There is a lot said these days criticizing modern cultural trends. My brain tends to prefer looking for a way to connect the dots, and way to form a picture that I can study and muse over.
As my study of God moves one way, I notice that culture is heading in the opposite direction.
The subject of the study? Love.
And that this is a subject of a major study of mine makes sense: in scripture love comes through as the underpinnings of God’s relationship with the universe, including us.
Most Christians, myself included, when in church and hearing words to the effect that God is love nod good-naturedly, agreeing with the idea somewhat mindlessly. It sounds so nice. But what is the meaning, exactly? We know it includes feeding the poor and helping the homeless, but we’re told that that is not IT. It’s more than that.
Everyday before noon prayers, I do a meditation that is sent to me. A three-minute meditation. It’s essentially a slide show, a PowerPoint presentation, that I click through. The first slide is invariably one that leads me to take a few deep breaths and rest in the knowledge that God loves me.
And, I will admit, that this instruction always loses me. It’s one thing to know that God loves me abstractly. Quite another to attempt to experience it in my senses.
Ah, those Jesuits.
I know that as a child, I was aware of being able to feel God’s love. But life goes on, we grow, we become individuals, and this kind of unquestioning bonding is put off. Until we are married, we imagine. Except that watching people, loving bonding seems quite often to be just imaginary.
Growing up, perhaps having God so close all the time, I couldn’t imagine bonding in that way with another person. But I knew I was supposed to understand it – this thing called love that seemed to drive people to extremes in action, in thought, and in emotions. The best I could do, I thought, was studying my relationship with my dog, Thor.
But as I matured, the study of God, of love, took a specific turn with the study of the other. God being the ultimate other. Other than us. Human love, the concept of the beloved, reflects this two-others coming together design. (This is where the argument that love between homosexuals is the same as love between heterosexuals: it leaves out the concept of the other.)
So the concept of the beloved is about finding the two pieces that fit together perfectly. Physically, we can recognize this immediately. Men fit women. Their pieces fit together.
Emotionally, though, it’s more difficult to identify. We get confused by the sexual attraction, by the way our lives fit together, by the shared ambitions and dreams. All of this is great for the couple. It just might not equal the state of being beloved.
Accomplishing this state means that both you and your partner have stepped together into the space between you and essentially cease to exist as you are when you are apart. It’s a melting of the hardness in your heart that you’ve carried with all your life. It’s the willing to merge and blend, without objection, without judgment, without control.
This state between humans is what God is looking for in our creation. It’s what is meant by whom God joins together. It’s his finest work, in a nutshell.
And it is his goal for us precisely because it is through this letting go of our boundaries that we can understand with compassion our mission in the world, to serve others. Without objection, judgment, or control.
So as I look around at our very, very modern culture, from simple advertisements on television to the President of the United States, what I see are attempts, constant and sustained, albeit unconscious, to keep people apart. To keep them from finding their match and settling down to grow their love.
Life has become all about sexuality, clothes, drugs, and foolishness. It has become so pervasive that even denominations, such as The Episcopal Church, have convinced themselves that modern culture is so important a focus that it has allowed itself to keep apart from whom the church was built in the first place: Jesus Christ. (In its last General Convention, there was no cross on the stage behind the powers-that-be, and I believe that people who have looked over the transcript of the convention found few, if any, references to Jesus, himself.)
It’s all about separation.
And those who strive to become bonded in love with God have fewer and fewer places of refuge for such work. Without support and understanding from those around us, we can slip into doubt and acedia. We can grow resentful, even toward God, himself.
And we can seek to replace what we feel to be loneliness with involvement with those who lead us away from our own center.
We live in a world that is clearly determined to destroy the idea of the beloved, be it a mate, or Jesus, or our community.
A world that seeks to break up the puzzles of our interconnectedness.
And I wonder which force of evil is pleased by all of this, which force perhaps even has authored it. Put a mirror in front of our faces and whispered, aren’t you pretty? and then stood back and watched as silliness became more important in our lives than God.
It is, to my mind, the most excellent plan to refute God on Earth, and to stymie his plan for people to understand his love for them.
The worst thing of this plot to undermine the concept of the beloved? There appears to be no way to stop it. It seems to be spreading without check, and with people actually cheering it on.
May God have mercy on us all.