The power of love

In A Wrinkle in Time, when Meg goes back to Camazotz to rescue Charles Wallace:

“Nonsense,” Charles Wallace said. “You have nothing that it doesn’t have.”
“You’re lying,” she replied, and she felt only anger toward this boy who was not Charles Wallace at all. No, it was not anger, it was loathing; it was hatred, sheer and unadulterated, and as she became lost in hatred she also began to be lost in IT…
With the last vestige of consciousness she jerked her mind and body. Hate was nothing that IT didn’t have. IT knew all about hate…
Suddenly she knew.
She knew!
Love.
That was what she had that IT did not have…
She could stand there and she could love Charles Wallace.

I love AWIT in the way you do love childhood books that you read (as I did) when you were just the right age for them. Reading it as an adult I can see its flaws, but I was just the right age to identify completely with Meg, who wore specs, got teased for being ugly and weird at school, was far too bright for her teachers, and walked into hell to confront evil and save her baby brother.

One of the worst things about Camazotz is that they are doing it all for your own good. Everyone is happy in Camazotz. They’ll get into your mind and try to control you, try to wipe out the essential you that makes you not fit into their world, but they’re nice, kindly people: you’ll be much happier when you stop fighting them.

Envy will hurt itself
Let yourself be beautiful
Sparkling love, flowers
And pearls and pretty girls
Love is like an energy
Rushin’ rushin’ inside of me

There are people who want to take their hate and make it into the whole world. They live in a globe of hate, they breathe, eat, drink hate. Their hatred informs them, enfolds them, soaks into them, makes sweet taste bitter and bitter taste sweet.

‘Everybody knows our city has the best Central Intelligence Centre on the planet. Our production levels are the highest. Our factories never close; our machines never stop rolling. Added to this we have five poets, one musician, three artists, and six sculptors, all perfectly channeled.’

If you tell them that they hate, they look at you, bewildered, angry. Here in Camazotz they hate no one. They want you to live as they do, that’s all. They accept you’re different. They accept it will be harder for you to live in their world, but they know that’s what IT wants, and what IT wants is good. You must be evil to say that such goodwill is hate:

Disingenuously, the Government has suggested that same-sex marriage wouldn’t be compulsory and churches could choose to opt out. This is staggeringly arrogant.

No Government has the moral authority to dismantle the universally understood meaning of marriage.

Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that “no one will be forced to keep a slave”.
Maria and Vivian getting married in New YorkWould such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right? Or would they simply amount to weasel words masking a great wrong?

In AWIT Meg realises that if she could love IT, IT would shrivel up and die, unable to bear being loved. Cardinal Keith O’Brien looks at Maria and Vivian, who got married July last year, and what he sees is not what we see:

Both Maria and Vivian are New York-born Puerto Ricans who live in Staten Island. Maria is a retired corrections officer who worked in Rikers Island for 20 years. Her longtime partner Vivian is a Manhattan bus operator. During their almost three decades together, they raised a grown daughter and built a life together that is filled with love and commitment.

and what he sees through his world of hate is something that I don’t want to be able to describe – I don’t want to be able to see what he sees. He looks at two women in love, marrying after 27 years together, and he sees something grotesque, a madness to be derided, a subversion.

I feel about Cardinal Keith O’Brien and Archbishop Sentamu as Meg felt about IT: doubtless it would be better if I could love them, but the best I can manage is a kind of fragile not-hate. They’re saying these things because they have become part of Camazotz. IT speaks through them. I am an ex-Quaker kind of atheist brought up by old-fashioned left-wing activists who were born before the NHS and the welfare state. My father witnessed independent India and Pakistan fracturing into pieces. My mother’s childhood was profoundly distorted by WWII. They believe in satyagraha, in the power of truth upheld and insisted on. And so do I.

The power of love A force from above

  The power of love
  A force from above
  Cleaning my soul
  The power of love
  A force from above
  A sky-scraping dove

To be a pacifist does not mean denying war exists. There is an essay written by Little Light, which I return to every time I am bewildered by a confrontation with someone who sees me as a monster:

There is a war on. All we can do is succeed, or find ourselves no longer in a position to care. Daring to continue living, let alone daring to speak, will be considered an act of war until there are no more battles to fight, and no one to fight them.

