Crazy Love

Reflecting on how to confront evil ideas, and whether and when to cut ties with a friend - or a favorite public figure - who has lost their way.

Intro (with music): Peace, Love, and Understanding.

Hi, and welcome back to peace, love and understanding. My name is Steve Dehner. I'm your host. And I just want to thank you for being here. If you are already listening to this our third episode, you are an early adopter. And I really appreciate it. If you are joining us sometime in the future, and going back and listening from the beginning, that's also awesome. And thank you very much. If you are listening to all the podcast episodes, from the newest to the oldest, in reverse order, that's weird. I'm really confused right now. But congratulations, you're nearing the end. You can subscribe to this podcast simply by hitting the Follow button -- or tapping it gently: we don't want you to hurt your device. And furthermore, we have made it possible for people who wish to financially support me, and this podcast, and the work that I do, at The address for this is:, backward slash, peace dash, love dash, understanding dot, transistor dot, fm. ( Now if that was a little too hard to follow, I understand. Everything that I tell you, as far as links or information that you need to retain, will be in the show notes. So simply refer to those at the Transistor website, also in the show notes, and you'll be able to get all the information you need, including transcripts, if you're interested. Thank you very much for checking out my podcast and giving me a listen. And thank you very much for your support. You can also contact me by email at That's s-t-e-v-e-d-e-h-n-e-r, dot com.

Now, here's what I've been thinking about. Last week, I told you about an encounter I had with an old friend, who after a very short while shared with me some disturbing attitudes and beliefs that he had developed since I knew him in the days of yore, and that included an antipathy to me-too women and believing survivor stories, and moving on to very flagrant anti-semitic beliefs. Now, I tried to describe as accurately as I could that conversation including my response. And I've been thinking about -- since then, since the incident and since I recounted it for you on the last episode -- I've been thinking about how I responded and wondering if it was in fact the best way that I could have responded. The sort of things I was wondering about was the way that I ended the initial conversation, which was by basically just walking away. And then we very much by chance -- or by design -- ran into each other a few days later, which was surprising.

I believe that my obligation as a Christian, speaking to a another professing Christian, is that I treat them lovingly, respectfully, gently, patiently, things like that, even when I think they are wrong, and when I think they've gone astray. And that would be clearly the case in this situation. (By the way, that is also how I endeavor to treat everyone, regardless of whether they're a fellow Christian or not. Do I always succeed? No.) So I'm asking myself, was I loving? Did I speak the truth in love, as Ephesians says? Did I show gentleness, respect, patience? And my overall assessment is that I did get upset, but I don't think that my anger was inappropriate because my anger was directed at lies -- and, I would say, pernicious lies that are destructive, that lead to harm. They're harmful for the people at whom they are directed. And they are very harmful as well to people who believe them because, in effect, they hold to a false worldview in which people are unfairly, wrongly, untruthfully, scapegoated. And the problems for which they are blamed, really belong elsewhere, and they are more complicated. And they're more suffused throughout the world, and the people of the world. And the people who hold those beliefs are deceived. And that's really never a good place to be. People who believe conspiracy theories, they have basically adopted a kind of powerlessness in the face of forces that are cloaked in darkness, can't be openly encountered, and control the world that we live in, at a level that can't really be reached or touched. They start wars, they crash economies, they control the media -- we know that one, right? They control the media, they control the government, they control the shadow government, right? Shadow state -- what do we call that? The deep state. Right? They control that. They control banking and financial systems and monetary systems and monetary policy, and so forth, and so forth. And when you believe the sort of things, you basically believe you're living in a world in which everything is really beyond your control, and the whole system's rigged. This is a victim mentality, right? You are at the mercy of these dark forces, and there's nothing you can really do about it, okay. The irony of that, of course, is that it preys on people's fears, and makes it possible for those groups -- let's say in this, in this instance, Jewish people -- to be targeted, and for them to actually end up being victimized, because they are falsely accused of these crimes and conspiracies that people have fabricated, maliciously, falsely and persistently. Given the the sort of, the level of crimes against Jewish people -- the history, the long, long history, and the, the really wicked, horrific treatment that has been meted out over very many centuries, over very many nations and cultures -- I think that my response of anger was pretty appropriate. And I think it was actually pretty measured, given the circumstances. The fact that the person expressing these views is, as I know him, a kind person and a gentle person, a thoughtful person, and not somebody who would threaten to hurt people or cause harm, and that he's very soft spoken, really, generally speak ing, soft spoken, and mild mannered -- all these things don't change the really wicked nature of the lies that he is believing, and that he was sharing with me. And so I think anger is an appropriate always an appropriate response to injustice, and lying. And, did I bring the appropriate measure of gentleness and patience? Well, I'm not sure. I don't know if it's something we can really vote on. But I kept my voice down. I was as direct as I could be. I think I gave as much detail as was warranted. And I think probably a lot of people would ask, 'Is that the sort of situation circumstances in which you would several relationship with somebody who had been your friend?' And I think that's a fair question. That's a question, actually, that I would throw out to you, my listeners: Is there a line that people cross in the things that they may adopt in their beliefs in their actions and their behavior, they cross a line at which you say, 'You know what? I can't really associate with this person.' That wasn't really in my thinking -- associating with this person. But I suppose the way that I simply stopped talking and walked away, was a little bit like shaking the dust off my sandals as I left town, you might say. It was kind of a gesture, that this, 'You know, there's, there's nothing for us to talk about at this point. This is, this is just beyond the pale.' Those sorts of things like virulent hatred, or libel, slander against people, racism, just naked, naked racism, or misogyny, or just just such a level of contempt for a group of people that's expressed, it's embodied in those ideas and in that book, I think rises to the level of, of, 'You know what, I think we're done here, or at least we're done for a while.

