Friday, May 29, 2015

Vying for the Villain.

If we're dividing the world into two black and white camps, I'd generally say I belong in that "good" person camp. Which is why it's is sort of concerning that as of late, I find myself liking a lot of TV series with heroes who are villains or anti-heroes. This makes me question myself, how is it, that I, a generally good person could want these "bad" people to windows much?

It started with Breadking Bad. But, of course, with BB, Walt didn't start out a bad guy. He was a good guy in a tough situation and made choices that led him to a bad place. So yes, I wanted him to succeed at first in his meth cooking and selling endeavors, so he could receive his treatment, but by the end of the series I really didn't like Walt. So BB is a more mild example because I cheered on a man doing bad things for a very good reason. It was his way to right an injustice. 

A similar example to BB is Dexter. Who wouldn't love Dexter? He seems like such a great guy, well besides the serial killer part, which is the part of Dexter I am actually most attracted too. But he's like the Robin Hood of serial killers, he only kills the killers, and those which our legal/justice system have let slide through he cracks. But even though the 5th commandment is clear, Thou shalt not kill, I can't help but want Dexter to remain free. It's kind of disgusting if you think about it. I would hope that in a real life situation I wouldn't feel that way about a serial killer. That I wouldn't want some murder to be free despite of who he's killing. But again while Dexter is committing evil, at least he's killing the bad guys and making the world a little safer.  

How to Get Away with Murder is another one of these shows. Annalise is a horrible person, I mean really. She takes the cake of scumbag criminal defense attorneys, not that by any means I think all attorneys are scumbags, but some are, and she's the leader of the pack of them. She has no redeeming qualities. But, with HTGAWM, I am not seeking for her to be successful, but rather the law students who under her leadership end up in a really bad situation. The only reason I want Annalise not to get caught is for the sake of those kids.  

The show that really makes me question whether or not I am a good person though is House of Cards. The Underwoods don't have one redeeming quality between the two of them. Frank and Clare are both absolutely horrible people. And I cannot help hoping they will be successful in whatever undertaking they approach. At least with the other 3 shows, the characters had some good quality that could justify liking them and wishing them well despite the horrible things they did. The Underwoods, not so much, but even when Frank murdered a character I kind of liked, I still wanted him to get away with it. How can I possible want this murdering, cheating, scamming, liar to do well and be successful? What is wrong with me, that I consider myself a good person, but I want these bad people to succeed?

I really can't figure it out, and I find it disturbing that as a good person I want these villains to prosper. 

(Sorry if this is full of typos, I wrote it on my iPad.)

Rethinking "Conscience and Dissent":

So, a while back I wrote this, and I think I missed one important point, that even though Jesus met and loved people where they are, he also never encouraged them to stay in their state of sin, or attachment.

Think about the story of the "Rich Young Man" from Luke's Gospel, when the young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus gives the simple minimum answer, follow the Law and Commandments. When the young man says he has, since his youth, Jesus calls him to more, to rid himself of his attachment to worldly things.

Similarly, in the story of the woman caught in adultery, after there is no one left to condemn her, Jesus doesn't tell her to stay in the same state of life, instead he tells her to go and sin no more.

So while yes, of course, Jesus meets and loves people where they are, he always encourages them to strive to be better and to live a morally upright life, and adhere to those strict moral teachings.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Conscience & Dissent

I was having a chat with a friend the other night, it started with a joke, about how the only "anti-choice" pro-lifers were Calvinist (with the Calvinist idea of double predestination and denial that we have free will). But, our conversation struck a chord with me, and it has been heavy on my mind lately.

Morally speaking, the Church does demand a lot from us, and I think as far as her teaching is concerned, she should. Jesus was also demanding in the moral teachings he gave, even thinking about someone sexually is adultery and to hate someone is equivalent to killing them, but even with his demanding teachings and ideals, Jesus met people where they were, loved them for who they are, and encouraged them to grow.

In a lot of ways I think the Church, rather some leaders in the Church, have become just a demanding voice saying "Do as I say," and not considering pastoral implications and the hearts of her members. I've heard so many people say you can't be or believe x and a Catholic. When honestly I'd say being a Catholic requires you believe in the Creed, the sanctity of life, and the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Otherwise the Church teaches a lot of stuff, and demands a lot morally speaking, but also, she teaches that we have an obligation to follow our well-formed conscience. The key here is "well-formed." We have the responsibility to educate ourselves about things and think critically about them, but we are never asked to just blindly assent to all statements and teaching of the Church.

This idea of the primacy of conscience, is not new. In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas claimed that our obligation to follow our conscience is so strong and important that someone should risk excommunication rather than violate their well-formed conscience. He taught that it is always a mortal sin to violate your conscience.

The Church needs to be a little more like Jesus, hold its strict teaching, but also make it clear that dissent is allowed for good, well thought-out, rational reason, and that we have the obligation to obey our conscience. Although, the Church still needs to avoid scandal, and uphold our teachings. That is, conscience decisions are personal as is dissent, neither can be systematic, nor should they be. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Looking, but not Seeing

So I was just watching that new show, "Selfie," and it struck me, like it did when I read Stripped Down: A Naked Memoir by Stacey Keith, how all we really want is to be seen. Often throughout this book Stacey mentions wanting to be seen, or not actually wanting to be seen, despite everyone looking at her. So often we will put ourselves in places that people will look at us, but does looking at someone or something really mean you see it? Regardless of how many people look at us, how many people actually see us?

