Thursday, October 16, 2008

All I hear is clanging cymbals

I am not sure whether to publish this post, which I've been editing on and off for a few days, but I guess if I hit the button it'll happen and you can take from it what you will. I am not the best person to be writing this, and I want to emphasize first of all that it is not directed toward anyone who does not identify themselves as Christian (not that the topic of this post, love, is exclusive to Christians, of course, but you will have your own way of talking about love if you are not and I will leave that to you), and that of course even if you do I have no real spiritual authority you need recognize. I am a lazy Catholic with God only knows how many beams in my own eye. But I have spent years of academic and extracurricular thought on what the Catholic part means, so in a way this is what I do. It's also one of the things I started blogging about in the first place, although this has become much more of a mommy blog lately and I'm sure most of my readers find Auletta much more compelling than my attempts at theologizing. Anyway.

* * *


I said in an earlier post that people who hate Sarah Palin are entitled to their hatred. I was wrong. If you're Christian, you're not. This is between you and God, of course, but I'm pretty sure you're not. Same if you hate Obama, or Biden (although personally I find both of them likable even when I disagree with them--so maybe this just comes easier to me, at least this election year when I think all the major candidates are quite personable, and I should not be so judgmental)--you are not entitled to that. You are not entitled to defame them, or to presume you know things about them that you don't in order to score rhetorical points, or to insult them, or to do any of the above to their supporters. Even when they do it to you.

* * *

This gets at something I've been thinking about for a while, which is the weird divide between the religious right and the religious left. I have one foot in each world and sometimes I wonder if there's much else they have in common, besides a name and a book and others like me. I have very conservative Christian friends and very liberal Christian friends, and it seems to me there is strikingly little intercourse between those two groups in real life. (I have more affinity with conservative Christians, I suppose, having come from that background, but over the past several years I've met lots of more liberal Christians, all very good and kind and sincere people, and my own views have changed, for various reasons but of course not least because of the people I've met.) As a result I often feel like I have to downplay my true beliefs, which are somewhere in between. Whatever, that's not a tragedy compared to the wider problem, which is that the church (big C or little c, however you want to talk about it) is supposed to be one body.

If you are of an age, late 20s or early 30s, you probably go to a lot of weddings. And at most of those weddings--church weddings, at least--you probably hear 1 Corinthians 13 as one of the readings (Justin and I were an exception; we selected Romans 12, which is equally apt). Read in context, of course, this passage is not about spouses' love for one another--after all, loving one's spouse is easy about 95% of the time, although the other 5% can be a real doozy--but about love within the church, without which all other gifts, all the other functions of the body of Christ, are meaningless. This is hard. And it's hard when right-wing evangelicals think they have nothing in common with gay pacifist Episcopalians, or liberal Catholics think they have nothing in common with Bible-thumping homophobic fetus-loving fundamentalists. Not to mention, when liberal Catholics think they have nothing in common with conservative Catholics, or vice versa, even when they share the same pews. But actually, we have the most important thing in common, and that thing--that Person--spent most of his time on earth talking about love, and inspired the first generation of his followers to talk about love, which sounds like a terribly difficult thing the way it's described, not at all fuzzy or romantic or easy, and not at all optional.

I will leave the last word to Paul. Remember that this is how you're supposed to love the person you least want to love. And you cannot implement social justice or save the babies if you cannot love your fellow Christian like this--no matter how little you think that person deserves the name; that is not up to you. And I, the worst of sinners, will remember as well.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.


bluewords said...

I love this post!!! I have to admit, I love your pics of Auletta, but this was such a great post. I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on religion from time to time.

Not a Catholic here, but I do agree that there's a divide between liberal/conservative Christians, especially when either group claims they have more of the truth than the other. (It's funny, my husband says the definition of "liberal" is "open-minded" - but I find a lot of liberals very narrow-minded about the truth, actually.)

bluewords said...

oops, that made no sense. i meant, a lot of liberals can be very narrow-minded about their opinions. gah. i'm not very articulate today.

Juliet said...

It actually made sense to me the first time. I don't know what that says about me...

But thank you! I have another sort of religious/political post brewing in my mind. I don't know how good it will be when it bubbles out.