Thursday, October 30, 2014

'Hate Sin, Love Sinner' not about love

There so much NOT in the Bible. But that doesn't stop us from using certain phrases as if they were.   

I'm flushing another one: "love the sinner, hate the sin." Although I've seen this saying referenced by a good many biblical texts, not one can be cited with any proximity to those words. 

Where does it come from? My best answer is St. Augustine: "With love for mankind and hatred of sins." But the words "hate the sin, etc" is also attributed to Ghandi.  St. Augustine's words are more about loving humanity but hating our brokenness.

Our saying is more akin to hating what we don't like in others, even if we use "love" to make it sound better. But I don't remember this actually working to better any relationship in my life.

When it comes to using this apocryphal saying as a guide for love, we get to judge where our love stops. We love because God first loved us, and that love includes all of us if it is for any part of us. As far as we know, Jesus, never said to love a sinner but hate their sin. Nor did he ask us to decide for ourselves when to judge and when to love:
Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye. Matthew 7: 1-5
Is hating the sin while claiming to love a mental construct, a fantasy of our minds? Attempting it, we may realize how blind we really are. Another gimmick is trying to make God's limitless love more palatable. The love Jesus told us to exercise isn't about setting limits:
As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. John 15: 9-12  Italics added
How do you separate your love for a person from your judgement of the person? You divide and dissect them, extracting their behavior from themselves.You choose what you hate most in them and judge them for it, calling it "sin."  But "love" here is not the love that Jesus commands, nor the all encompassing, life-giving love the Father has for the Son, nor is it anything like Christ's love for us. 

As often is the case, when we reduce God's love to something we can better handle, it becomes something else. But don't call it love.     

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Walking on Egg Shells & Boyhood

Recovery is possible 
A review of Boyhood only touches on what you could call the film's elephant in the room, that of growing up in an alcoholic  or dysfunctional family.

The accurate translation of walking on egg shells, however, is really "don't trust, don't talk, don't feel." If you are an adult child of an alcoholic or a dysfunctional family, find out more about our recovery in the Big Red Book.

Walking on eggshells means that hyper-vigilance becomes our default. We do not say or think or feel anything that we have learned the drunk cannot handle, which is everything. It does no good to "stand up for each other," as the review queries.

The healthiest possibility is to learn to care for ourselves.
Boyhood was truthful in depicting the violence and trauma of trying to live safely or "survive" with the insanity of family alcoholism or dysfunction. But survival is a complete misnomer- in reality, it means sacrificing- not nurturing- our true selves. By telling ourselves the lie that we can assuage or fix the alcoholic, we create a false self, one that is empty at its core, because it's all about people pleasing, and not being present to our true self.   

Yes, the movie well- portrayed family roles in an alcoholic and para-alcoholic family. The non-drinking parent continued to be needed through workaholism and taking care of the alcoholics she chose to marry.

The last scene showed the once young boy, now young man in college, numbing out chemically- a very predictable course for an adult child. I only wish there was a hint of hope, that recovery is possible at any age.  And that applies to the review as well.     

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Judging the Judge

With a superb cast, a tout story line and an amazing ending, The Judge delivers a wisely written drama about family dysfunction and healing, and of choosing a spiritual legacy.

Hank Palmer, played by Robert Downey, Jr., is a crafty defense attorney. Although successful professionally with a pedigree from Northwestern Law, he is estranged from his wife. In fact, most of Hank's relationships have suffered for years: he is mostly absent from his parents' and brothers' lives.   

My favorite for 2014!
Hank's father, Joseph Palmer, a small town Indiana judge, is played brilliantly by Robert Duvall. Much of the movie is about Duvall's character, why he is the way he is, which indirectly, tells us alot about Hank. It's only during the visit home for his mother's funeral that we have a sense of movement in the relationship between Hank and the Judge.

The Judge becomes a suspect in a hit and run fatality. But while Hank is at home and available, the Judge decides that a local lawyer will defend him. Hank insists on defending his father, and so the dance between these two gets interesting.

There are many twists and turns in this father-son, attorney-client relationship, to see how the principled judge and less scrupulous son configure the defense of the case. There are other variables thrown  into the story: the Judge's drinking again after many years of sobriety- and his quickly declining health.

I'm reminded of something Robert Capon once wrote that has seared into my consciousness: everyone of us loves their children- and all of us will do something to screw them up. It seems the movie does not miss this basic paradox in father-son relationships.

The most anecdotal, formulaic aspect was the treatment of Hank's romantic life: for the trouble in his marriage, there's the quick fix of an old crush and an old romance- either, waiting to save him. No, it isn't the law of the universe- nor of real life- that there is, or will be, anyone waiting to save us from the pain of a lost or broken love. That happens only in the minds of writers or relationship addicts.
Finally, The Judge crystallizes key questions about a good life and death: What do we want to remembered for? What quality of relationships are we  leaving behind? How will we close our accounts? How do we wish to die? How then shall we live- here, now?  

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Peaceful Night and a Perfect End

May the Lord grant you a peaceful night
Compline reminds us to face our fears, give thanks for protection from harm, and pray for a restful sleep and good dreams, releasing our trust to the Almighty. Kenneth V. Peterson, Prayer as Night Falls.

My first experience of Compline was with a small group of clergy in a series of four retreat gatherings over two years. That experience  over 25 years ago created an appreciation for evening prayer that been renewed and deepened in the reading of Kenneth V. Peterson's excellent volume on experiencing compline entitled, Prayer as Night Falls (2013) 

This book is a well written weaving of Peterson's experience of singing in the St. Mark's Cathedral Compline Choir in Seattle since 1964. It includes the origins and development of the Office of Compline, from pre- St. Benedict to the present. The book is well referenced with notes and Appendices 1 and 2 provide the order of musical example for Compline. 

If you go to Peterson's website, you can find the churches that offer the service in the U.S. and Canada. In fact, I wrongly assumed that, as hard as it was to find a Vespers service in Houston, no Compline offering existed.

Beyond providing everything you would want to know about Compline's prayers and music, I find Peterson's themes of Compline to be nicely unfolded throughout the book: practicing vigilance, accepting mortality, the mystic path, beauty and seeking good, community and compassion, and finding lasting peace. Too, there is lovely poetry that Peterson uses to illustrate the spirituality of Compline, as well as the beautiful words to the hymns the St. Mark's choir uses. 

I loved exploring the Compline Psalms, and the book does provide a complete listing of all the Psalms that have been apart of Compline through the ages.     

The central virtue of Compline, Peterson, maintains, is faith and trust. In Compline, whether we experience it privately, in a small group such as a monastery, or in a church, we choose trust over fear and anxiety. No, the idea is not to get a measurable of "better sleep" over taking pills, etc.  But think of this: when Compline is used in monastic communities, it is the last word spoken or heard until daybreak. For most of us, we would have to replace our usual evening ritual with Compline and silence.

Oldies but Goodies