Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Toughest Job

I wasn't going to go into too much detail over my Lenten discipline this year, but I'm going to break my own rule and tell on myself today.

One of my personal projects for the last couple of weeks has been to love a hater.

This person is a journalist. He is also a homophobe; he has an obsession with the issue of homosexuality that is out of all proportion to its importance as a topic of public discourse.

And this is too bad, because he's a good, intelligent writer, in the spirit of the old, Buckley-era National Review, which one would have to be to make me want to read a religious and political conservative on an ongoing basis. I read his blog and other writings, frankly, as a reality check to my progressive Weltanschauung.

But he feels compelled, every few days, to drop an H-bomb on his blog. It's usually some example of egregious, salacious gay or lesbian behavior, delivered with a tone of "See? See how they are?"

In the past I have called him out -- in a calm, reasoned way -- on his blog a couple of times. Others, even people sympathetic to his religous and political viewpoints, have also gently suggested to him that he has an unhealthy preoccupation with the issue of homosexuality To his credit, he didn't censor our posts. But I don't think he hears what we say.

So...this guy is my project for Lent. Not to change him; to change my reaction toward him. To try and understand him as something other than an enemy. To -- using the metaphors of his own religious tradition -- understand his behavior as an affliction, not a wilful transgression, and just another variant of the disease we all share as sinful human beings who have a hard time getting it right in our relationships with God and with one another.

What I'm finding is that it's fairly easy to reform one's thoughts regarding an entire group of people, because groups are largely abstractions. Individuals, not so much. It feels less like the happy-clappy Coke commercial about teaching the world to sing, and more like High Noon.

How do you love someone who, not knowing you, hates you? Who hates your partner and despises your relationship with one another? Who uses his position to promote scorn and revulsion toward you and other people like you? How do you give up the knee-jerk urge toward self-defensiveness and anger and "back at ya"?

How I'd love to retreat to a "safe" Lenten discipline like tinkering with my diet or throwing an extra prayer into the schedule.

But, for some reason, I feel called to live with my internal disquiet over this individual for the time being.


Songbird said...

Yes, you are doing something much more difficult. I hope you will share more when Lent is complete.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

Interesting, under the circumstances: I was worship assistant today and to the canned prayers in Seasons (whatever it is called) I added one that said, Lord, you commanded us to pray for our enemies. Teach us to remember that all people are your children.

Then this afternoon, talking to my son, he told how he was punched in the face by a ___ person. For no reason. So he goes on and on about how they are "all" like that. And, of course, I said, no, the ones who aren't in bars in the middle of the night because they are home with their family or they have to get up early to go to work, etc. aren't like that. Etc. He says, yeah, I know, but... Keep in mind that my family is mixed race here, so he isn't a white person. And last night I went to see Gran Torino which is about lots of things including racial prejudice.

We have to keep on trying to pray for those enemies if only because we are commanded to do so.

LutheranChik said...

Just to give you all a peek into what I'm talking this guy is opining about the slippery slope leading from stem-cell research into "harvesting" the organs of aborted fetuses...and he is somehow conflating that issue with gay marriage. So somehow Fellow Traveler and I are complicit in... dismembering dead babies? Really? But this is how he writes. Whether thumping on gay folks because we're ruining the world or wringing his hands over the perceived coming collapse of the world economy, he seems to be a very fearful person; I mean, literally afraid of life, every day. Which makes me think about the Scriptural text talking about having a spirit of boldness, not fear...and that coming from a faith community that probably had reason to be very afraid of members' physical safety.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

People with stupid logic can't be convinced, I'm convinced. There is somebody from out of state that writes a weekly letter to the editor in our local newspaper. He is anti-liberal. He often rails about stuff that he claims is so bad for our country, goes on and on, seems to contradict himself, and often is most down on stuff started by the Republicans when they were in office.

People respond with reasoned arguments in letters, he responds with another letter that blows off the arguments with non-sequesters.

This just isn't worth the energy and time. God will deal with these people with mercy anyway. Let's save our anger for a place where it can be turned into good works.

LutheranChik said...

And now this gentleman's theological/political compatriot has added a new connection -- Nazism! Yes; we've somehow done from dismembered babies to gay marriage to Nazis; the last rhetorical refuge of the poorly-equipped-to-debate. (I have to say, there is much to admire in these folks' particular religious tradition, but between the two of them they are diminishing my respect for that particular branch of the Christian family. Which I know isn't fair, and is just a reflection of their lack of respect for me...but it's my gut reaction -- "You and the horse you rode in on.")

Mary Beth said...

Good on you. I'll be praying supportively for you.