First, written by a very wise sister of the heart: “In my experience Facebook posts rarely lead to transformation of hearts and minds.” About which, b.i.n.g.o.
Second, my earliest inklings that some things might be more important than party affiliation came from Ms. Rae and President Eisenhower, in that order. Ms. Rae was one of my favorite high school teachers. I might even have had, as a boy experimenting with adolescence, the tiniest of crushes on Ms. Rae. She, of course and like all my teachers, had no first name: Ms. Rae, Mr. Worrell, Mrs. Alford, Mrs. Balch, Mr. Symmes, and Mr. Maduell. It bears noting, by the way and we’ll just leave it at that for now, that my father’s nickname for Mr. Maduell was “Humpty.” Anyway, the title of Ms. Rae’s course was Mass Media. Perhaps Mass Media’s connection to Eisenhower’s farewell address seems tenuous and not easily teased out. Let’s just say that Ms. Rae’s ideas about the media were wide-ranging and included an out-of-doors experiment in which we filled plastic sandwich bags (the leading brand, Brand X, and the brand that newly promised a seal that could withstand a nuclear attack) with equal amounts of water and threw them across the playground to see which would survive. Not on the same day, Ms. Rae had us watch Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation (January 17, 1961; https://www.c-span.org/video/?15026-1/president-dwight-eisenhower-farewell-address). As every schoolchild knows, this was the address (dare we call it iconic?) in which President Eisenhower – a Republican and a statesman – warned Americans of every affiliation about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.”
At this point I should probably say that I am not a Democrat. But neither am I a Republican. This is not about party affiliation. Neither party stands for what I believe, and in any case I don’t think any citizen should automatically and always vote in favor of or against a particular party. There’s too much at stake for that. Republicans are – of course, and properly sanitized – welcome at Loyola Parish. So are properly sanitized Democrats. From the pulpit both will hear, before too long, something with which they disagree. That’s as it should be. That’s a big part of the preacher’s job, and it keeps preachers on their toes. Which is why you see so many preachers running around in toe shoes.
OK? I hope so. So what matters more than party affiliation? Lots of things: Integrity, faith, honor, truth, courage, justice, compassion, prudence, forbearance, mercy, and kindness. For starters. And mental health. Mental health? I mention it because it seems more and more clear to me that the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (NW, Washington, DC, 20006; the official residence of every president since John Adams; not currently for sale; valued nonetheless by Zillow® at $421,766,713.00, which would make for one heck of a down payment) is not healthy, mentally. Disclaimer: Mind you, I am neither a psychologist nor a therapist nor a mental-health clinician. Although I’ve had some training in psychology and have – in the past, practicing as a Family Nurse Practitioner – treated a number of patients who were suffering with (all-too) common mental illnesses such as depression, at present I am a Registered Nurse and proud and grateful to be so. And even though it must be pointed out that you don’t diagnose mental illness from afar, others more qualified than I have suggested that much of our president’s behavior is consistent with what has been called malignant narcissism: Not an epithet but a diagnosis, albeit “hypothetical,” and “experimental,” first posited by the psychologist Erich Fromm in 1964. He described it as having the features of narcissism, antisocial behavior, aggression, and sadism. Ouch, and yikes.
Absent some kind of organic brain damage, no child is born mentally ill. No one deserves to be mentally ill. Further, it’s a given that mental illness causes immense suffering, both in the person who is mentally ill and in those around him. Almost by definition, those who are mentally ill are in a great deal of psychic pain, and in fact many of the behaviors that characterize mental illness are driven by the sufferer’s desire to be pain-free.
What is the Christian response to another’s pain? Compassion, first. Why? Because, and in the immortal words of Linus Van Pelt, “Pain hurts!”
The sufferer’s painful, harmful or destructive behavior is another matter. Such behavior – defined, perhaps, as Jesus would have defined it and why not? if we are Christians – ought to be stopped, prevented, and not tolerated. We don’t let the pastor child who’s in the middle of a tantrum destroy the living room. Ideally, the person suffering with mental illness will have the presence of mind and the ability to monitor his own behavior. If he does not, others must step in. For the good of all.
Enough, and perhaps too much, said. Meanwhile, it’s a beautiful sunny day and the dandelions tulips are in bloom. And what else is blooming and bearing fruit – pardon the mixed metaphor – in you? God’s love, that’s what. Rejoice, and be of good cheer.