magenta above, you'll see it's not exactly the color you get with a purple crayon. This is what I think some of the calls for "purpleness" are really aksing for-- let everyone get together without taking seriously any of their criticisms of the way things are. Affirm your brother or sister's presence but not their conscience. One fruit of this "magenta" view occurs whenever there's a discussion of some outrage in civic life or politics, and the partisan says, "Oh, but the other party did it too. What's your point? I will therefore remain unchanged." This is not how I like to look at fellowship and dialogue and reconciliation.

In painting, however, "blue" paint gets its blueness not because it is a source of blue light but because it absorbs-- it refuses to reflect-- something that is very non-blue. The same with red. Mix the two and you have something that refuses to reflect practically everything but a range of the light spectrum somewhere between blue and red. Here is a photo I found at flickr which shows what happens when blue and red cellophane overlap: In this "purple" view, you wouldn't honor your brother or sister by affirming everything they are and say, but by allowing them to take away things that you would let go. Let their indictment of sin remain on the table. What if we took seriously the taking of unborn life in abortion AND the counter-productive escalation of violence by the Bush Administration in Iraq? Added indictments of the welfare state AND oppressive business practices of corporations?

Add another political party or two-- another layer of cellophane-- and what do you have? black. Not a numbing, mindless black but a case where "every tongue is silenced." Nothing remains but the cross. Everyone is allowed to leave on the table an indictment of something in the world as a bloody good reason for there having been a cross.

This is the kind of fellowship I can go for-- one where you tell your brother or sister, "You've got a point here and here, but your actions there and there just don't cut it in terms of human decency or church tradition. Where folks at the sinful extremes of the politcal spectrum offer insightful critiques of the other, and the other takes it to heart. Where we say and we listen to the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero:

"This is the mission entrusted to the church,
a hard mission:
to uproot sins from history,
to uproot sins from the political order,
to uproot sins from the economy,
to uproot sins wherever they are.
What a hard task!
It has to meet conflicts amid so much selfishness,
so much pride,
so much vanity,
so many who have enthroned the reign of sin among us.
The church must suffer for speaking the truth,
for pointing out sin,
for uprooting sin.
No one wants to have a sore spot touched,
and therefore a society with so many sores twitches
when someone has the courage to touch it
and say: "You have to treat that.
You have to get rid of that.
Believe in Christ.
Be converted."
January 15, 1978

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