Wednesday, August 26, 2020

House Arrest

On my office file cabinet I have a magnet that scolds, “You’ve been bad. Go to your office!”

Of course this echoes what some of us heard as children, “You’ve been bad. Go to your room!” The isolation, the confinement, and the implied restrictions served as punishment to dissuade us from bad behavior. In more recent times it was called a “time out.”

In the olden days, when I was growing up, it meant no television, no telephone, no play, and for some, no dinner—this in the days when there was only one TV and one phone in the house, and no devices on which to play games or watch something in your room. Do we mistake our present isolation as a kind of punishment?

This is how those most privileged among us might experience the “stay-at-home” confinement of our worldwide pandemic. A slight inconvenience, but a nagging reminder of the dangers of our footloose-and-fancy-free days when we could do just about anything we wanted.

It reminds me of when I was once shushed by a favored aunt as a little boy. Me, trying to be the best-little-boy-in-the-world, an offender?! How could this be?

Now, don’t get me wrong. As an introvert, I appreciate time alone or time with a few. As a spiritual person, I know I am not alone, but surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses before God. As a reader, I enjoy hearing from all kinds of people. As a writer, I am gratified to have people read my stuff. Even this post I feared would sound like whining!

But I’m writing this because I know I am not the only one who feels discombobulated by the necessity of social distancing, limited physical contact, and fearful interactions. When I go to buy our groceries, I feel as if I’m on a risky venture. When I don my mask and sometimes gloves, I feel like I’m getting ready for a walk in space.  

I couldn’t bring myself to watch the prison drama series, Orange Is the New Black, because I find the idea of imprisonment depressing. The earlier prison drama series, Oz, also didn’t appeal to me, despite its erotic male content.

Long ago I had a dream in which I found myself in prison, cut off from all those people I cared about and cared about me. I thought, well, with so much time on my hands, I could get a lot of reading done! But, in the dream, I was too depressed to pick up a book.

Maybe all this reminds me of my years in the closet as a gay youth. Maybe it’s reminiscent of the limitations of an early adolescent political conservatism that was transformed by education and compassion and maturity. Undoubtedly it smacks of the confining Christian fundamentalism that held me down and held me back from truly enjoying the world and even enjoying myself until I was in college.

The apostle Paul had his own fundamentalism to overcome, one that prompted his initial persecution of liberalizing Christians. And he purportedly produced one of his finest epistles while under house arrest in Rome: Ephesians. Concerned with the partisanship within the early church, he eloquently argued that now, in following Jesus, Christians were one, overcoming any “dividing wall of hostility.” 

I pray those who believe in a fair and just representative democracy may share such a vision of unity in our present state of house arrest.

Related posts:

I will be leading a virtual, at-home retreat open to the public for Columbia Seminary’s Spiritual Formation Program with Zoom sessions September 17-19, 2020 entitled 
You are invited! The site’s dates include “reading weeks” beginning August 31st in which you are invited to comment on the texts for the retreat and a final day “Sabbath” for rest and reflection on September 20th.

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Copyright © 2020 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.


  1. Chris--I think this is a very thoughtful reflection of our current situation in this pandemic. Stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, quarantining can be so emotionally draining, even for introverts who like to read. I like how you connected it to your time as a "closeted gay" and to political conservatism and fundamentalist Christianity. I always enjoy reading the posts on your blog.