Friday, June 29, 2012

Forsaking

I am so sick and tired of the "real love is showing people their errors to bring them to truth" idea. I've been on the receiving end of that plenty of times: "I love you, I really do, which is why I'm telling you that you're wrong." And yet, my brain still agrees with it. I'm still mired in the logic that, for someone coming from a Christian worldview, the highest form of love to them is "speaking the truth in love" - trying to bring them back to the fold.

I recently read Sierra's excellent series on homophobia, and a paragraph in the last section bowled me over. It's something I want to believe so badly. It's something, V admits, that she's felt for awhile, but could never articulate to me. Sierra writes:

"Unconditional love does not mean loving someone while disapproving of their actions. It means forsaking the right to disapprove. You cannot love who I am and hate what I do. What I do shows you who I am. If you choose to love a figment of your imagination, some idea of who I might become, then you love only your own mind, and what you hate is me."


I love that. "Forsaking the right to disapprove." But always in my head is my father's voice, the pastor of my youth, explaining why the world is wrong. Explaining that the truest form of love is concern for someone's well-being, now and in the hereafter, and so we must take care of people even when they don't think they need it.

That last sentence, now that I write it, does reek of selfishness. But the underlying idea is still wedged in my head. According to my brain, my father is completely right to try to "correct" me. So is my cousin who sent me a facebook message. Clarification: I don't think their ideas are right, nor am I in any danger of listening too closely. But I think they are well within their rights to say they love me, and then follow it with what they do.

So you see why that paragraph I quoted above gives me such joy and such stress at the same time. I absolutely love that idea. Forsaking disapproval. But I can't accept it as true. Maybe it's the last holdout of my upbringing. Maybe it's my pessimistic nature. Maybe it's just the section of my brain that my father inhabits. I don't know.

9 comments:

  1. Yeah, we've definitely had this conversation before. I'm glad you wrote a post about it.

    I love Sierra's words for this. It's been an area that I've had a hard time articulating my thoughts about. But I think she says it really well. Particularly, "If you choose to love... some idea of who I might become." For me, I know my mom believes/prays that one day I'll turn away from "this."

    This quote just put into words what I've been trying to say and failing at for some time.

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    1. I love you. And I do understand better, cognitively if not yet in my gut.
      (Gratuitous use of the word gut.)
      (I was going to say "gutturally" and then I laughed.)

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  2. Here's what I wish Christians intent on "speaking the truth in love" would realize: they are speaking THEIR OPINION of what truth is. They are speaking from their imperfect knowledge of God, the universe, and everything. They are speaking from a modern American reading of an English text translated from several fragments of several Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts that were copied a million times over and were originally written to a world these people have never bothered to study beyond the Sunday school flannel boards.

    So it's just possible that this "truth" they're trying to speak isn't the truth at all. It's possible that I'm the one who is living by the truth and they're the ones who have yet to forsake old lies. But half the time I try to share my newfound truths with them, I'm met with the assumption that I'm the one who's been brainwashed by the lies of The World(TM) and must be led back to The Truth for my own good.

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    1. One of our dear gay friends apparently once told his mom, "I know I could be wrong, but I'm choosing [his partner]. You, though, refuse to even entertain the idea you could be wrong." It's so true. And I love the trademark. Their warped idea of the World should be.

      Clearly we need some better flannel boards! :)

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    2. Some of us have studied the Scriptures 'beyond the flannelgraph', that is, academically (for me, both in Christian and secular universities and as well as engaging with people of a variety of faiths in a number of international contexts) and are striving to be faithful to what we have learned through that socio-historical, linguistic, philosophical, theological, etc. study while at the same time doing our best to honor God and love our neighbors as ourselves, which still sometimes includes speaking truths in love... We are not all of one stripe, you see. I'm sorry you seem to have only encountered a less-willing-to-listen-and-meaningfully-engage type. It's frustrating.

