More on ‘Integration” But At The Personal Level

I have been thinking a bit more about the idea of ‘integration’ and this section of the Play ‘A Man for all Seasons’ came to me. Richard Rich wants a job. Sir Thomas More won’t give him one but Cromwell (the king’s agent in the marriage affair) does, and is testing him out. Cromwell is looking for information on Sir Thomas More, and he knows that Rich knows him too. Cromwell gives Rich a piece of information about a possible job and rich replies (below)
RICH Oh, I would never repeat or report a thing like that
Cromwell then tests his integrity by asking:
CROMWELL What kind of thing would you repeat or report?
RICH Well, nothing said in friendship-may I say “friendship”?
CROMWELL If you like. D’you believe that-that you would never repeat or report anything et cetera?
RICH Yes!
CROMWELL No, but seriously.
RICH Why, yes!
CROMWELL Rich; seriously.
RICH (Pauses, then bitterly) It would depend what I was offered.
CROMWELL Don’t say it just to please me.
RICH It’s true. It would depend what I was offered.
CROMWELL Everyone knows it; not many people can say it.
Rich has just admitted that his ‘integrity’ (what he has already ‘integrated’, or what he is prepared to ‘integrate’) depends upon being paid, but he is sad.
RICH Yes . . . yes, yes. (But he seems gloomy)
CROMWELL (Sits. Sharply) It’s a bad sign when people are depressed by their own good fortune.
RICH (Defensively) I’m not depressed!
CROMWELL You look depressed.
RICH (Hastily buffooning) I’m lamenting. I’ve lost my innocence.
After Rich has ‘lost his innocence’ Cromwell now looks for the ‘pay off’. Can Rich really give information that was given ‘in friendship’ if he is paid?
CROMWELL Just so. (Deadpan) This goblet that he (More) gave you, how much was it worth? (RICH looks down. Quite gently) Come along, Rich, he gave you a silver goblet. How much did you get for it?
RICH Fifty shillings.
CROMWELL Could you take me to the shop?
RICH Yes.
CROMWELL Where did he get it? (No reply. RICH puts the cup down) It was a gift from a litigant, a woman, wasn’t it?
RICH Yes.
CROMWELL Which court? Chancery? In which court was this litigant’s case?
RICH Court of Requests.
CROMWELL (Grunts, his face abstracted. Becoming aware of RICH’s regard, he smiles) There, that wasn’t too painful, was it?

This little scene from the play goes to the matter of ‘integration too. There are some things that I do not want to ‘integrate’ They cannot be part of me, so I reject them, I spit them out if they try to ‘get in.’ And this is what Rich tries to do at the beginning. He is saying “I reject the notion of betraying ‘friends’. I cannot ‘integrate’ that.” But Cromwell tempts him with money, rewards him for a certain ‘honesty’ about his weakness, and then gives him a test. Can he  use his new ‘self’ in a concrete way?, Can the  new self that has ‘integrated’ his willingness to be paid for losing his innocence be put to use? Rich obliges, and Cromwell, pleased with the outcome acknowledges that it is possible to lose our integrity, via the death of a thousand cuts, once the path has been embarked upon.”That wasn’t too painful, was it?”

This excerpt from the play demonstrates how in real life, it is possible, step by step to come to accept or to ‘integrate’ certain aspects of life, so that they become ‘normal’ for us. Here is a quote from last week’s newspaper from Australia “ We learned this week that an Iranian man set himself on fire in Nauru.(Refugee camp). None of this fundamentally moves us because we’ve constructed an elaborate world that makes this simply the cost of doing business, rather than anything that registers as a series of tragedies that we’ve helped to create. Nothing gets in the way, except when a court uses brute force.

Here, whole populations become like Richard Rich. Piece by piece our moral sense is stripped away. Little by little we ‘integrate’ bad behaviour on behalf of our governments until the images of such suffering do not move us any more.  This is also ‘integration’ but integration in the service of a coarsening of our spirits, in order to enable us to be cruel.

The image of the Trinity is the opposite of this. Each of the ‘Persona’ of the Trinity ‘indwell’ the other, each of the Persona is ‘integrated’ into the other, but this mutual influence is mutual influence in love, and vulnerability. This kind of mutual influence is an influence that works towards ever more sensitivity rather than towards more coarseness.

This is the aim of life in the Church. It is one of the meanings of life in the Spirit. Where the Spirit is, there is no need for  law, because by being able to follow the model of the Trinity, mutual vulnerability in love, and mutual accountability go hand in hand. It is only where there is a failure in this way of being that the Canons of the Church ought to be employed. These are ‘the letter’ and deal death when they are used in the first instance, rather than as a last resort. The Church is not in the first instance governed by ‘the law’ but by the Spirit (the Lord, the giver of Life). Listen to Martin Luther on this matter: Now observe, these people need no secular sword or law. And if all the world were composed of real Christians, that is, true believers, no prince, king, lord, sword, or law would be needed. For what were the use of them, since Christians have in their hearts the Holy Spirit, who instructs them and causes them to wrong no one, to love every one, willingly and cheerfully to suffer injustice and even death from every one. Where every wrong is suffered and every right is done, no quarrel, strife, trial, judge, penalty, law or sword is needed. Therefore, it is not possible for the secular sword and law to find any work to do among Christians, since of themselves they do much more than its laws and doctrines can demand.

It means for me that whenever ‘Law’ is employed, this is not a matter that should be ‘integrated’ and become normal, but is a matter that should be lamented as a failure of the Spirit.

Some of Church life is like that too. Luther also says that even in Church life, there needs to be a space created where the gentleness and mutual vulnerability and accountability that are a part of life in the Spirit can be cultivated. Since few believe and still fewer live a Christian life, do not resist the evil, and themselves do no evil,…God has subjected them to the sword, so that, even though they would do so, they cannot practice their wickedness, and that, if they do, they may not do it without fear nor in peace and prosperity. Some times the law has to be employed (in grief) in order to protect the integrity and innocence of newer members. Sometimes the damage that one may do to another has to be limited by means of Law, in order for there to be enough room for the other kinds of relating: But I hate doing it.

So the idea of ‘integration at the personal level has to do with what I am prepared to ‘let in’ to ‘integrate’ into my own being, and what I have to ‘shut out’ because it runs counter to the life of God, as shown to us in the Trinity. Am I going to llow myself to be grasdually coarsened, or do I strive to trust the Spirit?

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About frpaulsblog

Paul Dalzell is now a semi-retired priest living in Alexandra, Australia
This entry was posted in Religion and Society, Uncategorized, Weekly Reflections at St. John's Montreux and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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