Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, June 07, 2018


Some kind friends were indignant on my behalf that parents who had objections to my religion class didn't come directly to me instead of leapfrogging to the bishop. It's always a solace to have friends who feel for one's injuries, but for my part, I'm glad not to have complaints about me addressed immediately to me. There are good reasons for structures of command to mediate between people. A mediator is a buffer between persons: someone who can listen to angry or frustrated words,  help sort out jumbled ideas, and put valid complaints and criticisms into a useful form. A mediator can take the volatile emotional component out of a fraught situation, and so communicate more effectively than the principles. Or, even when the principles need to deal directly with one another, a mediator can be the first point of contact, helping a person to go beyond his or her personal concerns and look at a situation more objectively. 

There are all kinds of mediators. Parents are natural mediators between their children. How many times have I told a child who's lashed out at a sibling, "If she's bothering you, you should have come to me first"? Teachers mediate between students. Managers mediate between levels of a company, or between the individual employees in their charge. Counselors are often one-way mediators, mediating between a person and his or her emotions and history and mental state in order that the person may then address others more objectively. (This kind of mediation doesn't just mean calming down someone who is overwrought; sometimes a person needs to hear that her situation really is bad and that someone else really does need to stop treating her poorly.) Judges and police are (or ought to be) mediators so that a victim doesn't have to take on the additional burden of decreeing and enforcing just punishment.

The concept of a mediator is a corrective to the idea of self-sufficiency. In myself, I am not enough to handle every situation. In myself, I do not have enough counsel, knowledge, wisdom, fortitude, piety, understanding, or fear of the Lord to resolve every conflict. I need others, with their gifts, to help me see truth. "Human kind cannot bear very much reality," says T.S. Eliot's bird, but the vision of another person helps me build on and bear my own defective vision. There are various levels of mediation: my husband helps mediate between me and myself, or me and my children; I mediate between my children, or between them and their father; my own father mediates between me and my family; my family mediates between me and the larger community; my parish mediates between me and the diocese; the diocese mediates between me and the body of the church. 

Christ is, of course, our perfect mediator, not only interceding for us with the Father but wiping out our sins and absorbing our punishment. He's also the perfect mediator between members of his body, bestowing grace and love so that we're not limited to interacting with each other on a merely human level. Our imperfect loves are mediated through Christ, so that husbands and wives can make permanent vows despite our fallible nature. And God, in his generosity, gives us another mediator: Mary, through whom he chose to enter creation as creation, who mediates for us as both our mother and mother of God.

There is an openness and honesty in dealing with one another person to person, but only if the communication is actually centered in truth. Otherwise, our dealings with each other are mediated by our own fallible natures and our pain and self-centeredness. We cannot bear much reality. Our interactions will always be mediated by something. Best to let them be mediated by those who can help us grow in charity before we directly wound another person.

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