Category Archives: culture

Rightly Ordered Loves, Part 1 Understanding Our Challenges

In these contentious days, it is hard for voices of sanity to be heard about the name-calling and ideological noise. In this four-part series, I want to present a new vision and voice for public dialogue that offers hope for both peaceful engagement and prudential solutions to our seemingly intractable problems.

It is my conviction that underneath all the anger and insults are disordered human affections. Our “loves” are confused. “Passion” has replaced principle and emotions seem to triumph over ethics. When politicians argue that, “facts do not matter if you are moral” we have a serious confusion of categories, a loss of critical thinking, and signs of inner chaos.

Ancient sages often speak of at least four kinds of love: familial bonds, brotherly/sisterly affections, the comradery of soldiers and workers, and romantic attractions. Whether the stories come from China or Greece, Africa or India, such affections and their proper ethics are universal.

There is another type of love that the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian theology have brought to the world: the covenantal love of the Almighty (Hebrew: hesed) the unconditional and self-donating agape love embodied in the person and work of Jesus. This altruistic, holy, and sacrificial love helps all other loves find their proper place. Familial and friendship love are now rooted in sacrifice, and comradeship is more than suffering together – it can take on nobility. And erotic attractions – powerful as they are – have boundaries of behavior and loyalty.

So much of contemporary confusion comes from eros overtaking agape and the perversion of other categories that arises when self-fulfillment overtakes service. Whether it is sexual attractions and actions, economic policies, political discourse, or cultural expression, disordered loves subvert the common good and leave everyone ultimately impoverished.

We need visions and voices rooted in agape that considers others before self, and refines actions according to their long-term consequences and not immediate power and success. Stay tuned for the applications of agape to the challenges of our day. There is hope – but not in the lowest denominator of human passion, but the highest aspirations arising from the image of God in humankind.

December 31: Reflections and Resolutions

Reflections and resolutions are part of the in between moment as we prepare for 2019. Rather than offer self-help palliatives and platitudes, I suggest that we consider history and hope for our community, nation and world. Here are some reflections and resolutions for our local and global communities.

Mr. President, confrontation and personal attacks are not always the best way for promoting policies for all people. Please consider greater conciliation and principled compromise and stop the personal attacks.

Republican and Democratic Congressional Leaders, you can get your revenge or actually legislate. You can investigate for two years or build a legacy of goodness. You can start your Presidential campaigns or actually help your constituents.

Members of the media, your partisan “gotcha!” journalism has only exacerbated tensions. How about serious investigations of facts and explorations concerning solutions instead on one more hit piece?

Friends of conscience and goodwill, we can begin making the world a better place by discussing serious issues with civility and leaving ad hominem attacks at the door. We can renew our neighborhoods and our nations with new partnerships for the common good.

Lust for power is more potent than money and sex. Will we use our positions and privileges to serve or simple aggrandize more authority? Will we remember why we began a pathway of leadership or will we default into self-protective modes?

2019 can be a great year of courage and wisdom, or a terrible year of anger and competition. May we choose well.

Hope for Peace

Peace among nations is a noble goal worth pursuing. It is also impossible without the other facets of peace being in place. Treaties are mere scraps of paper without transformation of hearts and minds. As we pray for our leaders and for concord among all cultures, here are some pathways to peace essential for human flourishing:

Personal peace with God and oneself. Conflicted, guilty and wounded hearts are underneath so much pathological activity and strife. This peace comes when individuals are reconciled to God and with their own pasts.

Peace among families. In 1967, Neil Diamond wrote and recorded a powerful song, Husbands and Wives, containing these words, “It’s my belief/pride is the chief/cause of the decline /in the numbers of husbands and wives.” It is time for spouses to decide ahead of time that they will remain faithful in body and spirt to their partners and their children.

Peace within and among churches. The local church is Jesus’ Plan A for his mission and the hope of the world…and all too often a place of discord and power struggles. May the faith, hope and love of the Gospel bring humility and mutual respect among all members.

Peace among diverse classes and cultures, educational backgrounds and ethnicities. Global ideals are only as strong as their local applications. When we make friends across classes and cultures and work for the common good, there is a ripple effect that becomes influential across the street and around the world.

And the key to all these facets of peace? A decision on the apart of at least 2 people to think of God’s glory and the good of others before themselves. In other words, letting love and humility, courage and wisdom win out over ambition and ego.

May this Advent find all of us at peace with Christ and fostering peace in our families and neighborhoods. We do not need the State house, the Beltway or the UN to lead the way – it begins in our hearts and homes.