Now, I happen to believe that it's important for us to follow, as Christians, the teaching on this that Jesus gave us and that the apostles give us in the New Testament writings. And to me it's very clear that this sort of separation is actually directed at Christian-to-Christian relationships. So it's actually somebody who calls himself my brother, or who calls herself my sister, that would actually get the sort of severing of the ways, parting of the ways because of their actions or words. Just to be really clear about that, when Paul was advising the church at Corinth, to have nothing more to do with a given individual, he had to clarify that he did not mean to treat people outside the church this way. Because if we were going to treat people outside the church, this way, we'd be separating ourselves from everybody around us, all our neighbors, based on they're behaving in a way that we didn't think was consistent with Christian teaching. Well, we don't expect people who aren't Christians to behave in a way that's consistent with Christian teaching, at least, not in a normative way. So he was very clearly saying this about other Christians. So if somebody, he says, is a Christian, but they are Christians who are idolaters slanders immoral people, then he says, you need to separate from them, and let them feel apart from the community. Because their actions, their willful choices, have put something between them and God that needs to be also a reality in their relationship to God's people. That's really the the the nub. Now, this whole has to do with relationships between Christians. And I hasten to add that the purpose of this parting of the ways isn't to divide people, it is actually to restore someone who's gone astray. I can't think of a better description of somebody who's gone astray, then a Christian who is flirting with Nazi propaganda. Okay. But the goal of withdrawing from that person is to to draw them back, if you will, into the fold, to say: 'Yeah, it doesn't feel good to be apart. How can we get us back together? Well, the way that we can get us back together is for you to deal with this thing that is, at its heart, between you and God -- not just me: I'm not your judge, God is. So if you have gone down this road, you need to turn back. And so getting back together with the community means first getting yourself back together with God, and what He wants. And of course he doesn't want you to hate people, or be afraid of people, or scapegoat people. So you need to get that right. And that's just the bottom line. So that's about getting right with God. So you can be right with the community.'

And so this is something, you know, this is something between Christians. And the question would be if somebody comes to you and says, 'Hey, I'm entertaining Nazi propaganda, or Nazi-like lies about Jewish people. You know, I'm thinking about joining the KKK,' -- things like that, what's our response? I think our response might be, 'Hey, we need to talk about this some more.' That's an appropriate response. 'Hey, look, you and I need to sit down and hammer this out, because this is, this is not okay.' I wouldn't necessarily disagree with that, that approach. And I might have taken that. But my initial reaction came kind of from who I am and came from my gut, and hopefully would be open to some revision if I needed, needed to go back and revise that or take a different approach. But I'd be interested in hearing from you about the sort of places where you would draw that line, where you'd say, 'You know, if that's where somebody's at, I have to say, You know what? We really can't talk until you get your head straightened out on this, and your heart. You just got to get straightened out on this, or we really can't have our normal, friendly relationship that we have had.' Do you have that line? Where do you draw it? And how do you draw it? I was angry at the time, so it could conceivably be said that I didn't think that all through, and didn't actually make a decision. I just communicated in a certain way that I put a higher priority on pointing out that this so-called information that he was basking in, was not information. It was lies. Where do we draw the line? Because a lot of us find ourselves in situations where people close to us and people around us are adopting beliefs. And attitudes are really at odds with what we think is right. And they can be family members, they can be spouses, they can be children, they can be parents, and how we handle that isn't going necessarily going to be uniform. It's gonna be different probably a lot of the time. And so I wonder, what do you think about that? How do we handle it? This is a good place to remind you that if you would like to comment or reply to the question that I posed, you can send an email to me at: That's s-t-e-v-e-d-e-h-n-e-r, dot com.

