God's Politics

God's Politics

Mary Nelson: Love the Hell Out of Them

I’ve been thinking a lot about “beloved community” lately, rereading the stories of Martin Luther King, John Lewis, and the civil rights movement (where the phrase gained prominence) and reflecting on my own experience in building community over the last 40 years on the west side of Chicago.
King became convinced that love, transformative love, was the key to moving toward that beloved community. In the face of the hatred and violence, he said, “We’ve got to love people no matter what …love the unlovable. Love the hell out of them.” The Montgomery bus boycott was the catalytic experience, a chairos moment that crystallized his thinking. “We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization,” he said in calling for a boycott of the buses. He went on explaining that the boycott was but a means to an end. “But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community.”
This rings true with my experience in community. The times we were fueled by our faith, stretched to think bigger and bolder than our prune-like minds could fathom, and yes, the times when there was a threat, an external challenge to be overcome, were indeed the times when we had little experiences of the beloved community.
What a world it would be, if we could take this as our new/old motto and approach the so-called enemies and bad guys in the world with the energy to “Love the hell out of them” … it would take a boldness and confidence to try. But what do we have to lose? The path we are currently on as a nation is deadly, dead-ended, creates more enemies every day, and makes us an unloved nation. Anyone want to join the new offensive?
Mary Nelson is president emeritus of Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation on the west side of Chicago. She is also a board member of Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

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posted July 20, 2007 at 6:31 pm

Count me in, Mary. Thanks!

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Ted Voth Jr

posted July 20, 2007 at 6:36 pm

Two problems with ‘chairos moment’- well, three:
1 It’s misspelled: kairos.
2 It’s a buzz word, or ‘buzz phrase,’ to utilize it takes little thought; to misuse it betrays the fact that one is not really a Greek scholar…
3 It’s redundant; kairos is the point in time, that is, ‘the moment.’
(Chronos, the duration of time, has the ‘ch’.)

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posted July 20, 2007 at 6:47 pm

Focusing on the linguistic problem of the article is missing the point. It has a good message from someone who is ‘doing’ something rather than ‘flyspecking’ another document. Look past the flaws and towards good…

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posted July 20, 2007 at 10:58 pm

Perhaps it’s long been a human tendency to avoid big, hairy problems by using meaningless minutiae as a weapon of distraction. Sadly, such weapons of distraction, as well as cheerfully blatant misinformation, are now the primary tools used by “The Powers That Be” in order to accomplish whatever mysterious plans they have – or – don’t have. After listening to hours of mind-bending lies, it’s so hard to tell what is really going on in the United Corporations of America. Maybe that’s why so many political news analysts and computer bound, armchair pundits chose to carry on agitated arguments about the meaning of meaningless things.
Is that a judgment? Certainly. Even though Christians are warned not to judge others, we are also taught, by Christ’s example, to be discerning. When one discerns a truth, it is most loving to speak out in support of that truth. Of course we could also argue about what constitutes “truth”, but I’d rather not.
Moving forward…as Gandhi and Martin Luther King demonstrated, passive resistance is a way we can stand lovingly in acknowledgment of Truth, against the onslaught of unrighteousness, for the sake of our brothers and sisters. Christ is the author of passive resistance. Out of love, he stood between humanity and their eternal separation from God. He died in Truth and conquered death in order to allow us to eternally live in Love. If, by surrendering to God’s will one is filled with the Spirit of Love, then one is enabled to see the power of Love.
As Ms. Nelson suggests, there is, indeed, real power in Love. This doesn’t make sense to many people because loving others with Godly Love is not a rational act. It is irrational to turn the other cheek to your enemy. It is irrational to forgive someone who hurts you. And yet, it is through the irrational, topsy-turvy, heart-centered, spiritual reality of Love that mankind can see the Truth about evil and forgive and overcome deep-seated fears and rituals of revenge. Yes, in Godly Love it is possible to “love the hell out of someone”. Therefore, peace is possible because Love desires reconciliation and reconciliation opens our hearts to redemption. As we grow in redemptive Love, we are creators of “the beloved community” wherein all men are already brothers and all women already sisters.

