Holy Hygiene, Batman!
I've had a couple of odd conversations this week -- unrelated to each other -- regarding Holy Communion and personal hygiene. Some folks are queasy about using a common loaf or about intinction, etc. Got some serious qualms goin' on here.
I understand the concern, and I think we need to be as sanitary as we can, but I also think there's something to intimacy (of various degrees) that accepts people's germs. The ultimate example is marital intimacy, where bodily fluids get exchanged. Then you have parents cleaning up small children. People nursing the sick. Shaking hands or hugging people in church can be a source of germ-sharing, but nobody says we shouldn't do that.
If the Church is to be a community of love -- Real Love™ -- then we have to build intimacy, and intimacy involves getting inside each other's barriers a bit, accepting each other as we are. The alternative is to engage in an antiseptic spectator sport where the preacher and choir endeavor to speak/sing to each individual in one's insulated aloneness. Live TV. No community at all.
I hear the objections to what I'm saying, even as I type it. Yuck! That's nasty!
Well, I'm not saying we shouldn't wash our hands and be careful in how we share, but, y'know, we follow someone who touched lepers. Spat on the ground and rubbed it into a blind man's eyes. And when he was rebuked for letting his disciples eat with unwashed hands said that it wasn't what went into someone's mouth that defiled one, but what came out of that mouth.
Love is about touch. It doesn't have to be sloppy, but it means getting next to each other, physically as well as psychologically. Maybe if we said this more openly, it would change the way people look at joining the Church. Maybe fewer would join. Maybe that would be a good thing. Maybe they'd intend what they profess more strongly. Who knows? Something to think about.
And here is a poem for all the germ-phobics out there.
The Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup
Were playing in the garden when the Bunny gamboled up;
They looked upon the Creature with a loathing undisguised; --
It wasn't Disinfected and it wasn't Sterilized.
They said it was a Microbe and a Hotbed of Disease;
They steamed it in a vapor of a thousand-odd degrees;
They froze it in a freezer that was cold as Banished Hope
And washed it in permanganate with carbolated soap.
In sulphureted hydrogen they steeped its wiggly ears;
They trimmed its frisky whiskers with a pair of hard-boiled shears;
They donned their rubber mittens and they took it by the hand
And 'lected it a member of the Fumigated Band.
There's not a Micrococcus in the garden where they play;
They bathe in pure iodoform a dozen times a day;
And each imbibes his rations from a Hygienic Cup --
The Bunny and the Baby and the Prophylactic Pup.
-- Arthur Guiterman