Saturday, December 13, 2008

the adventures of tim field (a eucharistic analogy)

Tim Field had waited his whole life for this moment.

His parents would watch him as a young boy whine and protest when they would try to use the television as a babysitter. He just would not sit still. Their "forward thinking" led them to try to make everything in life educational, even these moments of detached parenting. And so when the video player showed bright images set to the tune of classical music, it just didn't do anything for him.
Frustrated, they tried the one thing they thought they'd never expose to their child, gun violence. From one simple episode of G.I. Joe began a life-long dream of being an enforcer. Tim Field had just finished high school, but he spent the time in Boy Scouts and had been an Explorer Scout for 5 months. Accompanying police officers on duty was a dream come true-it felt like this would be a dream come true if he could actually make it through academy.

Maybe it was because his mom had been robbed at gunpoint, he didn't know. He'd leave that to the pop psychologists to prattle about.

What mattered most was today, for today Tim Field would begin his first exercise that involved a gun. The infamous target practice, where you do not merely stand from afar and try to hit targets as close as possible. No, instead he would run and duck and do all the sort of amazing twirls and whirls to clear a perimeter of any suspects. Amidst all of this were, he knew, the off-targets he'd need to avoid. The moving target that was not a target, such as an old lady or a little kid, could not be shot at. But he knew that this mock-up was dark and full of shadows. It made sense, for after all that's how the real world is.

So Tim Field breathed deep as it was his turn to go through the maze. He'd been debriefed, but he knew that he had to do well.

The world of cardboard instantly morphed into the realm of bricks and mortar, as he checked to his left and right. There was some noise above him on the right, and though they were merely machines, Tim shouted out, "Don't move, this is the police!"

That just made the cracks in the facade fade even further away. The "call-in" had told him that there were 3 suspects of an armed robbery, so he was vigilant. They could come from multiple angles, after all.

He looked closely at the target above and to the right, inching closer to make sure it was a suspect and not someone innocent. He knew that it had motion sensors which would emit a laser at him and "shoot" him if he'd get too close, but he had to be right. As he came around the "car" that was in his way, his view cleared up, and he knew it was a suspect. He fired before the suspect could fire back, and breathed a sigh of relief. But before he could exhale, the set changed from a midnight world of obscurities to a fluorescent glow of artificial daylight.

A voice came over the loudspeakers--"Cadet Field, you have missed the mark. Your first hit was off-target. Look more closely and see what you have done."

The adrenaline levels were still high in his 18 year-old frame, but they slowly ebbed as the mirage of a city street had fallen apart. As he breathed more slowly and listened to the loudspeakers, his perception of the "suspect" had slowly lost the vigor of certainty that first met him seconds before firing.

Yes, the suspect was too large to be a child, but as he looked the frown and grimace of what would look like a nefarious no-gooder turned into the wrinkles of an old man. More importantly, what was so clearly a pistol to his hawk-like eyes on the prowl transformed into a clunky metallic case, clutched closely to his chest. His suspect was no suspect, after all.

Ashamed, but having learned his lesson, Tim cried out, "Sergeant O'Neil, I'm so sorry. I was too quick on the trigger. But this was my first time, and I know that if I hesitate a bit more to be sure of who my suspect is, I'll never make that mistake again."

As he looked behind him, Sergeant O'Neil had left the control room where the loudspeakers and was walking toward Tim Field.

"You sure are right you won't make that mistake again. You are under arrest for 3rd degree murder. It's really a shame Field. I thought you'd make a great cop. Come to find out, you're a killer."

Handcuffs grated against his wrists, and Tim Field was led away.

Now, what you're thinking right now is most likely verbatim what was going through Tim's mind. Tim had been raised by parents who stayed away from thinking about violence and guns and the ways of the world as they pertain to crime. They had no idea that a law had been enacted which stated that those people who acted upon a stage where people were symbolized by cardboard cutouts were responsible to treat those symbols with the same austerity and respect as would be given to real people. And if they were not fictitious, this law would be irrelevant. However, since they are my own creations, they are as valid as butter and beer.

