Friday, June 5, 2020

The Holy Trinity in the Wake of George Floyd's Death

"Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." These were the words printed on a homemade sign at last Saturday's Black Lives Matter demonstration that began in Federal Plaza in Chicago to protest the police killing of George Floyd. The sign was carried by a mom, dad, and their young son as we all milled about in the plaza before the marching and chanting began; and I wondered whether these parents had brought their child to the event in order to show him what democracy-in-action looked like. Perhaps that's just what they had done, I thought to myself, and I smiled broadly underneath my mask. But to invoke the prophet Micah's words as a fitting commentary on the values that we are supposed to embody, not only as people of faith, by as members of a civil society, that was truly extraordinary. Great work, Mom and Dad.

These three commands from Micah--act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God--are all about how human beings are meant to be in relationship with each other and with God. Trinity Sunday, which we will celebrate this week, explores the deep mystery of the Holy Trinity. That God should exist as three persons, and yet still be one God, boggles the mind when we try to think about it in our limited, compartmentalizing, human way. The Trinity expresses the dynamic of God's action in creation. God's loving, life-giving force is the product of the cooperation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which in theological terms we call, perichoresis, a Greek word that means "mutual indwelling." 

One of the reasons that I have been averse to referring to the persons of the Trinity with the non-gendered language of "Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier" is that to do so leads us into the heresy of either tritheism (three Gods) or modalism (describing God according to different aspects or modes). To reduce God to three of God's functions is to deprive God of God's fullness. To assign a specific function--say, redemption--to one of the three persons of the Trinity is to suggest that only the Son had any hand in redeeming humanity, because the Father only created and the Holy Spirit only sanctified. It's as if we distilled a human being's identity down to one salient characteristic, instead of acknowledging the richness of their personhood, with its infinite variety, complexity, and nuance. It's dehumanizing.

And yet, that is exactly how we act in our society, when we stop treating people like the full human beings they are and only as Black people, or trans people, or women, or immigrants. We sterotype and essentialize them according to one or a few characteristics, rather than honoring the vow we make in our Prayer Book's Baptismal Covenant to respect the dignity of every human being. To respect a person's dignity is to avoid lumping individuals into a convenient and yet sloppy category like Hispanic, or gay, or even Sanctifier. The society we create is not the product of one person, but the cumulative contributions we complex human beings make (or fail to make) to act justly, to love mercy, or to walk humbly with our God and each other. If we are made in God's image, then we cannot relegate responsibility to create, to redeem, or to sanctify to just one person. It must be the result of our mutual indwelling. The Holy Trinity is not just a theological brain-teaser, it is an image that we are expected to embody in our society's systems and in our daily lives.

Abundant blessings,
Fr. Ethan+

No comments:

Post a Comment