September 18, 2009

What Exactly Is A "Bleeding Heart"?

Used to be back when I was do'in mah thang in the 60's (you know, the decade when young people actually gave a damn and did something about it), the term "bleeding heart" usually prefaced "liberal". Nowadays, the suffix isn't always used. Seems "bleeding heart" kinda covers it for most critics.

I am, I suppose, what the Catholic church calls "a fallen-away Catholic". Yeah. I guess. I skipped and rolled for awhile and eventually took the big dive off the deep end decades ago. Then, again, I probably would have fallen away from just about any organized religion eventually if given enough time to realize that while organized religion can bring great solace to some, on the whole, it came to represent to me the height of hypocrisy and the single biggest reason behind history's major conflagrations.

But I digress (for which I will surely burn in hell). Back to "bleeding heart". I can still remember those artists' renderings of Jesus plastering the walls of the Catholic school where I attended after (public) school catechism classes. In most all those works of art Jesus is painted with one hand held upward - as if in a blessing - and the other hand pointing to or resting upon a very visibly depicted heart bleeding from the wounds of a crown of thorns surrounding it. The nuns and the occasionally visiting priests would always remind us that this represented Jesus' heart bleeding for all of us in order to selflessly give of himself to others.

For all my formative and pre-political (and pre-fallen-away) years, I understood and accepted the definition given to me at that time and still accept it today. Despite my physical separation from any organized religion, I still very much believe in a loving God and one who suffers each time the diety's name or basic ideology (and not that of sociologically-agenda-driven biblical theologians) is taken in vain or is used as a weapon instead of a representation of selfless, unconditional love.

So I pose the same question I've asked myself for decades: When did the term "Bleeding Heart" become a negative? A slur? What exactly is a "Bleeding Heart" by modern standards?

I've always found it rather oxymoronic that "bleeding heart" became the chosen derogatory mantra of the more politically & socially conservative folk toward those who weren't. Soon, "bleeding heart" degenerated into an insult, a putdown, a label from which many distanced themselves for fear of being drowned in the waves of pious paranoia that flooded this land. It was a pox, a symbol, a "666" identifying that person as one to avoid, ridicule, slander and, ultimately, of course - fear.

Inasmuch as I've admittedly 'fallen away', I don't think I could ever fall far enough away to forget what I still believe to be the real meaning of "Bleeding Heart". Yet I will continue to be sadly perplexed by - and a bit contemptuous of - those who brandish the cross, beat their bibles, yell from their pulpits, chant from their pews and praise His name while defiling the true meaning of His heart.

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