Misguided loyalties


Simone Weil was a woman of exceptional faith. She was also a woman with an unwavering commitment to the poor. But she was also exceptional and unwavering in a resistance she had towards the Church, writes Ron Rolheiser.

During her lifetime she longed for daily Eucharist, even as she resisted baptism and membership in the church. Why?

It wasn't the church's faults and failings that bothered her. She was a realist and accepted that every family and institution has its infidelities, flaws, and sin. She had little problem forgiving the church for its shortcomings. Her resistance to full genuflection within the institutional church had its root instead in a particular anxiety she felt before any social institution, that is, she saw how an uncritical patriotism or misguided loyalty often leaves individual members of an institution unable to see the sins and shortcomings within that institution.

For instance, fiercely patriotic citizens can be blind to the injustices done by their own countries and deeply pious people can be constrained by their loyalty to the church so as to turn a blind eye on the church's faults, as was the case with many saints who supported the Crusades and the Inquisition. Blind loyalty to country, church, family, or anything else, Weil believed, becomes a form of idolatry.

She's right. Blind loyalty can easily become idolatry, despite its sincerity and high motives. It might seem wrong to criticize loyalty, but we can be too loyal, loyal to the point where our loyalty blinds us from seeing the real harm sometimes being done by those to whom we are uncritically giving that loyalty. 

We are all familiar with certain axioms which each in their own way, would have loyalty trumping everything else: My country, right or wrong! The church, love it or leave it! A family's dirty secrets need to remain inside the family; they're nobody else's business! But these axioms, with their naïve and uncritical call for loyalty to one's own, are neither wise nor Christian.  Both human wisdom and Christian discipleship call us to something deeper.

All families, all countries, and all churches have their sins and shortcomings, but we show our love and loyalty when, instead of blinding our eyes to those faults, we instead challenge ourselves and everyone within that circle to look at and correct those sins and shortcomings. We can learn lessons here from Recovery and 12-Step programs.

What they have learned through years of experience in dealing with dysfunction of every kind is that the loving thing to do in the face of sickness, inside of any group or relationship, is to confront that pathology.

FULL STORY Misguided loyalties

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