Lin Weeks Wilder

Lin Weeks Wilder

atheism, Christianity, faith, politics, Prayer

Love: How Extrordinarily Wrong We Are About It

Love: How Extraordinarily Wrong We Are About It
Valentines Day love heart in winter in the snow from above. Single red heart on the snow, love concept

Love: how extrordinarily wrong we are about it.

A few years ago, I wrote a piece that recalled an event not long after I converted to Catholic Christianity from decades of mostly atheism. Alone in the church after Mass I sat transfixed by the crucifix. Mesmerized by this ginormous quintessence of agony stretched over the altar of the couple of hundred-year-old church in Putnam, Connecticut. I thought, “Love, I know nothing about it.

Rereading that piece, I was struck by my mention of On Being’s broadcaster Krista Tippet’s long immersion into living on the “wrong side of love”: She was looking to be loved. Tippet was suffering, she says, from “the poverty of our imagination.” And explains her transformation in a book called Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and the Art of Living.

Cultural influencers, politicians and many of our young people are working diligently to remedy that poverty of imagination and get on the right side of love. Tolerance, diversity, inclusion are increasingly desperate maxims to right the wrongs. Everywhere we look, we see them: critical race theory, legitimizing aberrant sexuality, open borders are just a few of the wildly contentious fixes to an endless list of problems. Our well-intentioned human hearts are in overdrive as we scramble to make total equality a reality. But are these remedies moving us to the ‘right side’ of love?

Tippet’s remark about the dangers of isolation warrants a repeat. Speaking of the nuclear family, she calls it “an unprecedented demand on a couple to be everything to each other, the family a tiny echo chamber: history one layer deep. None of the great virtues … is meant to be carried in isolation.


We know the sole antidote to living the great virtues in isolation is the mystical Body of Christ: living in the Divine Will.

Our plunge into “feelings”

has taken time to become our cultural norm and social media rant.

Back in the nineties–can it really be three decades ago?–an astounding book fell into my lap. You know that feeling; the Aha! of it: this is truth!

My sister’s Episcopalian Pastor, Father Rob Price, used Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix as the substance for a Sunday sermon. After hearing about the book, I ordered and devoured its content. So entranced with the wisdom of Edwin Friedman, I bought at least ten copies and sent it to friends begging them to read it.

Even the title grabs us, doesn’t it? A Failure of Nerve: we’re so blasted terrified of naming what’s right before us, like laziness. Or pure wickedness.

In the forward to his book, Friedman credits author Gilbert Murray’s book on Greek Religion with his title. In a chapter called “Failure of Nerve,” Murray contends that the rapid rise and even more rapid decline of the Greek civilization was due to a failure of nerve required to replace one set of superstitions myths- the Greek gods dethroned by Socrates- with a new set of beliefs. In prose reminiscent of the Gospel, Murray states that “…there is always an infinite supply of superstitions available to the mind that desires such things, that is the mind that has not trained itself to the hard discipline of reasonableness and honesty, will, as soon as those devils are cast out, proceed to fill itself with their relations.”

Friedman does not aim to comfort but to challenge. The thrust of this book, with its focus on emotional maturity, self-control, personal responsibility is like a drink of cool water on a very hot day to the psyche. Friedman uses ‘cultural camouflage ‘ to describe what I know of as an era where conciliation, obsequiousness and risk avoidance  are rewarded. And where irresponsible even disruptive behavior is tolerated, even encouraged.

Cultural camouflage says it much more efficiently.

How do we define love then?

We orthodox Christians? St. Thomas Aquinas’ classic definition is to “will the good of the other as other.” I’ll wager all of us agree with that definition. Whether we’re on the side of abortion as a right, or abortion as intrinsic evil. Both sides believe we’re willing the good of the other. There’s the rub. Love: How Extrordinarily Wrong We Are About It

This past Friday’s Gospel reading in the Christian liturgy takes up the question. “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment?” It’s an odd question coming from a pious Jew, isn’t it? Jesus is being asked the question in an attempt to trip him up, for each of the commandments is equally weighty.

But how does He answer?

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law, tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Only one thing is meant by the good of the other: truth and the salvation of souls.

Bishop Barron explains

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus says that the whole law depends on love of God and love of neighbor. I want to reflect on the love of neighbor. For many, to love is equivalent to being a nice guy, or in Flannery O’Connor’s formulation, “having a heart of gold.”

Now, there is nothing in the world wrong with being a nice guy or having a heart of gold, but you can easily achieve both of those states and not have love.    For love is not really about fitting in and being friendly; it is willing the good of the other as other. It is wanting what is best for another person and then doing something about it.

And this means that real love can be as tough as nails or as disagreeable as a slap in the face—indeed, in Dostoevsky’s phrase, something “harsh and dreadful.”   Compelling an addict to get help or questioning a dysfunctional style of life both involve the willing of the good of the other—and neither will cause people to characterize you as a nice guy.

This is why the God who is love is not a kindly Santa Claus who magically makes troubles disappear.
Daily Gospel Reflection 8/25./2023

From Father Boniface Hicks, April 2023

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love, telling the truth, what is love

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Lin Wilder

Lin Wilder has a doctorate in Public Health from the UT Houston with a background in cardiopulmonary physiology, medical ethics, and hospital administration. 

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