Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a Roman Catholic priest in the Order of Saint Augustine who taught at the University of Wittenberg. All Saints’ Day (November 1) was the town’s annual Feast Day. Expecting a crowd at All Saints’ Church (known as the Castle Church) on October 31, 1517, Luther posted an invitation to debate 95 concerns about the church. This helped spark the Protestant Reformation.
The Reformation was a bitter religious struggle as new political institutions emerged. European immigrants to the American colonies were shaped by the Reformation. Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence compared our current social/religious/political conflicts to the Reformation. Old traditions are re-interpreted and re-formulated.
In this era of great change, I’m comforted by some traditions and disturbed by others. I miss some traditions that helped shape my identity. I’m liberated by the passing of some traditions that I now see as hurtful. Today is an appropriate time to affirm the best and let go of the worst. Life is a continual re-formation.
Unconditional love does not require me to agree with, like, or overlook what I see as wrong in our routine everyday world. A genuine expression of love is the unconditional tough love that undergirds a 12-step intervention, a filed complaint about child abuse, the confrontation of an unjust work situation, or a non-violent social protest.
For me, the two most memorable aspects of Jon Meacham’s His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope are the courage of Lewis in the face of certain violence and his ability to love the oppressors he steadfastly opposed. He could see through their virulent racism as a temporary, though potentially deadly, condition.
Tough love reminds me of John Rutland (1913-2002), who was tough as nails and gentle as a feather. (He didn’t like being referred to as “gentle.”) His opposition to segregation in Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s landed a burning cross in his yard, hate-filled anonymous phone calls to his house, and a place in Civil Rights history.
Last night, a friend asked me if I actually thought people could be persuaded to try to practice unconditional love. It’s a good question. The only person I can change is myself, and I need help with that!
I believe any serious attempt to practice unconditional love must flow out of a deep mutuality with other people (and all creation). Living into mutuality moves us beyond dualistic, exclusive thinking toward holistic, inclusive thinking.
Disagreements need not be rancorous. On any given issue, I may grasp some degree of truth, but I do not possess complete truth. I don’t have all the answers. In many areas of life, I struggle to ask appropriate questions.
Unconditional love is rooted in kinship, mutuality and magnanimity toward my neighbor. Unconditional love can only begin to become operative as I internalize the reality that everyone is my neighbor.
Unconditional love requires unconditional respect for others and for all creation. Native American spirituality understands this, as do the healthiest expressions of the world’s religions. This respect doesn’t depend on the quality of the other person’s life. It’s respect per se. It’s respect for life itself.
In some ways, we have progressed to be more inclusive, just and compassionate. In other ways, we have regressed to be more exclusive, prejudiced and alienated.
Unconditional love seeks healing, which includes standing for justice and standing with those who are treated unjustly. Unconditional love takes no joy in vigorously opposing unjust leaders or policies, but respectfully opposes wrongdoing and wrongdoers.
There is “a balm in Gilead” because troubles abound. In the “New Jerusalem,” the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations because troubles abound. Unconditional love sees our pain, trouble and injustice–and is steadfastly undeterred.
Not naively, unconditional love wisely sees new possibilities. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann said biblical prophets spoke words of hope in spite of the data.
Is unconditional, unlimited love humanly possible? Can we really love someone who has committed unspeakable evil? As we deal with the routine issues of daily life, can we love without imposing conditions upon others?
To embrace the goal of unconditional love requires me to live with deep respect for other persons (or groups). This means overcoming any prejudice, resentment or grudge about others’ (real or perceived) wrongdoing.
If I’m going to attempt to practice unconditional love toward another person or group, I must get beyond dualistic thinking–where I see myself (or my group) as inherently right and the other person (or group) as inherently wrong.
The practice of unconditional love does not require us to agree with or like someone, or to overlook what we see as wrongs that have been committed. In fact, true love may require us to disagree with, or confront, another person or group.
In this week’s remaining posts, I’ll offer some reflections on the last three paragraphs.
My friend Joe is living into a vision that has grasped him for many decades, a vision of radical, unconditional love. He’s inviting others to be grasped by this vision that transcends all religions and philosophies. Joe says, “Love is the universal language.”
