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.