Groups and Love

Posted: 2012/11/19 in Thinking Tools

They’re at it again.

The Palestinians in Gaza did something. The Israelis did something back. A couple of weeks ago, we Americans were arguing about what the government ought to do, and what the corporations have done.

Legally, these words make sense. Governments enter into treaties, and corporations have free speech rights.

But we start down a slippery slope when we say things like, “The Israelis are oppressors” or “The Palestinians are terrorists.” Read the rest of this entry »


How to keep your heart intact

Posted: 2012/09/26 in Quotations

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.

~ C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

My church has joined in a year-long discipline to read the Bible daily, using a reading plan called “Eat This Book” which goes all the way from Genesis through Revelation, with a daily Psalm.

The summer of 2012 is a time of heat and drought in my region. Coincidentally, the reading plan has us passing through the prophets, who preached and wrote to the Hebrew people during their Time of Icarus—the destruction of their already-divided nation at the hands of first the Assyrian and then the Babylonian empire. The prophets heard from God why these things were happening and warned the people to repent, literally, to turn around, before it was too late.

I haven’t heard directly from God like a prophet, but I find my own thoughts and prayers influenced by them.

Sovereign Lord, may Your purposes for the present drought be accomplished, both in the hearts of those who are children of your Kingdom, and those who are not. May my heart, and our hearts, be soft and not hard, that we may learn what You have been trying to teach us, and return, or turn, to Your path of love with a deeper and clearer understanding of what that is all about. May Your purposes be accomplished quickly and fully, and may You in Your mercy, which is new every morning, soon relent and send rain. I ask this in Jesus’ name, meaning that this is how I believe He would have me pray. Amen (so be it).

(I originally posted this to Facebook on Memorial Day in 2012. An atheist friend and a religious right friend both “liked” it. I thought it worth posting here too, because I’m in the middle of writing another post called “A Time to Hate,” about the place of violence relative to the path of love, and they seem to be related.)

Some of America’s wars are more noble than others. But that’s about us and the leaders we select, and not about those who served.

Today is set aside for those who put on the uniform and picked up a weapon because we asked or told them to. Some of them never came home. Some of them came home broken in body and spirit. They all deserve our respect and gratitude.

We owe them, not just today, but every day of the year. Befriend a veteran. Come alongside a grieving or struggling family. Cut them some slack. Listen to them. Learn from them.

And long for the day when, “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

I saw this quote today, and it lodged somewhere down deep.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.
—Upton Sinclair

I think it was meant as a put-down. “Of course he doesn’t want to understand. He’s doing well at others’ expense, and he wouldn’t be able to stand himself if he knew the truth.” There’s a lot of that going on in my country right now. Other people don’t agree with me about matters of grave importance. Why? Simple. Either

  • they’re stupid, or
  • they’re evil.

But the quote made me think, “Maybe they’re just scared.” Read the rest of this entry »

Charity and Love

Posted: 2012/03/01 in Stories, Words
Tags: ,

A friend of mine posted on Facebook—that great virtual town square—an article called The Lessons of Charity.

His wife gave $5 to a homeless man in Chicago. He responded, “What if he just uses it to buy drugs or alcohol?” Her response was, “That’s his choice. Once I chose to give him the money, it’s his. What gives you the right to decide for him?”

Phil Scarr’s thesis is that the spreading policy of drug testing welfare recipients is driven by a sense of moral superiority, and a desire by the rich, specifically the Republican Party, to further subjugate and humiliate the poor.

Well, I’ve been down this road too, and as I’m fond of saying, “It’s not that simple.” Now, I tend to avoid this road altogether. It makes me uncomfortable. According to Global Rich List, compared to the rest of the world, “I Am The 1%.” But I have given to poor people. I’ve given money, paid for a motel room (no place I would want to stay), bought bags of groceries, and filled up gasoline tanks. I’ve also stopped giving to one individual when I discovered that he was lying to my face. I’m now more likely to give through my church or food banks or the Salvation Army than directly. People who serve the poor full time through these agencies have all told me not to give money directly to the poor person on the street corner because they probably aren’t the neediest person and they very well might use it to buy alcohol or drugs.

I can’t speak for anyone else’s motives, but when I contemplate my own acts of charity, I feel a mixture of joy and shame. Until I read Mr. Scarr’s article, “moral superiority” never once crossed my mind. Now that I’ve read Mr. Scarr’s article, it crosses my mind, but without even slowing down. What does cross my mind when I give, and what I aim for, is love, “Saying and doing what’s truly in the other’s best interest, whether they deserve it or not, and with no strings attached.”

1 Corinthians 13, the Bible’s “love chapter” trotted out of context at many a wedding, drives a sharp wedge deeply between charity and love. The third verse says,

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.

I bucked the trend and didn’t “like” the article on Facebook because Mr. Scarr does the very thing he condemns; he judges the motives of people (including me) who judge the intent of recipients of charity. The reason that I don’t want to make it possible for homeless people to obtain drugs and alcohol based on my act of charity has nothing to do with a sense of moral superiority. It’s because I don’t think that’s what loving them looks like. The reason I stopped helping the man who was trying to con me is the same reason I disciplined my daughter when she was trying to con me. It’s not in their best interest to reward that behavior. I explained my decision to both of them—to the man once, and to my daughter many times.

As with so many other things, so it is with charity. Ground yourself in love, and you just might get it right. Without love, your charity might do more harm than good.

The question was tossed out on a forum and here’s how I answered, and what I hope I’ll do. (The two are not necessarily the same).

Walk the path of love until I either die or get killed. Pretty much the same as I’m trying to do now, only on a greatly reduced time scale.