So let’s admit it. Our lives? Our lives are an act of war. They are open defiance. They are invasion. They are insistent violation of the borders of a world that desperately pretends we do not exist. They are rude gestures and thrown rocks at the rumbling war machines of systems who choose to write us out of history, beginning only a moment ago and stretching back to the beginning of all things. By standing here and living, we defy the notion that we have no right to, and we scream out that no world where we are torn apart into nothingness can continue. Every seed we plant, lover we kiss, drum we beat is indeed a grave and mortal threat to the entire world as they know it, because our reality forces it to crash against us over and over only to find us still here. Even when we die of it, we are dead, but we are still here, we still are, we still were.

We can call it linking arms. We can call it embraces. We can call it a garden plot or a home or a marriage. We cannot concede that it is war. We cannot look at the arrows fired by our adoration of our loved ones and the mortars launched by our still-real, still-abhorrent bodies. We look into the furtive, fervent trenches dug by those who call our lives war and shake our heads, wondering what they’re on about.

In Scotland, when the equal marriage consultation was going on, Cardinal Keith O’Brien caused to be sent out to the 185,000 Catholics in Scotland who attend Mass every week, 200,000 postcards with a message asking MSPs to vote against same-sex marriage, and a space for the Catholic’s name, address, and signature. These postcards were handed out at Mass and the signed postcards were collected after Mass. Priests were asked to encourage their parishioners to sign them.

Only about twenty thousand did. About five-sixths of Scotland’s mass-going Catholics listened to their parish priest, heard what the Cardinal had to say, and roundly ignored them.

No one should try to make this a Catholic thing, or a Christian thing, or a religious thing. It isn’t. This is a Camazotz thing.

I got upset this afternoon – and have written this down to write myself back – because of an online encounter with one of the people who have accepted Camazotz as her world: she lives inside hate made normal for her. I read her twitter feed: she could be my sister. She opposes what the Tories are doing to the NHS and the welfare system, supports Remploy, likes the local farmers’ market but resents the high prices: and then:

Down came the ropes. Down came the balls. Over and over again. Up. Down. All in rhythm. All identical. Like the houses. Like the paths. Like the flowers.

Love with tongues of fire
Purge the soul
Make love your goal

You love them, like I loved you.

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15 Comments

Filed under LGBT Equality, Religion, Unanswerable Questions

15 responses to “The power of love

  1. Ned Lunn

    It is obvious in hearing your rhetoric that what you feel is hurt, painful isolation and a profound sense of others disregard or lack of acknowledgement of ‘you’. Your beliefs, political and ‘religious’ stem from the lack of acceptance and the sense of oppression and I hear that. I’m sorry, we all live in this broken world where others hurt us and vulnerability (essential as it is to relationships) is becoming harder and harder to live in. But fragile non-hate is not love. It is not even close to the active love that I ascribe to. The Love I want to put forward is going to be painful as it is so counter-intuitive to our individualised, post-Descartes and Kant, capitalist society. The Love I want to profess starts with the blind acceptance that you are loved, not by fickle human beings who have proven again and again incapable of sustaining vulnerable relationships, but loved by something immutable, unchangeable consistently pouring forth goodness and telling a story that overarches all other ‘hate’ narratives. Without this assumption the love that I seek cannot begin to do the things you speak of in this post.

    Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

    This is a high calling and one which no one achieves on their own by human will or strength but rather one that is submitted to again and again particularly at times of weakness. The greatest revolutions, in my mind, do not come when fire is fought with fire but when the fire is left, isolated and denied. Lasting revolutions, loving revolutions come when the victim stands on firm foundations of virtuous truth and takes all the oppressor can throw at them until they are tired and lost. For me Christ’s teaching of eternal love is seen as the world’s political forces kill him, hang him up and mock him… But Love never ends. Gandhi, Corrie ten boom, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King standing and proclaiming their hopes but refusing to fight fire with fire.

    This is a high calling which if we’re serious about will cost us. It’ll cost us painfully not in the ways you presume. For to love honestly and truthfully, I believe, is to be willing to admit that the person we love is more important then us; their best interests take precedent over ours. We must deny our own ambitions, our own luxury, our own voice in favour of the other.

    I point you in the direction of Peter Rollins http://peterrollins.net/?p=2840

    All the spiritual saints, whose lives inspire, who have fought the demons of this world suggest that those demons lie in their own hearts. Loving relationship must be founded on radical denial of the Cartesian ‘I’ in favour of the Orthodox ‘we’. The autonomous subject is an isolated, lonely figure who cannot connect. The interdependent, interrelated communion is a relational, interactive collective who cannot be separated.

    I hope that this war/fight/debate/struggle is not one founded on aggressive opposition of who can shout louder or harder but one where the choice is not to just stop at not actively hating but is to actively seek to listen, understand, care and guide the other in loving relationship.

