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No Conviction

October 10, 2008

The following parable will be included in my forthcoming book The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales (March 2009). A compilation of 33 parables and commentaries. This parable is called, ‘No conviction’,

In a world where following Christ is decreed to be a subversive and illegal activity you have been accused of being a believer, arrested and dragged before a court.

You have been under clandestine surveillance for some time now and so the prosecution has been able to build up quite a case against you. They begin the trial by offering the judge dozens of photographs which show you attending church meetings, speaking at religious events, and participating in various prayer and worship services. After this they present a selection of items that have been confiscated from your home: religious books that you own, worship CDs and other Christian artefacts. Then they step up the pace by displaying many of the poems, pieces of prose, and journal entries that you had lovingly written concerning your faith. Finally, in closing, the prosecution offers your Bible to the judge. This is a well-worn book with scribbles, notes, drawings, and underlings throughout, evidence, if it were needed, that you had read and re-read this sacred text many times.

Throughout the case you have been sitting silently in fear and trembling. You know deep in your heart that with the large body of evidence that has been amassed by the prosecution you face the possibility of a long imprisonment or even execution. At various times throughout the proceedings you have lost all confidence and have been on the verge of standing up and denying Christ. But while this thought has plagued your mind throughout the trial, you resist the temptation and remain focused.

Once the prosecution has finished presenting their case the judge proceeds to ask if you have anything to add, but you remain silent and resolute, terrified that if you open your mouth, even for a moment, you might deny the charges made against you. Like Christ, you remain silent before your accusers. In response you are led outside to wait as the judge ponders your case.

The hours pass slowly as you sit under guard in the foyer waiting to be summoned back. Eventually a young man in uniform appears and leads you into the courtroom so that you may hear the verdict and receive word of your punishment. Once seated in the dock the judge, a harsh and unyielding man, enters the room, stands before you, looks deep into your eyes and begins to speak,

“Of the charges that have been brought forward I find the accused not guilty.”

“Not guilty?” your heart freezes. Then, in a split second, the fear and terror that had moments before threatened to strip your resolve are swallowed up by confusion and rage.

Despite the surroundings, you stand defiantly before the judge and demand that he give an account concerning why you are innocent of the charges in light of the evidence.

“What evidence?” he replies in shock.

“What about the poems and prose that I wrote?” you reply.

“They simply show that you think of yourself as a poet, nothing more.”

“But what about the services I spoke at, the times I wept in church and the long, sleepless nights of prayer?”

“Evidence that you are a good speaker and actor, nothing more.” replied the judge, “It is obvious that you deluded those around you, and perhaps at times you even deluded yourself, but this foolishness is not enough to convict you in a court of law.”

“But this is madness!” you shout. “It would seem that no evidence would convince you!”

“Not so,” replies the judge as if informing you of a great, long forgotten secret.

“The court is indifferent toward your Bible reading and church attendance; it has no concern for worship with words and a pen. Continue to develop your theology, and use it to paint pictures of love. We have no interest in such armchair artists who spend their time creating images of a better world. We exist only for those who would lay down that brush, and their life, in a Christ-like endeavor to create it. So, until you live as Christ and his followers, until you challenge this system and become a thorn in our side, until you die to yourself and offer your body to the flames, until then my friend, you are no enemy of ours.”

18 Responses to No Conviction

  1. Ian Eastman says:

    Provoking thoughts. This scored a direct hit on my tendency for thinking over action. Looking forward to your book release next spring.

  2. JR Rozko says:

    Peter, are you ok with the text of this post, of course including a link and credit to you as the author, being republished on other blogs? I wanted to ask before I went ahead and did it. Thanks.

  3. admin says:

    Absolutely Rozko. If you think it is worth republishing then please do so.

  4. becky says:

    If you want to repost this to the God’s Politics blog or The Ooze, shoot me an email and I’ll ask my editors. Also, if any of your parables relate to “The Redemptive Power of Humor” holler and I can include it in the January 2008 issue of the Porpoise Diving Life (I agreed to guest edit an issue).

  5. Peter, this was my favorite story in your book. Thanks for reposting it. I love how it truly comes down to love.

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  7. Andy says:

    Thanks for the parable Peter. Wow. I think of the lives of St Francis or Bonhoeffer, and my reading of Augustine or Kierkegaard, and I wonder whether I am really living the Christian life. Your writings are a great challenge to us traditionalists.

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  9. Andrew says:

    nailed it.

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  12. Tom says:

    Challenging.

    Theologically, you’re slightly off base. The cross doesn’t feature in the judgement of the court. As such, the righteous acts and deeds are in danger of being part of the means to God, rather than a celebration of the grace already given. (see Ephesians 1-3)

  13. John L says:

    The Court of Apophatic Judgement. Good essay.

    I agree with you that Christianity, at its core, is a rejection of all man-made systems – that Jesus “set an axe to all religion.” That while the cross we celebrate is sufficient (per Tom, above), our grasp of it remains provisional and flawed.

    Truth is indeed boundless and infinitely greater than our religious concepts of it, including our concepts of the cross. Belief has an important place, but, as you say, “it is ultimately subordinate to the reality it points toward.”

  14. Rob says:

    Thanks for this Pete – it’s challenged my thinking today.

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