Saturday, January 8, 2011

Love and Betrayal in Community

Fellow thinker of Maritain, French theologian, Emmanuel Mounier wrote in his book, Personalist Manifesto that "Capitalism reduces a person to a state of servitude irreconcilable with the dignity of a man; it orients all classes and the whole personality towards the possession of money; the single desire of which chokes the soul." He advocated for the idea 'incarnation,' that persons are necessarily composed of both body and spirit, that the spirit lives both within and without, that it finds its expression in community with others; vocation, that which fulfills ones' deepest spiritual longings.

It is this idea of community that strikes the heart of most
persons in their daily lives. While many easily think of community as their town or city, there are many more communities to which one associates: the school, the gym, the prayer hall, the job, the family and the home are a few examples. Taking the family, the smallest unit of community experienced by most on a day to day basis as an example, there is indeed a strong and central community existing in family whether it includes a marital relationship and children, or any such constitution with or without child.

Recalling the biblical writing John 21:15-19 where the Christ asks his disciple, Simon Peter, "Do you love me?" To which Peter replies, "Yes Lord, I love you." Jesus answers him saying, "feed my sheep... follow me." As part of the community of the Christ, Simon Peter affirms his love and devotion to the way of the Christ in this exchange. Later it is he who betrays the one he loves.

How can this happen? How does this happen in any of our lives? When is it a betrayal? When I say so, or when another in the community says so? Is betrayal a lack of everyday use of a person's help and labor in the ways that Personalist thinkers decry? Is this then betrayal as the Christ might see it? All these questions may arise in a community relationship, even one so small in size as two persons, and it isn't always so easy to sort it out and discern the truths for each individual.

Is betrayal between a community as small as two persons something like, "you didn't walk the dog, like you promised!" Or is the idea of betrayal something like, "you failed to tell me something and now I'm humiliated. I don't trust you!" Is trust necessarily a part of betrayal? Did the Christ place trust in his disciple? Was there an acceptance of one another at the level of the incarnation, as Mounier calls it? Are communities indeed composed of individuals who are both body and spirit, and if so, what if the persons themselves are not clearly aware of their (bodily-spirit) incarnateness? What then of betrayal; what could it possibly be based upon?

For example, if, in my community, we are agreed to conduct ourselves in a simple way without ostentation, and one of the parties goes out and buys electronic gadgets which then are used to distract or emotionally remove themselves from the community, but do not clearly recognize the effect of their actions, is this a betrayal? What if one, for their well being and for the truth which lies in their own heart, takes actions which affect the other(s) in the community negatively, is this betrayal? What is the other(s) responsibility to the common good of the community, even one deemed an offender?

In love, is not the common good served through the effort to understand and accept each and all? In this community, is there a place for forgiveness, the charity of love? May we, when we think our life is the worst, find one possible example, be it the Christ on the cross, Martin Luther King or Gandhi, perhaps? They were killed by those who disliked them or their message. Who betrayed them?

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