Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hating People? Not an Option

Back on Tuesday, I started writing about more weirdness in the government schools, which brought me to the topic of home schooling. As I was re-reading that post, before publishing it, I noticed that I had most of another post — sort of embedded in the thing. So, I extracted the other post, and published the 'extra' stuff as a post on tolerance: real and imagined. Which gave me two posts for that day:
I still had material left over — and that was the start of this post.

Malignant Virtue


"There are times, Charles, when even the unimaginative decency of my brother and the malignant virtue of his wife appear to me admirable."
(Lord Peter Wimsey, in Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers (1933))

(Quoted in "Jessica Logan, Sexting, Suicide, What Guys Want, and Malignant Virtue" (December 8, 2009))

I ran into that phrase, "malignant virtue," decades back — and saw it as an excellent oxymoron, describing an all-too-common attitude. One which encouraged me to become a Catholic.

I've written about my conversion to Catholicism before. Briefly, I grew up in a nice, fairly sensible mainstream Protestant household. I didn't abandon the faith I learned from my parents: My conversion was a matter of moving to the source of that faith. And that's another topic.

My search beyond Protestantism was encouraged, in part, not by my parents' actions — but by the weird, spiteful version of Christianity I ran into elsewhere in the area. I've discussed that before, too. ("Halloween, Emperor Palpatine, Electric Eyeballs, and Getting a Grip" (October 29, 2010), for starters)

These folks, who seemed to think they knew more than Jesus about when He was coming back, had a fairly well-defined faith: apparently composed of about equal parts Bible trivia, numerology, end-times 'prophecy,' wacky patriotism, and hatred toward communism and the Catholic Church.

It was their attitude toward the Catholic Church that really got me curious. I saw a disconnect between the vile conspiracy that the Bible-thumpers described, and the low-profile Catholic presence I observed.

Now that I've converted to Catholicism, do I hate those people? Or anyone else who doesn't agree with me?

I'm Catholic, so that's not an option.

Emotions: It's Simple, and Not-So-Simple

I've written about emotions before. (March 17, 2009) Like so many other things that have to do with human beings: The Catholic teaching on emotions is simple (Matthew 22:36-40) and it's not simple. The 'not simple' part comes, in my opinion, when the simple 'love God, love your neighbor' thing gets applied to the day-to-day specifics we deal with.

Here's some of what the Catechism says:
"There are many passions. The most fundamental passion is love, aroused by the attraction of the good. Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it; this movement finds completion in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed. The apprehension of evil causes hatred, aversion, and fear of the impending evil; this movement ends in sadness at some present evil, or in the anger that resists it."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1765)
Looks like hatred is okay. Note, though: that's in connection with an "apprehension of evil" — which isn't the same as hearing someone playing music you don't like.

Capital Sins

A person might expect to find 'hatred' among the capital sins. 'Expecting' and 'getting' are two different things.
"Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose, or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called 'capital' because they engender other sins, other vices.138 They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia."
(Catechism, 1866)
Wait a minute: isn't "anger" one of the capital sins? 'Everybody knows that.' I've heard "anger" in the list, myself.

In the Catechism, it's "wrath."

Well, in that quote it's "wrath."

The Sermon on the Mount

Later, I found this:
"In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, 'You shall not kill,'62 and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies.63 He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.64"
(Catechism, 2262)
Oh-kay. "Anger" is back, and so's "hatred."

By the way, I'm not one of the folks who can say, "I thought Jesus was a pacifist." For one thing, Jesus is — present tense. For another — there's that incident with money changers and dove merchants. (Mark 11:15-17, Matthew 21:12-17)

On the other hand, I am very leery of anything with a 'kill a commie for Christ' feel to it.

And let's remember: I don't speak for the Church. I'm a Catholic layman. (with opinions).

What About Anger and Hatred?

Back to the Catechism. The Glossary clarifies how to think about anger:
"ANGER: An emotion which is not in itself wrong, but which, when it is not controlled by reason or hardens into resentment and hate, becomes one of the seven capital sins. Christ taught that anger is an offense against the fifth commandment (1765, 1866, 2262).
(A, Glossary, Catechism)
As near as I can make out, the Catholic Church's position on hating people is: don't. It sounds corny, but it's the old 'hate the sin, but love the sinner' thing. (March 13, 2009)
"We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: 'He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.'612 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.613 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called 'hell.'"
(Catechism, 1033)
Maybe you've run into a Catholic who hated someone. I'm not surprised. There's over a billion of us alive today: and some of us are jerks. Sometimes I've been a jerk — but I don't want to make a habit of it.

So, after looking for an answer to 'is anger and hate okay' in the Catechism, I've got one clarification, and two new questions. That's about par for the course. The new questions are: what about Hell; and what's this 'needs of the poor?' Isn't the Catholic Church incredibly conservative?

As near as I can tell, nobody's dragged, kicking and screaming, into Heaven. And the Catholic Church is — Catholic:
By the way: not fitting neatly into some contemporary philosophical pigeonhole isn't the same as lacking standards. And that's yet another topic.

So- we're not supposed to hate people, we're supposed to love people. Sounds okay, if somewhat counter-cultural. But what does this "love" thing mean?

"Loving," Like "Tolerant," Means Different Things

'If you really loved me, you'd say yes.'

That line was old when I first heard about it, about a half-century ago. The implication, that to love a person means to let that person do any fool thing he or she wants to, isn't limited to young men seducing young women.

In my opinion, anyway.

Back in the sixties, ditching the Gray Flannel Suit conformity of 'happy days,' and doing things because we felt like it, didn't seem as obviously crazy as it may now. (January 12, 2010)

The idea of completely ditching objective standards, and defining 'loving' as letting another person do — anything? At the time, it seemed a bit daft to me. It still does. Not because I want everybody to be exactly like me. I've discussed unity and diversity from a Catholic point of view before. (August 26, 2010)

A huge problem with defining 'love' as helping another person do whatever he or she wants to do is that — sometimes the other person wants to do something destructive. I've discussed that before, too. (November 8, 2010)

More to the point, there's quite a bit about love, Catholic style, in the Catechism. (1, 257, 1603, 2418, and a whole lot more)

Somewhat-related posts:

2 comments:

Brigid said...

That colon seems out of place: "in part, not by my parents' actions: but by the weird,"

You don't capitalize it here, but do later: "hatred toward communism and the Catholic church."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

About the 'in part' sentence: I see what you mean, and made a change.

The capitalization thing? Oops. Fixed it: thanks!

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