[Musical bridge]

As I was thinking through these things, I had a chance conversation with somebody at work, who mentioned the name of one of my favorite people. And she said, 'Well, you know, he's really kind of a jerk.' And I said, 'What are you talking about? He's, he's one of my favorite people, one of my favorite artists.' And the person that she mentioned is actually somebody I mentioned on my first episode, Van Morrison. Just to sort of put this whole story in context, I have been a hardcore Van Morrison fan for at least 35 years now. I grew up hearing his music, and I always liked his music. But I really delved into it, probably starting about 1986 or 1987. And ever since then I have been someone who really loves his music. Now, his entire body of music? No. I mean, I really just listen to everything that he produced up until sometime in the 70s. I have listened to some of his stuff from the early 80s as well, "A Sense of Wonder," maybe being one of the later albums, and the stuff that he's produced over the last 15, 20 years hasn't really turned my crank, like, like the early stuff does. So that is important to know. And the other thing is that he has been somebody who has said very little in the public sphere. He's given very few interviews. And I would say that, to the best of my knowledge, I was not aware of a lot of the things that he said over the last, I don't know, maybe 10 years. And the reason is that I was not reading in the places where I might have come across that, but also that I was kind of oblivious to it. I was just like, well, this is a guy that doesn't talk, right? This is a guy who says what he has to say in his music. And I love that. I mean, it's just beautiful. He's just written incredibly wonderful music. And he has written lyrics that are sometimes just transcendent. And as a poet, as, as I call him, an Irish mystic poet, there's few people around who whose music moves me as his does. And I'm talking, you know, primarily about the stuff that he produced, you know, between 1967 and say, 1973, somewhere in there. What that means is that I've been largely ignorant of his statements to the press and other things that he's been known to have said in public. And so when my co-worker made a disparaging remark about him, I was like, 'What are you talking about? What what do you know that I don't know? Because he's one of my favorite artists.' And she said, 'Oh, he's, you know, in an anti-vaxxer, and he's into conspiracy theories, stuff like that.' I'm like, what? What are you talking about? Okay, hold on. So I immediately turned to Google and asked Google, what was the deal with Van Morrison. Google pointed me to an article published in the Los Angeles Times. The headline of the article is, "What happened to Van Morrison? The fall from eccentric genius to conspiracy theorist." This article was written by Ryan H. Walsh, and it was published on May 10, 2021. And it outlines pretty thoroughly, about as thoroughly as I guess anyone would probably need, with references and links and so forth, what the nature is of the rabbit hole down which this man has fallen, and includes a lot from the album that he released last year, called, "Latest Record Project Volume 1," a 28- track double album '--that includes,' -- and I'm quoting from the article now -- 'eyebrow-raising song titles such as “Where Have All the Rebels Gone,” “Why Are You on Facebook?” and “Stop Bitching, Do Something.” This album is now very much news: Variety published a list of “The 10 Craziest Lyrics” from the record, while the Jerusalem Post rounded up all of the claims of anti-Semitism implied in his song called “They Own the Media” and other lyrics scattered throughout.'

And I'm ending the quotation right there. That is from the opening paragraph of the article. And I, I immediately saw that there was a very strong correspondence to the feelings I was beginning to have finding out this really very disappointing news about somebody whose music I genuinely love, and what had happened a couple of weeks previously, in talking to my old friend, Ed, as I call him, and what I, what I had talked about on a previous podcast episode. Now, I want to talk a minute about this. Because I think that, first of all, there is so much crazy-in-a-can to open up and dig into here -- and, I had a bad day. Let me just say, I had a bad day, because there was real surprise and disappointment and sadness. For me, it was it was quite a shock. I just hadn't been listening to his more recent music. And you may think that's strange because I said I was such a hardcore fan. But his recent music really is just nothing like "Moondance," or "His Band and Street Choir," or, for heaven's sake, "Astral Weeks," "St. Dominic's Preview." I mean, these albums are really great. And, and every song on 'em is great. And it's just (heavy sigh) so good. So good. He has a song on "St. Dominic's Preview" that, you know, almost every time I listen to it, so many times, when I listen to it, it brings tears to my eyes. It's called, "Listen to the Lion." Eleven minutes long. It's my -- I should probably come up with a better phrase -- It's my grief song. It's a song that that I listened to just very shortly after after we lost our son, and our daughter was still in a coma in the hospital back in 2003. And that song I had known for years and years and years, at least since the 80s. And it just hit me like a waterfall. It was just like a waterfall. It just embodied and expressed my grief in such a profound way. And when you connect with music like that, you naturally hold the artist in, in pretty high regard, at least as an artist. Now, what did I know about the person who wrote and performed the song and recorded the song? Well, nothing really. But we nevertheless have some kind of relationship with the artists that we love. And you don't really like to learn that this person whose art means so much to you, is just gone a little bit nuts in not, not a, not a lovable way, not an endearing way.

