I love my husband's cousin. She's 18, bright, full of life and has the whole world in front of her. We'll call her Leah. She wrote the following on Facebook yesterday:
'The tortured's love for the torturer. This is God's love. It conquers the world.'
I felt I had to keep my mouth shut. She's very religious, idealistic and young. Her mother is religious but in a quiet way. Her mother accepts Butch and I as atheists without open judgment and we never talk about religion out of respect for each other. The relationship is more important than fighting over differing world views. By default we have the same relationship with Leah, but lately she has started putting uncomfortable, self-sacrificing, mindless bible verses on Facebook. This is really hard to take. I want to say something but I want to be courteous of my relationship with her.
So on Heaving Dead Cats' Facebook page I put the following:
'The tortured's love for the torturer. This is God's love. It conquers the world.' (someone I know wrote that as their status update. What does it mean to you? If you were a religious person, would YOU find comfort in that?)
I got several responses. No one liked it. Barbara was kind enough to Google it, though, and commented with the quote in context:
"And then there is the love for the enemy- love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.’”
Leah eventually told me she read the quote in a book called Crazy Love by Francis Chan. "Crazy, relentless all-powerful, radical love." Eek. I feel queasy now. A self help book about how to fall in love with God. I won't even go there with how insane it is to fall in love with an invisible, intangible nothingness. My love of coffee is more meaningful.
Anyway, I finally said something to Leah. At first I thought that what she wrote was similar to the Stockholm Syndrome. But in context, I agree with Barbara who commented, "So, it's not about God being the torturer, it's about Christians loving their earthly tormentors in spite of their abuse - turning the other cheek, yada yada. Not quite as alarming as it seems without the context, but still distasteful to me - I'm not a big fan of the martyr thing."
When I said Stockholm Syndrome to Leah, she replied, "Understanding the context might help just a bit... I know it's not your cup of tea, but pick up a Bible sometime... understanding the various forms of 'love' can make things clearer. Promise. :)"
Which of course got my hackles up. But she's young. She doesn't realize that most atheists know their bibles better than most christians. After watching a couple videos of that Francis Chan dude, I am pretty sure I've read more of the bible and know more about God than he does. His god is very carefully cherry-picked. My view of his god is not.
"Let me try to explain this so you understand a little better than "stockholm syndrome", because there is a stark difference. "love" in the quote doesn't mean "becoming", but rather forgiving and being able to love those that harm you regardless. Seeing past flaws, despite the severity of them. "Love your enemy as thy neighbor" kind of love.
I get how to some people this seems outrageous - loving someone who hurts you, but it's what I feel we're called to do. I also know you don't believe in God, maybe that kind of skews this a little and seems like an attack (it's not), but hear me out... the quote is showing how despite our hostility, flaws, problems, prejudices, and mostly the rejection of God, He manages to love us - despite our sins and fickle nature. We are told to have this kind of love on others, to look beyond what someone does, and look at who they are. Granted, sometimes yes, a person can seem just downright cruel, but still, we are told to love them all the same. To love as God, because it is this kind of love that 'conquers the world'.does that help at all to show you what it means and where it's coming from?
At this point, I realized the futility of ever saying anything in the first place. So I told her about Humanism which I thought she should know about (that atheists are good people too, that humanists see the good in people too, it's not just a christian philosophy), then ended with this:
"I really appreciate you taking the time to explain it. It's nice to see where you're coming from. I really value your thoughts, your worldview. :)"
Because, of course, relationships are sometimes more valuable than a differing view of the world that can't be reconciled through reason and discussion.
She replied a few minutes later:
It definitely seems extreme, for anyone I think, regardless of background or beliefs, but at the same time - we're human - and as a result tend to value ourselves and "needs" first, others second, and those who hurt us in any way don't even make our list. This definitely makes the statement seem radical and difficult for sure, I struggle with the thought daily. However, it's something that I strive for, and despite the fact that so far I'm an utter failure at it, the longer I try, the easier it becomes to see good in everyone if you're willing to just look. Thanks for trying to see where I'm coming from, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on it as well. :)
It's not bad to value your own needs first. If you don't take care of yourself, you are no good to anyone else. And yes, it's definitely good to love each other. It's important to see the good in people. But is being a martyr a good thing? Is it noble or healthy? I don't think so. But I also don't feel like it's good to push Leah on the big issues, at least not on Facebook, and not now.
There are just a couple questions I am left asking. If a child is molested by someone she knows who is supposed to protect her, if a woman is beaten into submission by her husband, if a father loses a child to a drunk driver, is it really right or humane to ask the victim to love the person who hurt them? I know, some of you will call me on this. That forgiveness is ultimate, that love must be unconditional, but I just think that's cruel to ask someone who has been tortured or wronged in some great way. Remember, the quote says torture, I'm not exaggerating for effect. I don't think it's realistic or compassionate to put so much on someone like that. And I don't think most people could honestly accomplish such a feat without sacrificing their own self worth, or maybe dignity. I don't know what it would do to someone. It just doesn't seem ethical or healthy.
Maybe in the abstract, it's right to say we should love everyone, I can see how it would be helpful. And if a person finds that in their healing process they want to forgive a past torturer, then that's their choice. But trying to force that on people in the name of some unattainable idealistic perfect 'love' is sick.
Anyway, it seems she's just parroting what she's gotten in church and this creepy book that seems cherry-picked and delusional from my brief perusal. But when you're young, idealistic, brainwashed by your church, and have had a pretty easy life, you still have a long way to go before you can learn to think for yourself. Hopefully she'll get to that someday. In the meantime, I'll read her vacuous proselytizing and keep my mouth shut. Who am I to take off her rose colored glasses and douse her in reality?