1000 Grow Mercy dispatches


When a blog reaches 1000 posts, it’s time to take stock.

Grow Mercy was, is, an experiment. In a way it began through the power of a sentence, in the context of a story. This story: Jesus is eating and drinking with tax-collectors and sinners, social equals, apparently. He’s spotted by some Pharisees—keepers of the social code and religious purity—and is, through his disciples, indignantly questioned about the company he keeps. Jesus responds by noting that his calling is essentially to mix with the course, the common, the unwashed, you know…us. Then he pauses, considers his heresy hunters, remembers an old text from Hosea, and offers this pathway:

Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.

There’s much kindness here. Mercy allows our ways of imperfection, our doubts, our cowardice, our envy, our resentment, our petty desires, space to surface. Mercy, given and received, defers the dropping of our inner gavel, granting space for the grace of accepting our acceptance.

Sacrifice, on the other hand, drives everything deep underground. Now the kind of sacrifice meant here is not, for example, what parents do for their children, in fact the many daily sacrifices we make for others are small mercies. What’s meant here has to do with the “sacrificial mechanism.” That is, the expulsion of some surrogate victim for the generation or preservation of group identity, security, and purity. It’s the arch contrivance of “redemptive violence” driven by fear, piety and grasping desire; one that’s obvious from the outside, and disappears from sight when we’re personally involved. Of course it’s the mechanism that gets Jesus lynched, and in the process is exposed par excellence; but it’s also the mechanism beneath today’s news—from the street to the nation state.

Well, I won’t go on with what I’ve already banged on about for hundreds of posts. Except to say I’m still riveted by this mercy-over-sacrifice directive, and I suppose, by now, it’s become something I’ve hung my life on. It took the anthropologist Rene Girard and the priest-on-the-margins, James Alison, et al, to help me leave home (a painful leaving in many ways) and make the pilgrimage. As it is, I’m stilling going and learning, still barely an apprentice.

Grow Mercy has been my way of sending back dispatches from the trail. There have been 1000 such dispatches now, some not worth the stamp, some got lost, some wondered far from the road, and some turned out fairly fine.

So to the party in the phone booth, thank you! for occasionally dipping into Grow Mercy.

And if there’s been some delight along the way, perhaps, as well, some challenge, some vertigo, some dancing on the edge, some stretching toward mercy for ourselves, for others, for our earth, some reclining into that Love that is massively outside of ourselves, well then, amen!



  1. Congratulations!! I remember when you started this project. You were wondering what this was going to look like and how it would form. I am happy with how this has worked out for you. Let’s celebrate!

  2. I am looking forward to the next 1000. My life is always enriched when I read your posts, even if don’t get a chance to comment. Congrats on this milestone.

  3. I held my breath all the way to the end, waiting for the other shoe to …
    So, thanks for stringing me along, and here’s to your offering us all more bread for the journey.
    Blessings on ya, Stephen.

  4. Little bro, thanks so much for the sharing. Your path is all the more compelling for being unconventional. “Prophetic” is a word that comes to mind.

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