Monday, November 5, 2012


Today, I read a definition of family that resonated with me, and I was happy to discover that there weren’t any phony, sentimental aspects to the definition. “Family means no one gets left behind,” the short phrase read. I am sitting here looking out at a statue of St. Francis standing on the patio, tending his family of birds and squirrels, and I say, “Yes, family means no one gets left behind,” even God’s creatures that play around the base of the oak in my backyard, and especially under such guardians as St. Francis of Assisi.

I’m waiting for a good friend to return from a visit with her "blood" family that owns a company together – a visit in which she attended a meeting and was humiliated, shunned, and lied about – in short, got “left behind” and became the victim of a takeover of her position in a vengeful series of acts that I’ve heretofore read about only in novels. As the sitcoms say, “a whole lot of lying was going on.” Perhaps I can use the material in a future book for it has all the components of the kind of dysfunction in contemporary novels, but  I prefer writing contemplative poetry! The accounts of that meeting included enough primitive emotion to convince me of several things, the most tantamount being that this is the way wars start – from the ground up, from the family out, and most especially when they’re involved in what is termed a “family takeover.”

My friend is a very intelligent person with good critical abilities, is a writer and scientist, financial officer, and has the respect of her friends and colleagues wherever she has lived because she is passionate about the work she undertakes. She is noted for getting to the truth of messy situations and acting as an ombudsman for organizations in trouble. She also gets along well with those with whom she works in a volunteer capacity, and I’m shaking my head this morning at the audacity of this group of people who “dissed” her and who call themselves family. Perhaps family is the place you go when no one else will take you in, to paraphrase Robert Frost, but in my friend’s case, everyone else takes her in except these relatives. To further expand on this group of clannish hypocrites, they’re among those who advocate family values in the political arena. However, the word "love" is never mentioned in their conversations, and I've been privy to those conversations for almost 35 years now.

“Family means no one gets left behind” – but in the case of my friend, she was left behind, booted out of a position that she had held for over a decade simply because someone else wanted her job. She is, at the moment, trying to get an early flight out of the toxic family atmosphere. As Scott Peck advocates in his People of the Lie, there are occasions when a person who meets up with evil in her family feels immediate repulsion and should run like heck in the other direction. It seems that because my friend stood up and spoke the truth about family operations, because she wanted to perform the job she had been elected to do, she was nailed. She has gradually been edged out of a position in a behind-the-scenes coup, by control seeking, power and money advocates who call themselves Christians and some of whom belong to the Christian right.

One of the criticisms leveled at my friend was that she thought she was smarter than they were, which, to me, denotes one of the seven deadly sins: Envy. Then there’s Pride, Greed, Sloth… to name a few more that were committed by this scheming group. If these people are religious and believe in the so-called final Judgment and personal accountability, it appears otherwise --their Bible thumping seems just a way to make a loud noise. And if all this sounds appalling, sadly it is a true story about a post-modern family.

I’ve preached many times about the love of power and money corrupting otherwise good people who decide to take a wrong turn. I think my friend’s so-called family should read Matthew 23: 13-28, where Christ denounces the Pharisees and scribes who “clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed …so on the outside you look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness…”

Christ had no problem expressing his anger about greed and hypocrisy. He was passionate about truth and could be quite contradictory in that he preached truth, peace… and, oh yes, justice, in the same breath. Not to mention that he never left one honest person behind, regardless...

I look out at St. Francis and await my friend’s arrival. According to a clipping on my fridge, St. Francis would tell her, “Be at peace. Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life; rather look to them with full hope as they arise. God, whose very own you are, will deliver you from out of them. He has kept you hitherto, and He will lead you safely through all things…” He might have added that evildoers gradually unravel and destroy themselves.

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