Link stopped by today and we had a long three way conversation with Bob about this and that. Eventually, the topic of unconditional love came up. Bob referred to something Kurt Vonnegut Jr. wrote about people getting hung up on the word love, as in “love thy neighbor.” Vonnegut suggested we substitute the word “respect” to make it easier to swallow.
A discussion about the difference between love and respect ensued and out of it came the question, “Can you love someone even if you don’t respect them?” My answer was “No.” To me, the kind of love you would give someone you don’t respect is not really love.
After Link left, I started thinking about the news stories I’ve been reading on the web about my brother Joe. Apparently, he wrote a letter and sent it to all 15,000 of his parishioners advising them to get absolution before taking communion if they had knowingly voted for a pro-choice candidate and had understood the implications of that according to the church at the time they voted.
I had to think on this for a little while before coming to the conclusion that I still respect my brother as well as love him even though I don’t agree with his position. I believe in the separation of church and state and in a woman’s right to make a choice without breaking the law or risking a back alley abortion. I believe that American fetuses are no more sacred than Iraqi citizens, some of them undoubtedly pregnant women.
But regardless of the issues, I can respect my brother for doing what he feels is right, namely advising his parishioners regarding their spiritual health. Now I’ll have to give some thought to how I might feel if someone I love did something I couldn’t respect or even of what that something might possibly be. I figure if someone does something that I can understand and it doesn’t cause me pain, then I can probably respect them for it.
That Link – always thinking and now he’s got me thinking, too.