Love: Destroying Enemies?

Am I not destroying my enemies when I make them my friends?”
Abraham Lincoln.

I have in my notes that this was quoted at the morning service at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett five years ago today.  It raised a wonderful discussion about Universalism, the belief that every human being will, in this life or beyond this life, find fulfillment, find what some call salvation. In the west, largely through Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, the word salvation has eroded over the centuries to mean not sending me to hell even though I am ultimately of no worth.  The far better and holistic notion came in the early days of Christianity–salvation meant the full restoration of the human being to all that we really are.  The problem was a kind of extistential amnesia.  Salvation meant, in the most powerful sense, deep remembering.

It reminds me of an incident that happened years ago in Birmingham at a Centering Prayer conference with Fr. Thomas Keating. During a Q and A session, someone ask: “Fr. Keating, as a Catholic who practices centering prayer, I find it increasingly difficult to believe in Hell. As a Catholic, am I required to believe in Hell?” To which Keating responded after some silence: “Yes, as a Catholic, you are required to believe in Hell. However, you are not required to believe that anyone is in it.”

What if our vision, beginning today, were to make everyone we consider an enemy our friend? It would take some time, some work, and allowing that we are only half of the relationship. But, wouldn’t this, all by itself, nearly eliminate the hell we create on earth?

Bob Patrick

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5 Responses to Love: Destroying Enemies?

  1. Peggy Averyt says:

    What if the enemy is doing terrible things that hurt other people and our environment and are proud of what they are doing? How can we consider them a friend, and how can we treat them as a friend? I would certainly need help and advice on how to do that.

    • Bob Patrick says:

      Yes, Peggy. I totally agree. The danger of a short piece like this is that it may imply that this is simple. I was inspired by the quotation from Abraham Lincoln who surely realized that destroying his enemies by making them friends was not a short or simple process. I suspect more of a goal with a kind of moral guideline built in. I also recognize that these things always have two sides, and we can only be responsible for how we respond and the attitudes we hold toward the enemy. To be honest, there are some whom I find this very difficult to even imagine practicing with. And, there are others who I know I can. That’s where I have to start. I listened to a story on NPR this morning about a woman who got caught in a pay-day loan that charged her 900% interest. A woman caught in a desperate situation became prey for this industry. Meanwhile, the Trump administration appoints to head the Consumer Protection Agency Mick Mulvaney whose sole purpose is to deregulate Pay-day loan companies (check out the contributions they made to his campaigns). As the story unfolds and I am feeling deeply for this woman’s plight, it is revealed that she voted for Trump.

      Wow. I could allow myself to make an enemy of everyone who voted for Trump. I find it very difficult to even imagine how to “make a friend” of Mulvaney as his policies continue to destroy people like this woman. I can imagine making this woman a friend despite how she voted against her own self interests. For me, that’a a place to start.

      I am very grateful to you for raising these issues. I did not mean for the post to imply that this kind of work was simple. You’ve given me more to think about.

  2. Barbara says:

    How do we always connect to the full
    humanity of each that we encounter?

    How do we connect with someone who has many different values than our own?

    How can we listen to someone who we hear as spewing hate ?

    How do we hear if we don’t trust that we will even be listened to?

    How do we create an environment to honor the worth and dignity of someone who we hear as not honoring the worth and dignity of everyone?

    More questions and no answers. Just trying to remember the work that must happen to change the world. Maybe I won’t be heard…however, can I still hear?

  3. acidjack says:

    Widtsoe expressed the view that our premortal covenants established a partnership with God, enabling us to join with Him in the great collaborative process of salvation and exaltation. Just as the Savior agreed to make the unique sacrifice of His life in our behalf, so all premortal souls similarly expressed their willingness to make sacrifices to advance the happiness and salvation of others:[41] In our preexistent state, in the day of the Great Council, we made a certain agreement with the Almighty.

  4. LumDimSum says:

    Bob Patrick, thanks a lot for the post.Really thank you! Much obliged.

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