My Psalm 41
The Co-Dependent Church
Phillip Seymour Hoffman was discovered deceased earlier this year. In his mid-40’s, he had achieved twice as much as actors twice his age. Possessing an easily recognizable physique, Hoffman was nonetheless able to completely transform himself into any character he played and make the audience believe the transformation – all through his incredible acting talent.
Hopefully, though, his legacy will be in the press that his death has and will generate and the education that will follow. Surrounded by a large number of bags of heroin, most unused, Mr. Hoffman was found with a syringe and needle in his arm. Successfully in recovery from drug addiction for over twenty years, the past fourteen months of his life were a daily struggle and sadly, he did not win that struggle.
To be Phillip Seymour Hoffman was the role of a lifetime. Regretfully, it lasted only half a lifetime. He leaves behind a stunned world audience and three beautiful children who will only be able to see their talented father in the future on a screen. It is a glorious legacy, Hoffman’s body of work, and we were always surprised at the heights of success he reached in his portrayals. In the end, though, there is no surprise at the death of a heroin user.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a man living in the first half of the twenty-first century in a world that mocks those that are troubled, embraces what it viewed as “trendy” or “pop culture”, and where the media applauds and rewards all of the above. The Church is no different. If we want to blame someone, all we have to do is look in the mirror, towards our neighbor, in the stores, at the television, listen to the radio. So-called reality programs endorse by their airing of youngsters drunk, doing drugs, getting pregnant, yelling and screaming…The list is endless. Comedians consider inappropriate behavior by those in the public eye as fodder for laughs.
The stereotype of a drug user has changed over the past forty years. The drug user is no longer a smelly bum in a flophouse but a distinguished professional hosting an event in public. Many such events are held under the auspices of the arts or religion. Alcohol is considered a necessity at large gatherings. Several years ago a young adult was asked by a friend what the acronym ECW meant and the response was hauntingly accurate: Everyone has Cheese and Wine.
The reality is that many of those church attendees are also taking prescription drugs that interact with alcohol – yes, even wine and some are alcoholics. Heroin is a killer and complete recovery from it is nearly impossible. Cocaine was once considered trendy in New York nightclubs; movies still extol the so-called glamour of it. Teens thrill at using bath salts and think it makes them part of the “in” crowd. Everyone is “living for the moment”, which is good because their long-term prospects are really not that great. That “moment” might be all they have.
Why doesn’t someone say something? No one wants to be the “bad guy”, the “negative voice”, or the “out-of-step, puritan”. No one wants to risk losing their self-image to save someone else’s life. How much would all those wine-drinking professionals pledge if they came to a parish dinner and could only have tea or coffee? When was the last time anyone tried? Do we really need alcohol, a drug, to congregate with each other?
Hopefully, the Church will focus less on worrying about saving face and more on saving lives – spiritually and physically. Could we have a joyous gathering without the alcohol? Are we afraid to try? Certainly one drink does not make one an alcoholic but what about those taking medications for whom other drugs are contraindicated? Are we our brother’s keeper? Would we want someone to care enough about us to remind us what we are doing might be harmful?
I Corinthians 6:19 – “Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” How would we react if someone painted graffiti across the nave of our church? We need to make the social aspect of our gatherings healthy and enjoyable for the communion of God’s children is vital to our community.
Drugs were the manner in which Phillip Hoffman met his death but his dealer-at-large was society. His greatest role in life was that of a father. Hopefully, we will all remember his legacy: It really is hard to get an Oscar statue to give you a hug. After all, a hug is not only the applause every child wants from their father, it’s the best thing a father can get from his child. Perhaps in his last role he will teach all of us that, while “we all are troubled”, quoting Hoffman, those troubles do not have to overcome our humanity towards another and most importantly, ourselves.
My Psalm 41
I sought your help, O Lord.
You delivered me from my distress.
My recovery is at hand
And I have no fear in its success.
You are gracious and merciful
And I rejoice in your goodness to me, O God.
I take my healing as a positive sign, Lord.
I will go forward and help others.
You have vanquished my evils that made me sick
And with your help, I will succeed in my living.
Those who thought my time was over
Will see your glory reflected in my life.
Praise to you, O God.
Blessed be the Lord God Almighty!