    Gay relationships have the same the potential for godly, healthy, supportive relationships as straight couples but both relationships are probed to breakdown. I would even go as far as saying, the argument that uses the failure of heterosexual relationships does not give strength to why we should give homosexual relationships the same ‘privileges’ but should make us question even further the freedom that heterosexual couples have to belittle the notion of ‘marriage’.

    But all this said; I’m as lost, broken and upset in this as you. We all need to consider carefully from where we speak and what the exact out working of our believed desire. I would always err on the side of Christopher Jamison,

    ‘If your life is centred on yourself, on your own desires and ambitions, then asserting those desires and ambitions is the way you try to be true to yourself. So self-assertion becomes the only way of self expression. If you simply assert your own desires, you may have the illusion of being true to yourself. But in fact all your efforts to make yourself more real and more yourself have the opposite effect: they create a more and more false self….

    people cannot simply assert their true self; they need to pray for the strength to find that self beyond their desires.’

    I’d also heed the words of the mystic Thomas Merton who’d suggest

    ‘Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success and they are in such haste to get it that they cannot take time to be true to themselves. And when the madness is upon them they argue that their very haste is a species of integrity.

    In order to become myself I must cease to be what I always thought I wanted to be.’

    But that’s another ‘sermon’! :) May you find peace and an acceptance not just from other humans but from the source of all life, joy and virtues because you are dearly loved child of Him and He thinks the world of you. You do not need to strive and battle for that but can stand in the face of opposition and find a happiness outside of the emotional politics of society. May your relationships be based not on fear or anger but on a desire to be known and to be seen and to be loved.

    • Hi Ned, thanks for the long comment. I am about to run out the door but I will respond at more length later.

    • “It is obvious in hearing your rhetoric that what you feel is hurt, painful isolation and a profound sense of others disregard or lack of acknowledgement of ‘you’”

      That’s true. I did and do feel that when encountering people who express the ideas current in the anti-marriage movement in the US to justify a ban on same-sex marriage – or indeed other homophobic ideas, but this one is most prevalent at the moment.

      I do not feel “painful isolation”: indeed, I’m conscious of how most people are in agreement that the ban on same-sex marriage should be lifted. But I wrote this post when I had been arguing one-on-one with a woman expressing homophobic ideas and getting very angry with me for identifying them as homophobic. (I have just finished a debate with a man who was made angry enough by my opposition to the homophobic argument against same-sex marriage to call my writing “dirty porridge”,) It is difficult to remember that most people are with us in the moment when you realise that the person you are talking with has their heart and mind closed and will reject any criticism.

      Thank you again for your long comment. I’m sorry I haven’t replied to this till now.

      If your life is centred on yourself, on your own desires and ambitions, then asserting those desires and ambitions is the way you try to be true to yourself. So self-assertion becomes the only way of self expression. If you simply assert your own desires, you may have the illusion of being true to yourself. But in fact all your efforts to make yourself more real and more yourself have the opposite effect: they create a more and more false self….

      people cannot simply assert their true self; they need to pray for the strength to find that self beyond their desires.’

      I think this describes Peter Tatchell. To a T. And he is I think the closest thing to a saint we currently have walking among us – I don’t mean that in a religious sense: I mean he has literally devoted his life to fighting for human rights wherever he saw a battle to be fought.

      May your relationships be based not on fear or anger but on a desire to be known and to be seen and to be loved.

      Oddly enough my partner would agree with you there! She reckons I spend too much time arguing with the haters.

      • Ned Lunn

        I wrote a personal response to the issue and it may give you a clearer idea as to my thoughts and concerns.

        http://tinyurl.com/bmu3lsn

        Thank you for your reply and God’s blessings,
        Ned

        • “The reason I want to veto this Act”

          …is homophobia. But thanks for playing.

          • Ned Lunn

            Homophobic? What gives you the right to name me as such? What from what I’ve said leads you to call me homophobic?

            Homophobia is a fear of homosexuality and I am not fearful nor do I have any irrational desire to stop homosexuality in me, others or in society. My argument is clearly not wanting any of these things. Those who are willing to engage in conversation and dialogue with me for a period of time with genuine hospitality will tell you that fear is not behind this opinion of mine.

            I’m willing to be proved wrong. So what is your evidence? Because I want to veto this Act? That may say alot about me but homophobia it does not. Certainly not for fear of the presence of homosexuality. I would love to see my sister and her girlfriend commit to their lives together in marriage (whatever that means!) but that’s NOT what I have a problem with.