In a way, that's the point of the paintings by Rothko, there is a chapel with his work next to UST in Houston, and I went in with a friend one day, and his response characterizes this perfectly, "They're just black." Yes, when you first look at them, you see four huge black canvases, but when you see them, when you go and sit, and look at them, really look at them, you see them. Rothko painted with tons of color and then blacked out these paintings. So they are black, but as you gaze upon them and really look at them, you can see what is under the black, but it takes time and focus.

The same can be said about people, we all want to be seen. We want someone to look at us and see us for who we are, as a person, not just our body and definitely not our projected persona. This is where the "Selfie" part comes in, on that show, Eliza is a caricature, she is not a person, she is a projected image. She cannot be seen because there is nothing to see. She takes a lot of selfies, but she doesn't have a self. She has a ton of "friends," but no friends when she needs someone. So it begs the questions, what good is  selfie with no self?

I just finished teaching a chapter about Original Sin, and one of the consequences of Original Sin is that we are ashamed of our nakedness, but I think the nakedness is more than actual physical nakedness. In The Theology of the Body, Pope John Paul II, emphasizes that prior to the Fall, to Original Sin, our bodies were meant to manifest who we are as persons. That is when you looked at someone you would know then, not just recognize their face, but you would see them, and know them as a person. So this shame at our nakedness is not just the shame of being physically naked, but as shame at who we are. No longer when someone looks at us, do they see us, but that is all we want to be seen, to be known.

In TOB, JP2 says that the problem with pornography isn't that it shows too much of the person, rather, the problem is it shows too little. When you are looking at someone or something in a way that objectifies it, you cannot possibly see it.

Maybe we should challenge ourselves to see people and not just look at them. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Love, Romance, and Friendship - Everything is Not About Sex

I often make weird comments that my close friends understand, but that others overhearing them would be confused and appalled by. A prime example is when I talk about that time I spent a romantic night with Jesus. I used to keep a holy hour at a parish adjacent to a very popular running park in Houston. Being easily distracted, most nights my holy hour consisted in me exerting a lot of effort to stay focused on prayer, ignore the constantly opening and closing door, try not to pay attention to the rambunctious toddler here and there, and a whole host of other things. One stormy evening during my holy hour, I had a beautiful experience. I was alone with my Jesus. I turned off all but one of the lamps in the chapel, and sat in adoration and had a very peaceful and yes, somewhat romantic evening with Jesus. I mean candle light, mood lighting, we were alone, what else would you call it. It was romantic, it wasn't sexual.

I think we can have romantic experiences with our friends and they're in no way sexual. I also think we can not only love our friends, but be in love with our friends without it having the slightest thing to do with sex or sexual attraction. I realized this when I fell in love with one of my best friends.* Given certain circumstances, it could never be sexual, but it doesn't change the fact that I had fallen in love with him and I still love him, even though we are now far away. The same goes with some of my female friends, the sharing of love is more that just necessarily a platonic love, if we love in Greek, that is in terms of eros, phileo, and agape, I think agape contains more of a notion of being "in love" than the other two. Eros, romantic or sexual love, does not necessitate being in love, nor does phileo, fraternal love, as shared by those with some common bond or purpose. But, agape, that perfect, unconditional love, it necessitates being "in love" with the beloved. I believe it is fair and accurate to say that God is "in love" with his creation. In my understanding, being "in love" requires a mutuality of relationship that is not necessarily included in the other two kinds of love.

Part of the reason I have come to these conclusions is my discerning a life lived under a vow of chastity, and knowing others who live that life or have promised to remain celibate, choosing to live that way in no way lessens the very human need to be communal, to share yourself with others. Just because you choose not to have sex does not mean you no longer need meaningful relationships and to love and be loved. I hear from several of my friends who happen to be priest that people forget they are human. One way we image God is in relationship, after all, God is a relationship of the three persons in the Trinity.

While expressing ourselves sexually is beautiful and important, in the appropriate context, it is not the whole of life or even the most important thing in life. More important is connecting with another person as a person in relationship, and I believe that any relationship can have elements of romance or being in love with the other without it having to have anything to do with sex.

Another thought with this related to The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. While he wrote the book for married couples, so they could make sure that their spouse knew they were loved, I think it is applicable to all those we love, especially our close and important friendships

In The Five Love Languages, Chapman asserts that just as we speak in a primary language, and understand, know, and learn things best in that primary language, the same if true for how we love. The five languages Chapman lists are: physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, and gifts. So someone whose primary love language is acts of service isn't going to feel as loved and filled when loved in any of the other four languages like he will when someone he loves does acts of service for him. These could be just about anything washing the dishes, a trip to the grocery store, etc.

I actually have two primary love languages quality time and gifts. So when people spend time with me studying, watching TV, or doing whatever, it makes me feel really filled and loved. The same is true with gifts. They don't have to be big gifts it can be simple things like a fresh picked flower, a small bracelet, a poem, whatever, just some small token that says I saw this and I thought of you. These are the ways I feel loved.

My views on love, in general, have shifted or changed as I discern entering into a communal life of vowed chastity. When you take romantic/erotic love out of the picture of life, it changes your perception. So now, I get these my fill of love from my friends.

*Like Mindy Kaling, courtesy of the The Mindy Project, I believe "best friend" is a level of friendship. :)