How do you love a guy whose sex life and personal life are marked by instances of abuse and violence toward women?
How do you love a guy who took a Public Relations approach when his abusive behavior threatened to blow up publicly – deploying the best lawyers and publicists money can buy to “get out front of the story” and to “control the narrative?”
How do you love a guy who seems to think it is more important to protect his image and career prospects than to be honest and seek help and express regret?
Well, if we are going to love him it probably won’t be in eros, which is passionate and erotic love – though no doubt there will be some who remain passionately attracted to Ghomeshi. And if we are going to love him it probably won’t be in phileo, which is brotherly or sisterly love – though hopefully Ghomeshi has friends who will support him and remain with him in the everyday.
And most of us realize it isn’t actually a question of “if” we will love Jian Ghomeshi. Rather, we know that a meaningful experience of community requires that we love him. Which brings us to agape, which is the love of compassion and grace, a love that must undergird every expression of love and define every relationship. It is a love well-described in what is perhaps the most famous love song of all. You know it: “Love is patient, love is kind…”
Importantly, this love song is not about intimate relationships, as we often and mistakenly think. It is about agape – the love of kindness and service and sacrifice embodied in the way of Jesus. So with a huge hat-tip to Søren Kierkegaard, and following the love song of First Corinthians, here are some thoughts on what it means to love Jian Ghomeshi.
LOVE BELIEVES ALL THINGS
No, it doesn’t believe every word posted on a Facebook page, or every word that comes from lawyers and publicists. And no, it doesn’t automatically believe every insinuation we read in a newspaper, especially in an age where we love to ferret out the secret sins of celebrities and watch the mighty fall. To believe all things doesn’t mean naively accepting whatever we are told.
If we are going to “believe all things” we have to keep in mind some words that come earlier in this love song. Namely, that love “rejoices in the truth.” The weighing of truth and the pursuit of truth matters. Love requires transparency and honesty. And in the case of Ghomeshi the truth that becomes clearer by the day and hour is that Jian Ghomeshi failed to show love and care for a number of women – worse, that he physically abused them.
But having spoken the truth about his behaviour, love still believes all things. To love Jian Ghomeshi is to believe that his life and being are rooted in the Love of God, notwithstanding his failures in love. To love him is to believe that in other contexts and relationships he has shown faithfulness and love. To love him is to trust that beneath his efforts to “control the narrative” is some (inarticulate, even?) longing to love more faithfully and live more transparently. To love him is to trust that he can, again, love faithfully. That may be a long shot for some of us to believe, but: Love believes all things.
LOVE HOPES ALL THINGS
That love “hopes all things” might translate into a hope that Jian gets what’s coming to him. Or it might translate, retrospectively, into a delight that he got what was coming to him – fired! But again, we should hesitate over any “lock him up and throw away the key” attitude, which is hardly the preserve of conservative politicians, as we like to pretend. We all have a tendency to banish from our hearts and lives those who have wronged us or our friends. To stop hoping for them…
Love hopes all things, and this includes the hope that Jian will experience the painful process of refinement that is always necessary when we grow through our failures. And this process of being refined, for Ghomeshi, likely includes the fact that he has been fired, and that he could theoretically face criminal prosecution. Equally and more importantly, however, our love for Jian Ghomeshi means hoping that he will experience personal transformation through this refinement, so that he might live differently, and love faithfully – specifically, in relation to women.
Love hopes all things for Jian, but also hopes for a transformed world. A world in which women do not have to be afraid of those they meet over a cup of coffee; one in which they do not have to be afraid of speaking openly about instances of abuse they have experienced; one in which degrading and dehumanizing sexual practices are not described as part of “the normal continuum of human sexual behaviours.” Love for the world and for our communities entails hope for the future – a longing, perhaps, that a new world will come to define our world. We might call it resurrection.
Finally (for this post): LOVE ENDURES ALL THINGS
Love endures the media’s obsession with titillating details. Love endures the false steps and missteps of those trying to restore their public image. Love endures our own obsession with celebrities and their failings. Love endures those who run to defend or to attack at a moment when more tentative responses are called for. Love endures an unwillingness to listen to women’s voices. Love endures our self-righteousness and hypocrisy.
Love endures so much crap – but love does not endure passively. It cannot endure passively or hope passively precisely because:
Love is not arrogant.
Love is not boastful.
Love is not rude.
Love is not resentful.
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing.
Love rejoices in the truth.
Love is kind.
Love entails a particular form of life – a particular character that comes to define us in relation to others. Love does not endure in the sense of putting up with things because nothing better can be expected. Rather, love/agape courageously pursues the way of service and compassion and transparency and kindness – it endures in seeking a life and a world in the image of the crucified and risen Jesus. Love seeks such a life for all of our neighbours, including Jian Ghomeshi.