The Stones You Cast, The Tables You Built
By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who never left the path be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and no longer wander.”
It’s a tale as old as time.
A Christian leader falls from grace. For the first time ever, people feel free to talk openly about disagreements they had all along but were too afraid to voice. But the freedom is short-lived. The Eighth Chapter of the Gospel of John is dropped like a noose around their necks. That one verse about casting stones, that verse of grace and freedom, it is twisted into the heaviest gag order by the very Pharisees it was meant to condemn.
We saw this last week when Doug Phillips resigned due to an affair. It took but a few hours before John 8 started dropping like the bass in a dubstep song. “We’re all sinners!” “You’re not better than him!” “Forgive and forget!”
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone!”
It’s funny — how quickly invitations to grace become commands to obey. How platitudes pretend to say one thing but really mean something else. That what these phrases are meant to imply is not reflection and forgiveness but that, for some reason, “all have fallen short” means “STFU already.”
It’s funny, too, that this verse — of all verses — has become an order to shut up. This, a verse where a bunch of men were literally about to throw stones at a woman’s face until it broke like a pumpkin and her brains splattered on the ground. The verse whereby Jesus condemns the religious power structures and the hypocritical religious leaders. The moment where he stands up for a powerless individual about to be brutally bludgeoned to death by the insular self-righteousness of the People Who Knew It All and Had Everything Together.
I do not think we fully appreciate the situation.
I do not think we appreciate that this woman was probably all too aware of her own-shortcomings, was terrified and shaking because this group of men, this group of People Who Know the Right Way, was more than happy — giddy, even — to condemn her. They were probably shaking their heads to make a public scene, saying “If only she didn’t leave her father’s umbrella of protection…” Yet deep down, they could not wait to dig a hole in the ground, bury her in it up to her neck, and throw sharp rocks at her head until her blood soaked into the sand.
But that day Jesus stood against Privilege. That day he stood for the woman, for the one who broke the Almighty Law, for the one who needed a safe place.
Yet you, you who spit John 8 in our faces, you demand silence.
You demand a quick and sudden forgiveness. You want to put Doug Phillips in the place of the woman. Doug Phillips, the one who was standing there all along calling the woman a Feminist and a Liberal and a Female Blogger, the one who built an industry and an empire around Casting the First Stone. And you want us to imagine the woman was the Pharisee. That the woman, nursing her wounds from being dragged to Jesus by her hair, has no right to speak. That, unless she remains silent, you will drag her right back before Jesus and repeat the Pharisees’ lines.
Perhaps you don’t get the irony here, but if there is a metaphor here, it is that we who are calling Phillips out are the ones who have spent our lives being dragged by our hair before Jesus. Being dragged by you. We don’t have stones to throw because you’ve held them our entire life.
We never said we were without sin because, oh don’t you worry, you made sure we knew that.
Our imperfections surround us like scattered pieces of a Tinkertoy set. They stretch on for miles and they are all we learned to see.
But today we realize we are more than what we are not. We realize that when you say, “Don’t cast the first stone,” you mean, “Get back in line.” Sorry, but you can go find new soldiers. We will not cast stones — we will learn to forgive — but we will do it on our own time and we will make our own paths.
And sure, we are angry. We are angry because legalism and hypocrisy hurts. Our anger is ok. If we do not feel, we can never truly forgive.
We have a right to be angry.
We have a right to weep and to cry and to mourn because of pain.
We have a right to rejoice when oppressors fall.
And we have a right to call your bullshit. We will never grow and we will never learn to love better unless we learn to say, “That is wrong and that hurts and please, please stop.”
If you think speaking truth to power is casting stones, you need go back to the drawing board.
So don’t tell us we have stones in our hands when you carry sacks of stones on your back, when you trained us to lift them for you and carry them into the future and throw them into the faces of the people you taught us were the enemies. You drew the lines in the sand. You trained us to see threats instead of people, to see sinners instead of brothers, to see lust instead of sisters.
We all have logs in our eyes. But we don’t build industries around our logs like you do.
If we threaten your bottom line, if we call your idols into question, if we melt your golden calves and dance like David in their shimmering puddles while we reclaim our lost youth, it’s on you whether you will listen or pick up stones. And if all you want to do is put your fingers in your eyes and scream “Lalala! Don’t cast stones! I can’t hear you!” so be it.
But don’t play stupid.
You cast the stones. You cast so many stones they formed a fortress from which you made an empire. You took those stones and constructed tables and placed those tables in your homeschooling temples.
And we will keep overturning those tables.
We will keep overturning the tables made from the stones you cast.