The Missing Picture

“It starts with purity and ends with hatred.”

Without a context, I would have assumed this statement described the ways people use biblical purity codes to assault the LGBTQ community. But this quote comes from “The Missing Picture,” the recent film memoir from Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge’s ideological “purity” provoked ruthless mass murder.

Mix any dogmatic purity with ethnicity, sexuality, or even a faithful person’s “inquiring and discerning heart” and you get potential genocide. But the seeds of genocide are more normal than we like to admit. Our mainstream media constantly bombards us with cleansing violence against “bad guys.” Such violence is quick – 60 minutes with commercial interruptions. It’s easy. Turn off the TV and sleep well. The earth is purified!

On Good Friday we again see that the “religious” fret more about ritual niceties than unjust executions (John 18:28-31). It’s enough to make us want to vomit at and vomit away “purity.” But just as self-righteousness can give a bad name to righteousness (right relationships), we can’t let this ranting, raging, scapegoating, sharpshooting purity poison us to transforming possibilities.

Isn’t there a missing purity: the “pure” religion of compassion (James 1:17), the “pure in heart” who see God (Matt 5:8), the realization that “to the pure all things are pure” (Titus 1:15)? Such purity is an antithesis and antidote to “it starts with purity and ends in hatred.” What starts in in this purityleads only to awe, affection, and adoration.

Yes, puerile purity justifies theologies and ideologies of discrimination and cleansing violence. When few – the true believers, the master sexual orientation – are “pure,” that is toxic non-purity. But when we see that ordinary people and “all things” are pure, this transforms us. So rather than trash all ideas of purity because of its horrific distortions, I will seek the purity of wonder and compassion, the pure heart that finds a mirroring purity in all people and all things – even in those who hate.