So I've been thinking about that. It's been a conversation that I've had with a lot of friends over the years, about separating an artist from their art, because we, we will love the work of, of a painter, we will love the work of a writer, we will love the work of a musician or a poet. And we will come to learn that they privately held views that are just beyond the pale. They're just not something that we would accept or tolerate, because they're hateful, and they're, and they're not truthful. And part of what we are admiring about them is the truth that they're telling us, right? There's something about what they've written, or what they've painted, or what they've said, or what they sung, that resonates deeply with us as being truthful, and as being beautiful, as adding richness and comfort and insight and solace to our lives -- or, very different emotions, but ones that we nevertheless value and appreciate. And it's just very hard to accept that both of those things come from the same person. I think that this goes very much to our concept of what a human being is or what human nature is, and, that the same person can indeed produce things out of their own mind, out of their own heart, that really touches us, that really resonates with us, that we we embrace it, we take it into our soul. And that same person, their own soul can be, or can become, poisoned. That can happen. And I think that we could even go beyond that and say that what they have made, what they have produced, is very much a genuine expression of their soul, of their mind, of their heart. They weren't pretending. They weren't faking. They weren't being phony. That was real. It is real. And, also: the ugliness, the bitterness, the rancor, the hatred, the lies, whatever else may be going on inside of them, can also be real. Both of those things can be happening in the same person. Now, I don't know if they really do happen at the same time. Because when I look at Van Morrison's life and career, I see these lines, one that starts in the middle and it swoops down, and the other that starts in the middle and sweeps up. And the as the craziness goes up, the artistic output and beauty goes down. And I think they probably go down in a pretty correlative way. It's also true that some people have been at their very worst when they produced the very best -- that that would be true of other people, too. And I don't know what to say about that, other than it may be demonstrating the point that I just made: both of those things can happen in the same person at the same time.

I think about what Jesus said about false teachers, people who who present false teaching -- untruthful, baseless teaching. He warned his followers about it. And he said, "You will know them by their fruit." And what that really means is, you'll know them by their work product. Okay, so how do you know a false teacher? Well, they teach false things. That's basically what he's saying. So if you hear the false teaching, you know you're listening to a false teacher. And of course that means that you need to be able to recognize it, when you hear it or see it. And we're not always think good at it. But that is how you know them. Some people interpret that differently. And they think that if you see a person who behaves badly -- stealing from the coffers, or being otherwise corrupt, that's how you know them. But that isn't how you know them. You know them by their fruit, their work product. And that means that when somebody's making something beautiful, I think somebody's telling the truth and doing something beautiful and truthful, that says something very real about them. It really does. I'm sure it is at least as real, and perhaps even more real, than the ugliness that they're harboring, that they've given into, that they've been led astray by, that they have tripped over and fallen into and mired themselves in. That probably has something to do with Jesus telling us that when our brothers and sisters fall into these pits, we are to help them out. That it's not really them. It's not who they really are. That they can be shown the error of their ways, they can be shown the better way, and they can be given an opportunity to rise up out of that, shake it off, wash it off, turn from it, reject it, speak against it, call it what it is, tell the truth about it, and go a better way.

Consider this: Second Corinthians 5:21 says something that I think is pretty profound. "For he (God) made Him who knew no sin (that's Jesus) to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Now, whatever else that might mean, I think one takeaway is that we are not our sin. If Jesus was made sin for us, then we can't say we are sin, we are our sin, we are our sins. I think that's relevant to what we're talking about here. Our identity is not the mistakes we've made, or things we've done wrong, even are very willful choices. That is not who we are. And that's not how God sees us, or describes us. That is why we cannot simply make enemies out of people, because we don't agree with them, or they're saying things that we hate. My philosophy has always been that I don't make anybody into an enemy. If they're my enemy, it's because they have made themselves my enemy -- they've chosen to be my enemy, not because I made them my enemy. Does that make sense? I hope it does. If somebody has decided that they don't want to associate with me, that they reject me, that they hate me, they're going to have to choose it. It's not going to be because I chose it. I want to choose love. And I want to leave doors open. And I want to be the sort of person that somebody can come back to and say, 'You remember that time at the graduation party when I was spouting that anti-semitic BS? And you really let me have it. Remember that? Well, I just want to thank you." That can happen. It could happen. I think deep down I'm the person who believes that it's worthwhile to keep open the possibility that that can happen.

Outro (with music): Peace, love and understanding.

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Crazy Love
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