            So why did you call me ‘homophobic’? It is a negative word being brandished around with little consideration at the moment. One can’t prove innocence to it.

          • “What from what I’ve said leads you to call me homophobic?”

            Eight words, Ned, quoted above: “The reason I want to veto this Act”

            The name for bigotry against LGBT people is homophobia.

            “I would love to see my sister and her girlfriend commit to their lives together in marriage ”

            But what you actually said was that you want to ensure a ban on their ever being allowed to do so.

            “One can’t prove innocence to it.”

            Yes, you can. All you have to do is affirm that you support the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, and legislation to lift the current legal ban. The opposite of what you said in your blog post.

          • Ned Lunn

            The reasons I want to veto this act is not a moral reason it is a political one and so my moral opinion is not an issue here or at least not in the way you seem to think it is.

            What I actually said was I didn’t want a ban on my sister and girlfriend getting married. I stated categorically that I am pro that but the issues this act has brought to light require a deeper consideration of the society in which we live which believe that we create equality through legislation all e rather than open, hospitable dialogue and relationship. Democracy does not work in a culture where dialogue is from a basis of fear, fear based on a lack of common moral and virtuous authority. Democracy cannot work in a society where people don’t know each other or can meet face to face and be intimate and vulnerable with each other. This conversation is better had in accepting relationships but our democracy refuses this option, in fact it actively strives to divide us up and force us to treat each other in the way shown by this debate.

            The family unit is systematically being divided up into individuals in order that they can be forced to need to claim authority from the elite ruling classes rather than from organic relationship based on time and hard love. Before you read that and think that I am saying that the ‘family unit’ is a mum, a dad and 2.4 children I’m not! I’m saying that any family where blood relations can learn to commit an be committed to with no sense of rejection and doubt as to the reliability of others. Yes this is an ideal and one that wkn’t even have a chance of working (as it has been proved in studies that this family unit is essential for the well being of all people) when we have a politic that divides and legislates on every aspect of our lives without conversation, without people coming together, without people being challenged by the strangeness of the other.

            So no I’m not homophobic because I don’t have a fear of gay people. No I’m not homophobic because I’m not talking about the surface level moral distinction between different sexualities but the deeper issue of the politic we live in and the way this important issue is being used and discussed, manipulating our society into an individualised, seemingly self autonomous, virtuously vacuous culture where the way we heal wounds of division is by legislation rather than conversation.

          • Ned, you can write as much length as you like about your rationale for opposing legal equality for LGBT people, but so long as you’re still taking the homophobic side of the argument, it doesn’t really matter how nicely you justify this to yourself.

            No I’m not homophobic

            Yes, you are.

            because I’m not talking about the surface level moral distinction between different sexualities but the deeper issue of the politic we live in and the way this important issue is being used and discussed, manipulating our society into an individualised, seemingly self autonomous, virtuously vacuous culture where the way we heal wounds of division is by legislation rather than conversation

            That you think legal inequality for a discriminated-against group is a satisfactory and morally justifiable strategy is what tells me you’re homophobic.

            You are, in fact, an example of that individualised, seemingly self autonomous, virtuously vacuous culture.

          • Ned Lunn

            The singular point I want to make is to divert/refocus the conversation of this public debate in order that any act that will bring about social change is done with wisdom and moral and ethical thought.

            Currently this legislation is being done with the wrong motives and so is wrong. The title of the article states this act is the right answer/idea but is sullied by the political motives of an elitist political body, parading as an ethical and moral decision but with no discussion or clarification.

            To suggest that it doesn’t matter how it comes about limits it’s impact on cultural change. The reason why the civil rights movement worked and has had a cultural shift is due in huge part to the deep, prayful consideration as to how the change came about.

            This is my view. I would love to see this act as the striving for social equality but I don’t think it is. I think this act, unfortunately, is an easy legislative change which denies social debate and reflection and encourages an isolation of individual views to be quickly accepted without any, much needed, clarification and challenge. The truth is; the act is good but it could be much better for all. Let’s take this opportunity not to limit this act to be about one group of people but to challenge our whole political and social situation as one that is belittling organic relationship and subtley changing them into legal contracts based under the authority of law rather than something beautiful.

            This is about authority. Where is our, as a society, authority. This government is placing it in our hands but at the same time denying us the opportunity to strive, together towards the good. They seem to want us to decide, for ourselves without relationship with the strange other, for something that we could never hope r imagine.

            Our individual view is always limited but if we come together then the challenge of another opposing view, instead of being suspicious, can transform and develop into something we could never achieve alone.

