Monday, July 06, 2009

Passion's two evils.

Sin lives on a continuum. We, unfortunately, live as Sin's neighbors on that same scale. Our lives are sin. Get used to it.

Hang around a little and one of Sin's little expressions will wriggle its way into you and before you know it, you've become a little bit more like someone else you know, whom not long ago was an unbearable bore.

I was thinking about this the other day when I considered the topic of overactive passion, which may be a nice way of saying "lust". If we're going to give it a name, let's just call it something cliche' and tidy.

Lust gets a lot of notice. It makes news. Taken to a distasteful conclusion, passion as lust gets us in all kinds of trouble. In fact, that super-passionate person is often judged by her know-it-all friends.... the man who burns is considered lecherous by his self-righteous neighbors. Lust is a curious one for sure.

I've started to realize that passion lives with me on this spectrum. Of course we're all ok calling it "passion" when it reposes somewhere socially acceptable... somewhere in the manageable middle... Very few people see trouble with a man who is passionate about his work, for example. It's when his passion starts playing pranks and takes his arm as he wakes up in the morning and marches him straight into something that a good Bible student would call "lust". Yes... THAT end of the spectrum.

We seem to be good with pointing out the passions of the heart, aflame and fanned to lust is wicked... Sin at its most unarguable.

Yes passion lives on a spectrum, a continuum. Take it to one end and it becomes evil. Set up a towel and sunglasses in the center and it is good. But, what if you follow passion the opposite direction from lust? What then?

Well, nothing much interesting to talk about there. What politician ever got into the headlines for the wickedness of stoicism... for playing everything so safe that he crushed innovation? Never heard a sermon on the opposite of lust... the passion gone flat. No, and why not?

I think it's because we only like to see evil and good as opposites. But I think there are evils that are opposite each other. Maybe on more than a binary or even triune plane. Evil has many faces. Some are more interesting to look at than others. Some are more acceptable as worthy evidence by which we can judge and cast a verdict on those we, for now find unbearable.

Adultary is almost entertaining to throw around as a charge against some poor victim. The man who prudently stays his passion in public, married to a woman who lives in the moment of fine romantic expression - or vice versa. Who gets written up? The over-passioned, of course.

She survives in her marriage for as long as she can with this early choice of hers. This vowed One in her life who ignores her and poo-poo's romance as folly and unpractical. The stoic of the two who looks at public display of affection with shame is rarely "caught". People are "caught in adultry" but who ever gets "caught" being passive?

Or turn it the other way round. The man who, as Paul Simon writes, "...wore his passion for his woman like a thorny crown." He goes on, "He said 'Dolores, I live in fear... my love for you's so overpowering I'm afraid that I might disappear'..." But these "Dolores'" return not that passion. In fact they withold everything and become completely passive and reliant upon their more romantic husband to do all the work. Sex becomes a scheduled item and our romantic man burns whenever he sees a fiery woman who knows the power of seduction. One glimpse of a porn flick, and he is forever thirsty for what the spiritual judges will then call "Lust" and "Adultry of the heart".

But what will the judges convict those who have restrained their passion to the point of complete control... or who are under the thumb of dispassion? What charge will they bring against over-modesty... or morally mundane? I'll tell you what those sinners are usually called: "Virtuous."

Now, I am clear that sin is sin. I'm also clear that God is judge... ONLY God is judge. I'm also fairly certain that knowing the miniscule speck that I do about God, I believe that there's plenty of grace available for those who err on the increased passion side of things. After all God, we might say, is ultimate beauty. Because of God, we have color, and sensation, and emotion, and music and dance, romance itself, and of course, Love... passion and love... the gifts of the romantic.

To think that God would call dispassion and control and relational ignorance "virtuous" is in my mind near blasphemy. The God I know, the one who died for us, talk about a romantic, is God the dramatic. He is God the outlandish risk-taker. Maybe God has a special place in His heart for mischievous persons whose longings take unorthodox paths... perhaps God finds the other end of the spectrum to be intolerable bores.

Those of us who may consider ourselves deeply intimate with those whom we love are often the subjects of criticism. Would God, the lover of our souls be more likely to enter into our hearts and thereby create deep longing, or would He more likely chide us for not being practical enough? Would God woo a human soul or coldly humiliate her into submission.

I think the answer is obvious.

I'm not promoting orgies and open marriages. But were I to make a stand, I think I'd beg for grace as you learn of the marriage that has suddenly uncovered one who has, for whatever reason unimportant to you, sought extramarital comfort and romance. The greater sinner, though it is only God's to declare it, may be the one with all the virtues.