“But love is blind and lovers cannot see
The pretty follies that themselves commit;
For if they could, Cupid himself would blush
To see me thus transformed to a boy.”
-William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
Is love always rational? No. Can love be blind? Yes. Sometimes people get together under highly emotional circumstances then later try to rationalize and validate love’s purpose. Emotional decisions often cause compromising situations. Sometimes people are killed over the passionate and rash decisions of others. Religion, in this sense, is much like a lover. It has also been described as a drug.
But what is love? Like our views of gods, love is defined and expressed differently. Many of us would agree that whatever love is, people tend to aggressively protect the object of their love. Consider a parent’s love for his or her children. Love will protect at most any cost. Love, as seen in religion, thrives under the same auspices.
Picture a courtroom filled with people. The prosecution and the defense sit on opposite sides of the room. Friends and family sit behind their respective loved ones who are battling for victory. The judge sits as the presiding ruler of the dispute. On the left sits the jury. They will ultimately decide the outcome of the trial. They will pronounce their findings.
On one side sits the defendant. He is the son of a wealthy property owner. He is accused of murdering a woman. The murder weapon was found by police at the son’s home. His accusers have witnesses who testify that they saw the son kill the young woman. Fingerprints and DNA match the defendant to the murder weapon and the crime scene. Another witness, a close friend of the defendant, testifies that the son called him on the night of the murder and confessed to killing the woman. The family of the deceased woman testifies that their daughter had previously complained that the son had made many threats on her life. Video surveillance at the crime scene clearly shows the defendant murdering the woman. The son, however, denies doing the crime.
The friends and family members of the defendant testify that their loved one would never do such a crime. They say that he is simply incapable of doing it. They go on to say that he is a gentle, upstanding citizen who loves people and volunteers regularly in the community. They state that the victim was of poor reputation and regularly lied to people. They state that the prosecution’s witnesses were friends of the deceased woman and simply want to punish someone for the crime.
The parents of the murdered woman sit in the courtroom with anxious anticipation. They want desperately for the man to be judged guilty and sentenced for the crime. They see the defendant as a cold-hearted killer with no conscience. Stricken with grief, they dream of the days when their daughter was alive. She had her whole life ahead of her. They want to put the trial behind them and achieve some kind of closure.
The mother of the defendant bites her fingernails and weeps in the courtroom regularly. She worries that the court will find her son guilty and sentence him to death. She reminisces of when he was a baby and of him growing up. The father of the accused sits and thinks of any possible way of getting his son judged not guilty. They hope that the jury will believe that their son is somehow innocent of the crime. They both believe that their boy is telling the truth and that the evidence is false.
The judge, jury, and observers in the courtroom were not present when the crime occurred. They will analyze the evidence and make up their own minds on the matter. The jury must consider the testimony and decide whether this man is guilty or innocent. Everyone in the courtroom has formed an opinion of what happened and how the trial should end.
You and I could also form an opinion of how the jury should rule. Perhaps you have already done so. Put yourself in the place of the parents. If you have children, as I do, you can relate even more to their situation. The pain and worry would be almost unbearable.
It seems obvious that the son committed the crime. Though we were not there, most of us would be ready to say that the evidence is overwhelming. Witnesses saw him do it! For many people, however, the evidence of truth is secondary. The primary issue is that of relationship. These are relationships to people, religions, political parties, social groups, lifestyles, jobs, sports teams, pets, music groups, etc. And to the degree of closeness we have to our relationships, we will defend those relationships. This is very difficult for most people to admit but is nonetheless true.
When we give birth to a child, idea, lifestyle, proclamation of truth, political stance, etc., then we are joining ourselves with that offspring. The child becomes our family. We tell the world and shout from the rooftops that this is our child! “Look, this is my kid.” We show pictures and tell stories of our children. We bask in our commitment as parents to our children. As parents, that child is now a part of us. The child is a real part of our identity. We look at our offspring and proclaim “You are just like your ancestors. You come from a long line of your kind.”
What happens when that child has lied, stolen, or killed and must give account to the court of peers? Many people in our culture will (and do) side with their children regardless of the truth. Their love for their children drives them to lie, steal, cheat, and sometimes kill to defend them. This kind of love can send people into denial.
This kind of love can be blind.
We, as people, will almost always defend what we love so deeply. Even when the evidence is presented, we will not even look at the evidence when we are defending our family (children, beliefs, etc.). In this situation people will denounce the evidence altogether. This is how people can live with themselves; they ignore even the possibility of evidence that contradicts their beliefs. This is fear. Fear of loss; loss of a child, belief, identity, etc. In short, this is fear of real change. And change is the constant reality of the universe. Change allows us to see with a better (and more honest) view. Eyeglasses, microscopes and telescopes have all come to us with change. These changes help us to discover and explain past events and to plan for the future.
Who, then, will stand up and be counted for truth, evidence, exploration, fairness, equality, and humanity? Who will profess the truth even if it means testifying against something or someone they have loved so deeply? There are a few who will. They are often referred to as unfaithful, traitors, blasphemers, libertines, radicals, heretics…infidels. These are the people who persist to consider all sides to the story. They willfully put themselves in the position of the prosecution, defense, judge, jury, and loved ones. They do not fear the verdict. Guilty, as charged.