            Bigotry is a complete rejection of the opposing view and the reason it is bad is because it cuts us off from others who are different. Love for all challenges our perception that we reject and ignore, indeed kill (in our mind), those who hold the opposing view. We never unite and we thus create a fractious society of hate and fear. Both sides of this discussion has bigotry and is why it will go nowhere close to what this act should do.

            I encourage you to seek a better Same Sex Marriage Act which redefines marriage in a radical way beyond what you hope and imagine by engaging in conversation with those you currently see as bigots and homophobes. Consider Peter Rollins discussion here: http://peterrollins.net/?p=2840

            Another long response, sorry.

    • “The reason why the civil rights movement worked and has had a cultural shift is due in huge part to the deep, prayful consideration as to how the change came about. ”

      Martin Luther King would disagree with you. Let me quote you two passages from Letter From a Birmingham Jail:

      -”I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

      That’s you he’s talking about, Ned. You are “paternalistically believing you can set the timetable” – your “shallow understanding”, “lukewarm acceptance” is the stumbling block.

      “My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

      We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.””

      There is no reason to delay the simple justice of equal marriage – except homophobia.

      • Ned Lunn

        I take it back. He argues persuasively and I am glad you pointed me towards his letters again. I had forgotten this.

        However, I still stand (and listen carefully incase you jump to the conclusion that I remain a ‘moderate’ unnecessarily… I may still be but don’t pre judge.) by the idea that the process that this Act is being made is not right. The civil rights movement was a process that was handled with grace and mercy. I do not see this in the current ‘fight for justice’. To ‘wait’ for ‘due season’ is not precisely what I’m saying. I’m saying that you’re waiting not for a change of an external betterment but rather to rethink and to radicalise the fight. To go back and make a more powerful change not when the time is right but ASAP.

      • “The civil rights movement was a process that was handled with grace and mercy. I do not see this in the current ‘fight for justice’.”

        Well, historically, you’re wrong about the civil rights movement. It’s a process that was handled with jail sentences, attack dogs, guns, water hoses. Your belief that the US government and the racist opposition showed more “grace and mercy” in the years of their struggle than the UK government & the homophobic opposition are doing now is just flat wrong.

        (I’d like to note, though, that, you are the most graceful and polite representative of our opposition that I have ever encountered,.And I say that though you lost your temper: it took grace to admit that and ask me to delete your earlier comment.)

        “but rather to rethink and to radicalise the fight.”

        It’s not for you to set a timetable, a schedule, a demand. It never is for any individual. But especially not for someone who has decided to be on the other side. You’re not with us demanding equal rights, you are with the opposition demanding that we shouldn’t have equal rights. And most of the people with you are decrying our very right to equality. With, as you note, not much grace or mercy in them,

  2. Hi,

    I haven’t read the book you quote from, but it seems quite wonderful in expressing such things. I am sorry my tweet led to the idea that I support the hatred and homophobia of such people as Cardinal Obrien. I do not. The idea of marriage as a universally understood thing is ridiculous. In some countries it is an 8 year old girl marrying an old man. In the Biblical narrative it becomes the selling of a female by her father, to her husband. It is sad and wrong and this world is broken.

    For me also, love is not a sort of non-hate thing. It is this burning within me to see people set free from all that has broken them and held them down, it is the tears I cry as I write this to you, I am so sad that you have not been shown love by the very people who are supposed to represent Love. I am sorry. Sorry for failing, sorry for the body of people I am part of, who have failed to show you the Love that truly is. You are loved wholly and entirely, and please forgive me if I failed to show that.

    God loves women x

    • I’m sorry I made you cry.

      When I wrote this post I was really very angry and upset, coming away from a conversation with a person who simply could not see that her beliefs were discriminatory, that she was promoting hatred. Yet I didn’t feel that she was doing so out of illwill: I felt that she had been lied to. Both with her and another person I had a similar conversation with online just yesterday, were repeating without much critical thought ideas expressed in the anti-marriage movement in America: without any notion, clearly, of how hateful these ideas appear to people actually discriminated against. (Nor, I find, do people like that want to know how hateful their ideas appear: they regard you as horrible for pointing this out.)

      I come back to this post and re-read it to remind myself that those same people who today express the most hateful beliefs, will in five years time when same-sex couples getting married is a commonplace, have realised how entirely wrong they were. The same process happened with civil partnership.

      “I am so sad that you have not been shown love by the very people who are supposed to represent Love.”

      I think one of the things which the pro-life and and the anti-marriage debate reveal is how little modern Christianity has to do with the ideals of love expressed by the gospels.

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