“The spiritual stature of a person’s life is measured by love, which in the end remains ‘the criterion for the definitive decision about a human life’s worth or lack thereof.'” — Pope Francis, On Fraternity and Social Friendship

There is a longer piece I am working through as well by another Catholic author that the Spirit is using in my heart and soul right now because we are all in a toxic environment that lacks the crucial ingredient: LOVE.

Not “love” in an ethereal or emotional sense. Not “love” in the sense of, “You have to agree with me and affirm absolutely everything about me or you don’t love me.”

Hard, grueling love.

This is the toxic environment we have currently: ideology and fear are driving us. When they are combined, it is deadly.

We can be so caught up in our ideology that anyone disagreeing in the slightest way with us is now found to be worth our contempt. It is fundamentalism and it wears all labels on the political spectrum. It’s not just for “the right” any more.

We can also be caught up in our fear. We fear what we don’t know. Fear of immigrants. Fear of people different from us. Fear of people who think differently from us.

This is our environment. We exalt our own fear and ideology above all else and treat everyone not “with us” as enemy combatants in some way.

We need to recognize, as believers, that love takes first place. Not emotional love. Not love that is blind.

Gut level love that calls me to see the other person. It calls me to listen to the other person. It calls me to see their humanity. We have lost sight of the humanity of the other.

I have my own blind spots. I have my own gut level responses. Personal confession: I am done… and I mean DONE… with MAGA folks. The past four to five years have been crazy and, to be honest, crazy stupid.

But here’s the thing. I have a good friend who is MAGA. And I mean good friend.

Now, I’m not supposed to have that friend. I’m supposed to be upset and simply dismiss people like that. And, truth be told, he’s supposed to dismiss someone like me.

Yet, there he is… my good friend. I love talking with him about so many things. We love hanging out together. And as I’ve come to know him I’ve listened to what is going on in his mind and heart. It can be tempting to dismiss someone like him out of hand, but I first saw his humanity… and I’m stuck. I genuinely love this guy.

So, we listen to each other. He forces me to hear him. I force him to hear me. And we see each other in our humanity.

I think MAGA is wrong. I think the American church is in trouble. My beliefs are deeply held. My mind isn’t changed because he is my friend. But my heart is different. At least for him. I have to work on everyone else at some point I guess…

Ideological purity and fear are monsters. Slay the monsters, not the people. I need the ideological purity and fear in my own life to be dealt with… and I need the deep love of Christ to mark my life.

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