Sunday, January 28, 2007


It's Sunday. Which is to say, church with Mom this morning. I'm beginning not to mind being Mom's chauffeur. Our local Methodist minister Amy Beth had another great sermon. I talk a lot in poetics about the significance of context. This morning, Amy Beth spoke about the origins of the phrase "Turn the Other Cheek"--

First, get visual. If you're right-handed, and you're facing someone whose face you're gonna slap, you'd have to slap that person back-handed if you're going to slap that person's left cheek. For the slappee (so to speak), to "turn the other cheek" is to offer your right cheek to be slapped, which would make the slapper slap you open-handed. Got that?

Now, in ancient times -- as in when the Bible was written -- a backhanded slap was given to a servant, slave or child. An open-hand slap is what you gave an equal.

So, the phrase "Turn the Other Cheek" really means the slappee is insisting on being treated as an equal (and of course, the slappee can slap back). There was nothing intended by the phrase about the slappee allowing him-/her-/hirself to be walked on....which has become in recent times one implication of the phrase.

So the point of my reminding of the original context to the phrase "Turn the other cheek?" Respectful engagement. E.g, for the poem to be engaged with on the poem's terms and not, say, via paradigms on how that poem should have been written or behaved.

I am here to serve -- I hope you enjoyed this morning's Sermon.