As others join him, the vision becomes re-shaped, expanded, deepened, more inclusive. As Joe began to share this vision with others, he envisioned “grace teams” that would seek to live into the spirit of undeserved love or unmerited favor.
A person may have difficulty with the word grace if it is part of an invitation to convert to Christianity. So, Joe has moved the focus from grace to love. Grace is a Christian tributary flowing into the main channel of a universal river called love.
In light of recent posts, I’m obliged to say that I love Donald Trump enough to tell him, respectfully, where we disagree. Political or ideological disagreements are not barriers to genuine love. When disagreements aren’t tolerated, expediency is present, not love.
In Fiddler on the Roof, Leibesh asks the rabbi if there’s an appropriate blessing for the Tsar (via YouTube)
State by state, Donald Trump’s well-orchestrated claims of widespread 2020 voter fraud have been investigated and shown to be baseless. This week, we will begin to learn more about Trump’s January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington that delivered on his promise that it would be “wild.”
Congressman Bennie Thompson’s committee is gathering subpoenaed documents and insider testimony to shed light on events leading up to the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Some Republican leaders immediately denounced Trump’s January 6 actions (and inaction). When they quickly tried to defend the president or change the subject, I wondered, “What do they fear?” Maybe we’ll gain insight into that bizarre reversal.
Yesterday, as I thought about the “Stop the Steal” ploy and the committee’s hearings, the phrase “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) stayed in my mind. I believe one aspect of “perfect love” is to shine light on our darker moments. It “casts out” fear.
It’s too early to call this the beginning of post-ideological America, but I’m hopeful (for the first time in quite awhile) that perhaps the tide is turning against ideological extremism, toward a more moderate, pragmatic, common sense middle.
Yesterday’s post mentioned the bi-partisan Florida county election supervisors’ defense of democracy and the integrity of free elections, “The Great American Experiment.” Another turn away from extreme ideological thinking occurred last week in Nevada.
Immediately after the 2020 election, there were accusations of voter fraud in Nevada, based on a ballot that was mailed to a deceased voter who was still on the voter roll. Her husband told the media he had no idea how her ballot wound up being cast. Tucker Carlson gave the story a big national push. It was a rallying cry for the “Stop the Steal” campaign that sought to overturn Joe Biden’s election.
A Nevada investigation led to voter fraud charges, but not in the direction implied by the “Stop the Steal” organizers. Last week the husband of the deceased voter was charged with voting twice–his ballot and the one that was inadvertently mailed to his deceased wife. Two of this country’s best assets are common sense and due process. The deceased voter’s husband is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
The same is true of the earlier allegations. So far, it appears that nothing was stolen.
On Wednesday, the Florida Supervisors of Elections issued a statement urging candidates and elected officials to “tone down the rhetoric and stand up for our democracy.”
The joint statement by county supervisors from across the state said “the integrity of our democracy has been challenged by misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation that sows discord and undermines trust in America’s electoral process.”
On Thursday, the News Service of Florida wrote this:
Raising doubts about elections results in the absence of evidence of wrongdoing can have far-reaching effects, warned Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett, a former Republican senator from Bradenton. …
“The old adage, you tell a lie, you tell it big enough and long enough, it becomes true. And that really bothers me. It bothers me as a former member of the Legislature. Certainly it bothers me as a veteran, I just hate it.”
When the Atlanta Braves last went to the World Series, Bill Clinton was president. Mike DuBose was the head football coach at Alabama. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 25% that year to close at 11,497.12. The Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role went to Roberto Benigni for Life is Beautiful–in 1999.
When I was a child in the late 1950s, I could tell you the Braves’ starting lineup and pitching staff. Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews and Warren Spahn were stars–for the Milwaukee Braves. They were my team and I remember the excitement when they moved to Atlanta in 1966. Every game was on one of our local radio stations.
Life changes. It’s been 30 years since I could tell you the Braves’ starting lineup–it was their surprising 1991 season when the Braves went from worst in 1990 (65-97) to first in 1991 (94-68) to make it to the World Series. I watched a few innings of just two games this season–including last night’s game with the Dodgers.
Braves outfielder Joc Pederson was born 16 days into the 1992 season. He leads the team in accessorizing. For the post-season, he sports a string of large white pearls. They look great on the Braves’ navy blue (away game) uniforms. Jewelry is an important part of the game today. In the 1950s–not so much.