Thursday, August 23, 2012

This Blog Post has been Retitled

I'm just going to write this raw, to get it out of my system, or at least, I hope, to move it along a little.

I have been reading JPII/Karol Wojtyla's book Love and Responsibility. I read part of it for a grad class something like 14 years ago, but all I remember is it being really dense, and it making me feel that way, too. There's something about reading philosophy and about theological concepts that makes it so that if you don't have a certain amount of life and prayer under your belt, it all becomes useless blather.

I started to read it again in part because of an article a friend posted on Facebook several days ago about marriage, and how Catholics are to understand this notion that goes around and around in Protestant circles, about wives submitting to their husband, and exactly how that is supposed to work. This kicked back into my consciousness this term "personalism." I know JPII was an avowed personalist, and while I sort of knew what that all meant when I was studying theology, it hasn't been something I've thought about much lately. But as I started to read Love and Responsibility I saw that this is the precise context in which the Pope talks about understanding relationships between the sexes.

And then I saw what he contrasts personalism with. Utilitarianism. Using people. And it is starting to get me unhinged.

But not nearly as fast as it should.

Several days ago as I was praying I was moved to pray something like this: that God would give me His kind of hatred for injustices and wrongs that I tolerate. Not "out there," but in myself. I have this sense that this is because of that.

As I read the first part of the book, where the Pope lays out the philosophical groundwork of utilitarianism and why it is always wrong to treat a person as an object of use, I just kept thinking of this man that I once trusted. Really, our relationship was not worthy of the term "trust." Don't know yet what I should call it. This was some 20 years ago, and he was a man 20 years older than myself (so, he was then about the age I am now). I looked at him like a father-figure, I guess that's the best way to put it. He, for his part.... well, he was married with three kids and also seemed to believe he had a ministry to young single women. That should give you an idea of the footing this thing starts off on. But when I first got to know him, in a church context, he liked to repeat this phrase to me, using the royal we: "You're ours to use and abuse." He said it in such a way that it was supposed to give me a sense of belonging. Really, the sonofabitch was very much like a pedophile, except that the only way I was a child was emotionally.

What makes me really angry (yes, I believe that is what I am finally feeling) is that, while his comments, and his treatment of me for about 5 years registered with me as annoying, mostly I was happily resigned enough (well, "happy" can hardly be the right term) to put up with being used by him. I blocked out so much, maybe because it was just too painful to watch my dignity being shredded. Something in me wanted to believe I was being cared for, because this was as close at it got for me for the most part. I was completely blind, by choice?, to how stuff just wasn't right. He would call me almost every night and get me to tell him everything that was going on with me. When he wife started working night shifts, he would take me out for dinner two or three nights a week, treating me like a date. Physical advances started creeping (perfect word) more intense and he seemed to get a real kick out of trying to do it literally behind his wife's back. All the while, I just tried to pretend it wasn't happening. I had absolutely no sense of physical attraction to him at all. Blech.

Oh, once I found the strength to say I didn't want to see him at all for two months or something like that. I think that may have been after I knew I was becoming a Catholic and new graces started to reach me. He was right back at my apartment on the exact "last day" of that arrangement. Finally, right before I moved to Japan he figured he had to go whole hog and take his chances with pushing it as far as he could. And finally I did the most violent thing I could muster in our religious context, which was to pull away and yell "God damn you" at him.

Even then, it mostly just meant "Would you stop being so annoying."

That was 1994. It took me until about 2010 to realize that all that while, I was being wronged by him.

And right now it fills me with revulsion to think that I ever accepted that being used by someone is in any way synonymous with being loved.

Pope JPII points out very well that this is pretty much the cultural standard that infects modern thinking very deeply, including even some strains of theology wherein God is depicted as the grand "User" of people to fulfill His ends apart from their own intrinsic good.

This is why Catholicism alone preserves the truth. This is why when I encountered this very Catholic theological vision of God that I'm not really smart enough to articulate right now, but which presents God as not at all using us, but creating us as human beings, and His law and plan made for us and all that.... that's why my heart throbbed for joy to understand on some level that God does not at all, ever, in any way, intend for people to be used, to be treated as objects.

But it takes a long time for truths to work their way into the fiber of lives so that they start to affect what I am willing to accept as treatment of myself. There's a certain personal bearing one must have before it makes any sense to say "I won't accept someone treating me like that." I guess I mean the mouth can say anything, but it has to be the heart, the life, the whole being that can say that.

This is still rocking my interior, and while I'm not sure what happens next, I also get the sense from God today that all this realization pleases Him, and that it's going somewhere good. It never feels good to have junk kicked up, and to potentially look around and say "My God, what else is infected?" But I do trust God and know He loves me dearly. So, I'm Ok.

And you know, it does feel much better to finally get mad at that sonofabitch.

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