But why do I choose to take you through this thought experiment of a world where cops are punished for murder when they shoot at cardboard? And, if it's not clear, maybe I should answer how this is is related to the Eucharist.

Let me take you to the words of Paul the Apostle, and let's see if I can shed some light on this.

Paul writes in the 11th Chapter of 1 Corinthians:

23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

What strikes me about the way that my non-Catholic Christian friends look at the Eucharist is that they would produce a world where Tim Field's arrest made sense. The Eucharist would be a mere symbol of an important reality, and while only representing the truth of Our Lord's Body and Blood, we who enter into the drama of this sacrament would be guilty if we failed to live up to the majesty of the call of the occasion. Like Tim, if we missed the mark for what the right use of the symbols were, we would fall short to the point of being guilty of the reality represented by the symbols. The cardboard wasn't actually an old man, but in the logical scheme presented before us, shooting the cardboard would be like shooting an old man. Likewise, if the bread and wine are merely bread and wine, Paul would call us guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord for abuse of bread and wine.

Which leads me to say this, in conclusion--the punishment does not fit the crime.


foldreformer said...

I’m probably going to argue against your analogy, but here it goes:

Like Tim Field, I train, I train a lot. It’s my duty and my job to help train the new guys as well as continually train our ERT Team (Emergency Response Team). When we practice exercise scenarios, we do so with the utmost seriousness. Every week I come home bruised up from putting myself in a “red man” suit and acting as a criminal. I allow my team to twist, pull, hit, and tackle in ways that men should not be subjected. As the saying goes “we train hard to play hard.” I expect, no demand, from my partners that they treat every practice scenario just like it was the real deal. If a new guy or anyone on the team for that matter is snickering, joking around, or talking about other life issues than the issue at hand, I’m in their face. If the behavior continues then they’re off the team, or for someone brand new he is marked Unsatisfactory on his eval, his training is extended, and he can be fired. Or, if a person can’t apply the methods taught while in training he would have to step down from the team.

In the case of Tim Fields, well, let’s be honest, it’s ludicrous to say that he would be fired for shooting cardboard (I understand you’re making a point). However, that’s not to say there would not be serious consequences for failing to pass his scenarios. In real life, if he failed the testing scenarios there would be judgment upon him, namely failing the academy.

I suppose my overall point is that in the real world of training scenarios, a person might not face prison time for shooting cardboard, but there are stiff penalties (judgments) for failing to execute his training properly. Why? Because of the seriousness of the situation, every time we train we train as if it were a matter of life and death.

The strange thing to me is that given your scenario, the Catholic view would be that every training scenario would have to entail, not cardboard cutouts but real people walking around for Tim Field to shoot.

contrarian 78 said...

Thanks for your comment. I had you and your line of work in mind as I sat typing out my thoughts, and I'm sure you knew that.

I have two thoughts here--yes, you are right that in real life there still are consequences, and training can not be taken lightly.

But is that the scenario Paul envisions when he describes those who fail to appreciate the Eucharist? That they are not treating the ceremony or the symbolism with proper respect? Not at all. Far more than not training properly, he holds them guilty of not holding the body and blood of Our Lord with respect.

Yes, you view the training seminars as needing to be done with the utmost seriousness, but fundamentally it's training, not the reality.

That leads to my second thought. If you take this imaginary world as analogous to Catholicism and think that that leads to a training scenario where you have to shoot at real people, you're applying the Protestant framework of the sacrament to the Catholic one.

Instead of viewing Communion as some kind of training exercise, we view it as partaking of the reality of Christ's body and blood, His soul and divinity.

Going to Mass is bringing the reality of heaven, where we are united to Christ, down to earth.

Only within a Protestant framework does the comparison of Communion to a mere training session make sense. But, as I said, Paul's words show that he takes the matter more seriously, calling those who do not live up to the occasion guilty of failing to understand our Lord, not the mere reminder of our Lord.

If He is truly present in the sacrament, the punishment spoken of in I Corinthians does fit the crime.

But if it's a rehearsal for His real presence, I would argue that it does not.