      -Anna :)

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  3. I'm so glad you and V are taking part in this series so that I've got to "meet" you. (Don't worry, my own answers are coming up in another group so you'll know all about my experiences too!)
    Also, I just want to say that your cousin is So. Wrong. and what she's doing is not loving. I'm sorry they're being terrible to you. :(

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    1. It's been great reading through your writing (which you are phenomenal at!), and so much has sparked my own thoughts. I'm glad you're doing this series, as it gives me a legitimate excuse to jump in! :)
      And thank you. Though, I neglected to link the positive part of the story - check this out! http://findingsnooze.blogspot.com/2012/03/revenge.html

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  4. Hi "Lina and V"! Anna Rich here (I couldn't figure out how to not post anonymously). I have wanted to comment on this since I read it and just got distracted, sorry!

    I have been thinking for a long time what the best way to be the expression of the love of Christ is,* especially when I disagree with the people I am out to love. In some senses, I do mean to ask about homosexuals in a Christian context--how do I let the Holy Spirit do its thing and welcome and love people, regardless of how they live their lives? In another vein, how do I address people I care about who are repeatedly sinning--harming themselves and their relationships?
    In some senses, we do express who we are through what we do, but in other senses, doer and deed are not one and so it is perfectly possible to love the real doer but not their deeds, be the deed a "one off" (as the Brits say) or regularly occurring. And if I believe someone is involved in something counter to their well-being in a physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, developmental, etc. sense, I should love them enough to be willing to sacrifice myself in their eyes to say something. I am not responsible for their response, but I am responsible to ask questions aimed at helping them discover the truth for themselves (in an ideal world). I think that's one of the problems--people trying to control the response of others. It's an infringement upon the other person to do so, but how do we go on in loving relationship when there is absolute disagreement on something very important to both parties?

    How do we express (and I'm not talking about your marriage or homosexuality, your post just spoke this question I've been having across the board--I've got a *lot* of other disagreements on my mind at the moment) disagreement without coming off as "judgmental"? What is the best way to go to someone and say, "I love you which is why I couldn't keep my mouth shut about this behavior/decision/attitude/whatever. I don't think it is healthy for you because of x, y, z. But I get that you're an adult with the right to make your own decisions. I felt the need to speak my peace, now let's talk about how I can love you best whilst disagreeing with the goodness of what you're engaged in."? How can we talk to each other about these things without lines of communication shutting down in that particular area?

    Siiigh... Girls, I get so frustrated with people who judge more than they love, but I also understand people who want to preserve certain standards or integrities... Which is why I so appreciate your open, honest, kind attitude. Especially with issues surrounding homosexuality and the Church, I count you two as a "safe place" for thinking through these questions--your testimonies of experience and conceptions of God and just how you think and feel are invaluable and I am grateful :)

    I hope this is coherent... It's nearly 2am in the UK. Oops! Have a great rest of your weekend and thanks for humoring such a looooong comment :)

    *That is a pregnant statement per se... I guess I mean when I seek to actively love someone as Jesus does as a way to introduce them to the love I've experienced and to therefore introduce them, by my actions of grace and acceptance and my words, to a relationship with God in Christ... I spend too much time writing essays seeing as I am using a 'content footnote' in a blog comment ;P

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    1. Honestly, in my mind, the best way to go to someone and say what you said is, well, to do just that. My sister-in-law opened my eyes to the fact that people can claim Christ and still seem to love me. She was the first person who said, "I disagree with a lot of my close friends on theological issues. I know God is bigger than us, and the fact that I don't agree with your life doesn't mean you aren't my sister." And since then, she's held to it. She asked about our anniversary trip.

      That place is where I've always understood the "good Christians" to land. It's why Sierra's post threw me, and made me do a lot of thinking. Looking back at her original paragraph which I quoted, I think I can parse it out a little more.

      - Unconditional love does not mean loving someone while disapproving of their actions. It means forsaking the right to disapprove.
      I'm not convinced yet of the truth of this. I think maybe the right to disapprove remains, but once that right has been claimed, it needs to then be tabled. Disagreement is okay; letting it influence the relationship isn't. But of course, I don't know how I'll think about all this in another hour or day or week!

      - You cannot love who I am and hate what I do. What I do shows you who I am.
      Here, I would argue that Sierra is mostly consistent with my thinking. Love does not have room for hate. It has room for disagreement, for conversation, but not hate.

      - If you choose to love a figment of your imagination, some idea of who I might become, then you love only your own mind, and what you hate is me.
      Yes. Loving an imagined idea or person is wrong. But I don't know that that is what is always going on.

      I've talked myself into a confused corner. But yay discussion!

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