Monday, July 31, 2023

#212 / It's Surprising: The Devil Is Not So Depraved


Yesterday, I more or less bawled out Catholic Bishop Robert Barron for suggesting that Christians are called upon to fight a "common enemy," and that this is their main assignment in life. 

I am not very much in favor of dividing up the world between those who are "enemies" and those who are not. For what it is worth, I don't think that Jesus was, either. 

If we are, as I am always claiming, "in this together," then we have to come up with some better way of thinking about, and relating to, those with whom we disagree. This is particularly true when we are very certain that the people with whom we disagree are "wrong." 

Focusing on "actions," not "people," is one way to approach the problem. Hating the "sin," but loving the "sinner," is one way that religious people have tried to frame the assignment

At any rate, having just published my Sunday blog posting on the way we should think about "enemies," I then read an interesting little conversation with author Tara Westover, published in the Sunday, July 30, 2023, edition of The New York Times

That is Westover, portrayed in the image above. Clicking on the link to her name will take you to her website. Clicking right here will take you to a New York Times' "Guest Essay" by Westover, from February 2022, discussing Westover's book, Educated. Westover wants us to know that she does not consider herself any kind of living "proof of the American Dream," despite what people might suppose, given the story she tells in her book.

The "conversation" I have referenced above - which I think is related to the way we should think about "enemies" - was contained in yesterday's "By the Book" column in The Times. This column appears weekly in The New York Times Book Review, and as it turns out, Westover spoke yesterday to something that relates to that "friends" versus "enemies" discussion. Here is her comment: 

What moves you most in a work of literature? 
I like to be surprised by the characters — the discovery that the angel is not so angelic, the devil not so depraved. Being surprised by people is one of the great pleasures and great pains of life.

I think Westover is onto something here. The "worst" of us aren't totally irredeemable, and the "best" (and we, of course, include ourselves), aren't completely pure paragons of virtue. If we could really look at the world, and those within it, with eyes that are prepared to see what Westover is talking about, we might not only be "surprised," we might be able to forge and formulate a more positive politics.

That would be a very good thing, too. At least, that's what I think!

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