Middlemarch 2.0

Dorothea, of Middlemarch, imitates Christ in offering a wide and generous grace to the despairing doctor, Lydgate. The grace that she offers is as profound– and as profoundly affecting– as it is simple: she believes in him. More precisely, she believes in him when everyone else, including his wife, suspects him of a gravely dishonorable and shameful act. Dorothea offers him a lifeline when he, Lydgate, is drowning in despair.

What she offers is so simple, and so beautiful. It’s the essence of love that she offers him, purified of the self-interest that attends to romantic attachment. Or– to change the metaphor– she sees him, and does not judge. It is under this accepting gaze that we are confirmed as precious in the world.

Here is the passage:

“You [Dorothea] want to decide whether you should give a generous support to the hospital,” said Lydgate. “I cannot conscientiously advise you to do it in dependence on any activity of mine. I may be obliged to leave the town [on account of being socially outcast].”

He spoke curtly, feeling the ache of despair….

“Not because there is no one to believe in you?” said Dorothea, pouring out her words in clearness from a full heart. “I know the unhappy mistakes about you. I knew them from the first moment to be mistakes. You have never done anything vile. You would not do anything dishonourable.”

It was the first assurance of belief in him that had fallen on Lydgate’s ears. He drew a deep breath and said, “Thank you.” He could say no more; it was something very new and strange in his life that these few words of trust from a woman would mean so much to him. [Emphasis added]

via What George Eliot Teaches Us : The New Yorker.

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Seeking Forgiveness: Like a Mustard Seed

Jerusalem is the most fascinating place on earth– even moreso than New York City– because human beings representing ancient antagonisms and unresolved tensions literally walk side-by-side down the old stone streets. The encounters are not always happy.

Last week some young Orthodox Jews spat at Christian clergy while walking in the Old City. In response, David J. Michaels, the director of intercommunal affairs for B’nai B’rith, wrote the following open letter of apology [excerpted below, with link] to Christian leaders in Jerusalem.

I like to lift up this kind of news. Words of apology are not a spectacle– they don’t titillate, so they rarely get attention from the mainstream media. However, when words of apology are expressed, the world changes for the better. The power of words that seek reconciliation is a power that starts small, like a mustard seed, and grows.

An open letter to Christian leaders in Jerusalem

As a Jew, especially an Orthodox one, I am ashamed that so-called “religious” people would spit on clergy of other faiths. The following letter has been sent to over a dozen of the most senior church leaders in Jerusalem, with copies to officials at major Christian bodies abroad.

I write with a request: for your forgiveness. As a representative of the oldest Jewish communal organization – B’nai B’rith International, which includes members of many backgrounds in over 50 countries, including Israel, where we have been present in Jerusalem since 1888 – I feel obliged to express my revulsion over new reported incidents of spitting at Christian clergy in certain areas of the Holy City. I feel especially obliged to do so as an Orthodox Jew….

via An open letter to Christian leaders i… JPost – Opinion – Op-Eds.

Good News: Israeli Gives Birth in Ramallah Hospital

This item made me smile. For our bloodthirsty and voyeuristic mainstream media, this doesn’t count as news. For those who are serious about hope, and realistic about the small but significant acts of faithfulness necessary for participation in God’s redemptive work, this is the news that counts.

While this story is from the Middle East, the same kinds of stories are happening even now, close to home– it’s just that we don’t hear about them. Redemption doesn’t do good ratings, nor does it sell advertising:

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — “I was happily surprised at how well the Palestinian nurses and doctors treated me here, in fact I feel pampered,” new mother Nisreen, a Jewish citizen of Israel, told Ma’an Wednesday night after delivering her first child in a Ramallah hospital.

She had been out shopping with her husband, a Palestinian from the village of Sakhnain in Israel, when she felt intense labor pains. Rather than make the hours long trip back to Haifa through notorious checkpoints, Nisreen’s husband suggested they go to hospital in the West Bank.

Hours after the birth of a healthy 2.3 kg boy, the new mom received a bouquet of roses from President Mahmoud Abbas, who congratulated her on the delivery, and wished her and her son the best of health.

Officials reported to Israeli liaison officers that the woman had been admitted. Procedure appeared to dictate that Nisreen be taken and transferred to an Israeli hospital, but on her insistence she was permitted to stay.

“Nisreen is the first Jewish woman to be treated at Ramallah Hospital,” Abu Moghli [Palestinian Authority Minister of Health] said, recalling the Hippocratic Oath obliging doctors to treat every patient regardless of their religion, political beliefs or race. [emphasis added]

As an added bonus, he said Nisreen would not be asked to pay hospital fees, and would be treated as any Palestinian would be.

via Maan News Agency: Israeli gives birth in Ramallah hospital.