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posted July 21, 2007 at 9:09 am

What an inspiring woman! Her voice rings out with clarity on the basic principle of our faith — love God and love your neighbor. If we, as Christians, would even just try to live up to our faith what a different world this would become.
What does the spirit of division do? Everywhere from our own individual churches and families to corporate policies to international relations it drags us down into an abyss of self-centeredness, hatred, and fear — the antitheses of what Jesus modeled for us.
Remember, Jesus did NOT say “Love only those who loved you first.”

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posted July 21, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Well said, Ms. Nelson and I applaud Michelle’s post as well. Indeed, the path you advocate would be incredibly difficult. In spite of the rhetoric dumped on us daily, forcing ourselves on other countries is not love, its not some worldly attempt at kindness, its an attempt to seek control and power. Love does not do that.
Im not sure if we as a nation could ever take this path of love on a global scale. It seems there are far too many in positions of power who would continue to use fear as the motivational tool to control the masses. However, I have not yet lost faith; hope and hard work can make things happen, lasting postive change is possible. Faith communities must rise and speak out against this world wide hate mongering. We have within our communities the ability to lead the way in love. We have the ability to call and work for peace.
” We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization,” I think kairos is the perfect word; for its meaning also refers to the right time, the right season. We too, have before a glorious oppurtunity and I would say now is the right time for love to find a way to heal our world, wouldnt you?

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Conrad Steinhoff

posted July 21, 2007 at 12:45 pm

Thanks, Mary, for your powerful words. They are particularly powerful for me because I know you and your work; my son Steve worked for you some years back. You, like Jesus, embody your message.

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Kevin Reid

posted July 21, 2007 at 3:00 pm

In the final analysis, God’s love will prove to be what it is…the most powerful and transformative energy in all creation. The very essence and truth of life itself. A dear friend of mine once said, “we need to love the darkness back into wholeness” and the French Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” Personally, I join Jesus in his directive to “love one another as i have loved you.” and you, Mary in your call, to “love the hell out of them!” I only add that we must learn to do the same with ourselves, so that we can healthily, join the offensive.

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posted July 23, 2007 at 9:05 am

Yes – I can and have loved my enemies. But if they do not respect you or know who you are or what you are able to do – more often than not it will go nowhere. Easy to love someone if there is an affinity or comonality in the relationship. But if the role is adversarial – love is more of a respect and values issue. But to love your enemeies when there is a threat on your life? It can be done but the love is more for a person that does not understand what it means to respect others – value them as a fellow human – etc. I would not recommend that there be a ‘face-to-face’ unless precautions are in place to protect all involved. If in showing love they see it as weakness – now that opens a whole different set of issues that need to be dealt with before you can go forward in solving whatever the issue/situation might be.
trust – but verify
peace – through strength
love – with respect
Blessings – overflowing

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Bill Samuel

posted July 26, 2007 at 7:09 pm

Yes, Mary, that is really the heart of it. We can get tied up in theological and political knots, and ignore the heart of the call, which is to love.
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. (Romans 12:20-21, The Message version)

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posted July 26, 2007 at 11:16 pm

Dear Moderatelad,
If Jesus did not Love his enemies as the crucified him, if Jesus was “protected” from his persecutors, if he avoided a “face-to-face” with them, then what you have said would make sense. Jesus Love WAS seen as weakness. Until he rose again and the Holy Spirit enlightened their hearts, even his closest friends were bewildered. And in many ways, I still am.
I am NOT good at Loving my enemies. I am not even always good at Loving my children.
How many of us have been inspired by other holy men and women who have, in the face of the impossibility of “going forward in solving whatever the issue/situation” was, and faced martyrdom with joy? They could not have known in advance that their deaths would inspire others to follow Christ.
May God bless you and give you perfect peace.

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