Bad Cop, Good Cop

‘I Sought on Earth a Garden of Delight’

I sought on earth a garden of delight,
Or island altar to the Sea and Air,
Where gentle music were accounted prayer,
And reason, veiled, performed the happy rite.
My sad youth worshipped at the piteous height
Where God vouchsafed the death of man to share;
His love made mortal sorrow light to bear,
But his deep wounds put joy to shamed flight.
And though his arms, outstretched upon the tree,
Were beautiful, and pleaded my embrace,
My sins were loath to look upon his face.
So came I down from Golgotha to thee,
Eternal Mother; let the sun and sea
Heal me, and keep me in thy dwelling-place.

George Santayana

I found the above poem to be a partial response to my misgivings on Mr. Gibson’s film, whose depiction of the cruelty and brutality of Jesus Christ’s passion seems designed to inspire faith by force. Santayana, unable to feel worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice, unable to look into the eyes of the masculine God, seeks comfort in the Eternal Mother who is, most conveniently, God too. Kind of like a divine “bad cop, good cop.” dynamic. What I think popular Christianity needs right now is a little good cop to Mr. Gibson’s bad cop.

I find this is true in my family life where, as the father, I am cast as the bad cop. I get to share tender moments with my kids, don’t get me wrong, but I also “lay down the law.” When I do, it’s mommy they run to for comfort. Good cop. But we work as a team and the lesson usually gets taught and the feelings get soothed.

Bad cop. Good cop. Who wants a donut?

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