How Ideological Purity Destroys Real Purity

How Ideological Purity Destroys Real Purity June 13, 2018

The latest in the Ideological Purity Wars is the public shaming and repentance of Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey for the sin of posting that he’d gotten a discount at Chick-fil-A, this month of all months.  As I understand it, the reason for his tweet was to promote his company’s “boost” cashback reward program.  The trouble is that obviously the man has been eating all the wrong chicken.

Why would someone as woke as Jack Dorsey eat ideologically unsound chicken?

Probably because he likes Chick-fil-A’s food.  Maybe he likes it better than other chicken, or maybe the price is right, or maybe the local restaurant is conveniently located.  There are so, so many reasons a person might eat a particular chicken.

It is possible, in fact, for a person to appreciate all that is true, good, and beautiful in someone else’s work . . . without thereby endorsing everything that other person ever does.

This Picture I saw at the Louvre

Last summer on the Epic Vacation, one of the stops the kids requested was a visit to see the Mona Lisa.  So we herded into the proper corner of the museum . . .

To do what half the tourists in Paris were keen on doing:

And with perseverance we got close enough eventually to look at the work from the front row.  I was impressed that the painting was a better piece of art than I’d remembered.  Mission accomplished, we wandered through the rest of the Italian Renaissance collection, admiring an assortment of Pretty Darn Good Art.  And then this one painting caught my attention, because it was noticeably better, artistically speaking, than the line-up preceding it.  I snapped a picture so I’d remember it:



Here’s a better view:

File:La Diseuse de bonne aventure, Caravaggio (Louvre INV 55) 02.jpg

Then I looked at the note card on the wall, and lo and behold! Painted by an artist whom longtime readers will quickly recognize.  So let’s talk about this guy.

Caravaggio Was Not A Reputable Man

For a guy who is often remembered for his astonishingly, touchingly vivid sacred art, Michelangelo Merisi was not someone you’d want to get to involved with.  This guy was trouble.  He was violent, disagreeable, possibly nuts, and a fair bit worse than that.  You definitely could not tweet about how you’d supported him on Patreon and expect to come out unscathed.

And yet: He was a great artist.  When you walk down the halls of some of the best art in world, his work stands out as the best of the best.

Which is why he gets play on my blogs, even though I have no patience — none! — for murder.

Towards Purity, Not Purity Wars

I have a love-hate relationship with Chick-fil-A.  I am totally on board with being closed on Sundays and supporting Christian values.  I have doubts about white-bread buns.  I am a sucker for the tasty breaded chicken inside the buns or in a box of nuggets, and whenever I attempt to order something presumably healthier, I wish I’d just gotten myself the yummy deep-fried stuff.  (This is basically how everyone in the South feels about food.)   Also, Chick-fil-A saved my sanity when the kids were younger, thank you indoor play structures and worthwhile kid’s meal toys.

But I get that some people just unabashedly love the food, even if they aren’t into all that Christian stuff.  I get that other people love all that Christian stuff (as they should), and therefore favor the food.  I even understand that some people are so strongly opposed to Christianity that they feel obliged to hate Chick-fil-A.

I understand this because I have a sturdy boycotting-instinct myself.

So if someone doesn’t want to patronize a particular business out of conscience convictions, I am sympathetic.  If you won’t share any post of mine that features artwork by He Who Was Not a Nice Man out of conscience convictions, I’m okay with that.  But when you get to the point that you have to hate other people for liking good things, you have a deep problem.

Love the Sinner, Hate the Nasty Black Rot That Is Eating You Up

The vitriol with which certain people despise Chick-fil-A provides a torrent of fodder for the Babylon Bee, so I suppose God can work anything for the good.  Among Catholics the trigger product might be the Gather Hymnal, or Target, or Fr. James Martin ™.  I don’t endorse any of these last three, but every now and then they get something right.   There’s no sin in acknowledging that.  Purity lets us see the true, good, and beautiful no matter where it is found, no matter how unlikely the source.

The habit of condemnation is dangerous.  When we are unable to be merciful towards our enemies, a sad thing starts happening: We find more and more enemies everywhere we turn.  We find we have fewer and fewer friends, because in our effort to root out sin from our life, we end up rooting out our friends’ sins instead of our own.  Since we cannot cause other people to repent, the only way to be sure to get rid of someone else’s sin is to get rid of the sinner.

It’s true of Christians trying to create a Perfectly-Pure Zone of Purity, and it’s true of non-Christians celebrating a month fittingly named after one of the seven deadly sins.  It’s as if we can’t have Heaven in this life.  It’s as if we live in a world made good but marred by evil.  It’s as if love and mercy call us to something higher than an ideological brand war.





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