Yesterday, I watched an episode of Our America that featured a group of heroine addicts from the city of Ohio. It was quite puzzling for the first half hour of the show how these people could recognize the destructive impact that heroine was having on their live and yet continue to pursue it…Then I realized that I do exactly the same thing.
Ask me any day of the week whether or not I would like to devote myself fully to God, and I reply without hesitation, “yes.” Why? Because I recognize the destructive impact of trying to “save my life” on my life. And yet, I continuously go back to the patterns of living that I know are not the kind that allow to “lose my life for the sake of the Divine” and therefore, truly save my life.
I want love others deeply and genuinely. I want to see the Divine in all that I do, and to thankfully turn back my blessings with praise. I want to boldly challenge the contemporary conventions of my culture…but I am hooked on myself, my unloving self, my blind and unthankful self, my cowardly self.
Recognizing the similarity between the heroine addict and myself is a bit exciting. This recognition allows me to empathize more fully with those who are experiencing addiction. This, perhaps, is my favorite part about Our America: it often represents individuals in a way that is conducive towards arousing empathy. It is a way for me to exercise “be[ing] compassionate as your Father is compassionate.”
Drugs scare me. I think my schools did an especially good job at convincing me that they are the worst thing on the planet. Thus, I avoid them like the plague, but after I saw this episode, I wondered if that’s what I should be doing. Jesus, it seems, would be right there with these addicts. After all, I am an addict too, and Jesus still jams with me.
(A parenthetical predicament: But how do I navigate all of the worthy causes that I am presented with? How do I choose, for example, between showing love to a heroine addict and freeing someone from slavery? Do I merely need to perform some sort of hedonic calculus? Nay, my steps must be guided by the Divine One.)
The parallel between heroine addicts and “self addicts” not only allows me to empathize more heroine addicts, it also provides an excellent metaphor for seeing the Christian life. If Borg was right about Jesus being a subversive sage, then following Jesus could be seen (with this heroine metaphor) in this way: We are all addicts. We are addicted to ourselves and the conventions of the culture.
Followers of Jesus are those who reject the drug. To those who are addicted, this is nonsense. “You need this. It feels great! You can not live without this. You do not want to suffer the pain of withdrawal symptoms.” Jesus is the one who says, “Love your enemies.” I, as an addict, reply, “Nonsense! I need this. I need retribution. I need closure.”
Far too often, religion has been the opium of the masses. Marx’s words here are prophetic (in the critically descriptive and predictive senses of the word). True discipleship is the opposite of opium. It demands that I contend with and trascend the withdrawal symptoms that will rack my body and soul.
Gracious God, give me the strength to deal with my daily detox. This, it seems, is identical to asking for help with taking up my cross daily and following the way of Love.