High Fidelity

12 Sep

Okay. I’m ripping the title of this blog post off from a great movie with John Cusak and an unknown at the time – Jack Black. And that movie took the title from an English novel. But that is besides the point.

A school teacher friend of mine has been saving me back issues of “Time” magazine that she gets for her classroom. So the other night I found myself reading an article about the state of marriage in America from the July issue. It was quite depressing. It pointed out the high profile infidelities of Mark Sanford, John Ensign, John Edwards and Jon Gosselin and how eager the country is to swallow up such public intrigues. As I was reading, it dawned on me how loose cheating has become on television — characters rarely feel a sense of guilt or torment anymore, nor is the aftermath of betrayal really explored. Nowhere more do I get this sense than when I watch the teen drama “Gossip Girl” and watch the supposed high school kids betray each other, have a cry about it and then simply move on to the next intrigue. In real life, the heart hurts a lot more.

This particular article pointed out that the true victims of infidelity are the children of the parent(s) acting out. As I read that I remembered my feelings about infidelity as a child and the intensity of my reaction towards my father’s promiscuous behavior. A true Bill Clinton (and I actually like Bill), he seemed to genuinely be in love with every woman he was with, although he failed to realize that loving more than one woman at a time – to the extent that it involved lying and cheating on a regular basis – wasn’t the best way to “love” someone. I vowed I would never let a man treat me that way. Of course later I did. I attracted players like magnets. I also developed my own insidious seductive traits and later found ways to justify my behavior when it strayed from the strict moral code Catholicism instilled in me. But I remember what it was like to be little and to just want a mom and a dad and a family. Long term love and loyalty to a child is a no brainer and yet somehow this is becoming increasingly difficult for our culture to pull off. 

Now I am not writing this to paint myself as some moral high brow because GOD KNOWS I’m not. Nor is it my place to condemn others. Not only that, I’ve seen many couples, after working through infidelity who came to see it as a gift. Although the transgression was excruciatingly painful, it was the crisis that brought the couple back to intimacy. Instead, I’m writing this because as I move deeper into my faith, I’m having a better understanding of this subject.

I’m realizing that although moral codes are important, they are not how we prevent straying from God. In fact, the more we focus just on the rules, the more we seem to want to break them. Rules have to have meaning and a larger term context to truly be treated with respect. I think the key to fidelity is simply staying faithful to God. The more the focus is Vertical, the less chance for fixating on the horizontal. And the less need to act out and fill a void because the void gets filled by Him. I look back at some of the very stupid things I’ve done and realize that if I had only been connected to God – I mean connected – not just trying to be “a good girl so God didn’t throw me into hell” – I simply would have behaved differently. 

Modern day psychology attributes much acting out to inner neurosis and wounding and as a therapist, I definitely believe aspects of this, particularly in the case of sexual abuse. But at what point does one break free of one’s past? At what point does one become conscious? No longer stuck in repetition compulsion? I think God heals so many of the deepest wounds. “Chains be broken. Lives be healed. Eyes wide open. Christ is revealed.” 

Not only is fidelity about faithfulness. The word also means high quality of sound or picture in an electronic device. So when we’re faithful to God, perhaps then we have the best reception. The clearest picture for our lives. Amen.

2 Responses to “High Fidelity”

  1. T.C. Porter September 12, 2009 at 3:05 pm #

    Well said. And ideally when we worship God we will be righteous. But there is some horizontal aspect to it. My kid won’t just obey me because she loves me so much. She needs some ground rules. Jesus “fulfilled” the law but also left us with commandments, suggestions, et al. We will continue to have problems with fidelity as long as our culture is so permissive and the peer pressure is so overwhelmingly in favor of “experimenting”, “hooking up”, “being popular”, “being sexy”, etc. Most of that is pre-marriage, yes, but after 10 or 20 formative years practicing all of the above, character is pretty well established. Most of us have already shattered fidelity long before marriage. Some ground rules might be nice.

    I also want to comment on pop culture (i.e. television) since you brought it up. Is it possible that our souls are even more deeply soiled than we realize due to all the meditation on infidelity at the altar of television, cinema, etc? All the hours watching immoral people acting out unrighteous situations. For women perhaps the emotional scarring due to all the situations is the problem; for men it is all the images of barely-clad women and violent men. I encourage Christians to rethink their practices, particularly when one (such as you) is already criticizing the medium (see your post). You probably realize what I am saying but in our Christian culture we more often ENCOURAGE pop culture in the name of being “relevant.” But there is another side to the argument. And since you are talking about fidelity I think there is a clear connection: pop culture lacks it

  2. lisesletters September 12, 2009 at 7:58 pm #

    TC –

    Your response is thoughtful and challenging. I definitely didn’t mean to imply that rules aren’t important; they are. But since you mentioned your daughter, I’ll say that simply following rules works better when we’re younger. Kids need parents who are the “authority” and they respond well to structure and limits. They need containment. We are no different. We too need boundaries. But as teenagers and young adults individuate, they want more than just the rules – they want free will, plus the rationale behind the limitations. (If with that knowledge, they still break rules, they have to bear the consequences of their actions). Of course we see this with Adam and Eve.

    As for current media, it is a problem but I don’t know how or where lines get drawn. There is material out there – in songs and t.v/film that is just outrageous and in my mind’s eye, has gone far beyond first amendment privileges. (I saw a documentary on the pornography industry that made me sick – it talked about acts being executed just short of actual murder). And it’s true, the more exposure to gratuitous violence and sex, the more immune the culture. Quite frankly, I feel irritated at the Carl’s Junior hamburger commercials because they are so demeaning to women (and quite frankly, they’re unoriginal). If you’re going to make a commercial with sexual undertones, appeal to my intellect and sophistication – PLEASE.

    I remember with nostalgic longing shows such as “Little House on the Prairie”, “Ann of Green Gables” and “Nancy Drew” from my childhood. But I also know that I began as a theatre person and believe in topics being explored via film and theatre. (I’ve also written a screenplay with a high erotic overlay and have to somehow reconcile that with entering seminary. If the film could be made, I’d have it made because ultimately, I think it tells of story of transformation and redemption. To take out the erotic overlay, would take away the significance of the story, as well as some of the beauty). So I don’t know what the answer is. I guess just keep turning to God with the complexities of the human heart, our foibles and our desires.

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