#LoveWins

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This Essay first appeared on August 2015 on https://apologers.wordpress.com/

 

Recently an unprecedented event happened, the ruling court of the land made a recent ruling as it comes to marriage. Now, there are others more qualified than me to address this in both the philosophical perspective and the law perspective (see [1] [2] in the endnotes), but to me, the most interesting thing about the whole Supreme Court Ruling is the narrative that followed. I do not mean a narrative in a negative way but only in the way that a worldview has revealed itself and come into the open. This worldview is succinctly summed up in the twitter hashtag #LoveWins. Now given the timing of this hashtag, I can assume that the message being given here is that the love between two people (of whatever context) is now acceptable and that love conquers all – like it does in all the movies and stories we like as a culture.First instead of me addressing the narrative directly at this time let’s listen to the apostle Paul do the same [3]; but I will annotate in the footnotes and give more in future posts:

“People of America, I perceive that you are very loving in all respects [4] for while I was perusing your newspapers, movies, and internet where you post your lives, aspirations and stories, I found many writings that pointed to ‘blind love’ or love without borders or rules.

What you seek in blind ignorance, I proclaim this to you: this love without borders that you seek [5] is God who made the world and all things. He does not dwell in the megachurches, yoga clubs, or institutions that may or may not have non-profit statuses. Nor is He served by human hands, He does not need your love or approval since He Himself gives to all people life, breath, common grace, and all things.  He made us yearn for this love that perhaps, if people seek it, they will find Him [6].

This love cannot be found in material goods, pleasure, or even other people of either gender that we chase after.[7]

God is now declaring that all people everywhere should repent from their false chasing because there is a day coming soon where He will judge the world through a Man [8] whom He has appointed and given proof to us all of this love by raising Him from the dead”

If the sermon is correct, then we are falsely worshiping the idol of love without boundaries. The longing for this love points only ultimately to God but we can never reach that longing without God. Like any idol it cannot be sustained as a worldview and there are issues with it.

Now let us try to define love, since that is something which needs to be made clear, now more than ever. Allegedly according to Google, the most searched question on the internet is the question “What is love?” Now it may be the case that people are looking for the Saturday Night Live skit with Jim Carey or that famous song it is set to but I highly doubt that is the case. People really want to know what love is!

The Bible gives the attributes of Love in the famous passage in I Corinthians 13 and also states that love is more important and will even out last other spiritual gifts like prophecy. The Bible even says that God is Love (1 John 4:7-8). So if one of the great spiritual texts in the world says love is vastly indispensable, critical, and an attribute of the divine we should look into it.

C.S. Lewis writes in The Four Loves about the different types of love; while that (among others) is a great resource, we will be taking a different approach. Now if there are some false views and substitutes of love they will need to be torn down if we are to understand love. Let us lay down some foundations in this part:

1. Love is not lust. The mere craving for something or someone is not the ideal for which the word love ever could be ascribed. Lust is selfish while love is selfless. Every major religion including Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism have called lust a horrible vice (with some exceptions in ancient paganism in Greece and Rome). If the apparent unification of the major religions does not convince you, here is an important concept: ‘Is’ is not ‘ought’. Just because we have a craving for something (even if we were born that way) does not mean that should be acted upon. An extreme example is this: the rapist acting on his desires commits a crime that is abhorrent and that in no shape or form can be called love. This just seems self-evident.

2. Love is more than just the physical. We all have seen or know the progression that a couple goes through as they hold hands, kiss, and get more physical (of course there are boundaries in this progression). If however one loves the physical act and not the person, they are using that person. Using a person can never be love. This also seems self-evident.

If love was only physical then people who are paralyzed could not love or could only give a percentage of love compared to non-paralyzed people. That is just absurd. We ought to love people more than things or acts because, according to the Bible, we are created in the image of God. This difference is important because equal things should be treated equally and unequal things should be treated unequally. For example, if my house was burning down and I could choose to save my family or what was in the garbage can I would be a fool (and possibly be rightfully judged) for running out trash can in hand choosing not to save my family. Even if my family was not in peril and I had to choose between a stranger and garbage I would still be a fool to choose trash and not to save the person. This is because, to a Christian, every person is created equal in value and the unborn have this same equal value no matter what videos are restrained or what horrors are done to them. However, the recent decision by the Supreme Court dealing with marriage may tear down what personhood legally means by changing what roots our identity from being created in the objective image of God to subjective orientation.

3. Love is more than just the emotional. Have you even seen those rare couples that celebrated their 50th or 60th anniversary? They are a treasure that I wish we could save for all time. I will grant you that their love for each other was tested through the years and was not felt at all times. Even I who have only been married a few years have had times where I don’t feel like showing love or feel loved. Does that mean that the love is gone? Of course not. If love was just mere emotions then all deep relationships would be as fleeting as a snowfall in summer. This is well documented in the ‘honeymoon is over phase’. If love only focused on the emotions felt or experienced, then the relationship would be only one of emotional lust.

4. Love cannot be forced. In Disney’s Aladdin, the genie gives the following as a limitation to wishing: You cannot force anyone to fall in love with you. For a cartoon, this rule is profound as it makes the wisher not have the power over love. Let us say that it was possible to wish someone to fall in love with you. This would be a bad thing as the thing desired for would only be a counterfeit and thus not truly love. The person compelled would be changed against their will. Thus by forcing a person to love you, that person would be changed from the one you fell in love with. One cannot wish the demise of the object of their affection. Plato makes this exact point in The Symposium.

If Plato does not convince you, there is also a pretty heavy handed episode of Doctor Who that addresses this issue as well (and was really the only good concept in ‘Gridlock’ in my opinion). In that episode, there were drug dealers who dealt in emotion patches. One would slap on a patch and immediately forget, feel happy, sad, or whatever emotion one could afford. So in that dystopian future where one was ruled by emotion patches, the feeling of love would be no more than a mere dose away. That manipulation of emotions would mean that people could force others or themselves to only feel things that they wanted. That would be in no way loving and in fact is one of the lessons the Pixar movie Inside Out teaches: “that someone who only pursues pleasure is going to be a shallow, selfish person.” A forced ‘love’ on others or the self is a deadly lust for power that can harm and is not love.

5. Love is not free and is costly. This has been a large misconception about love, that someone can be a lover and not a fighter and that there is such a thing as free love. I will always fight for my wife and family because I love them. If one does not wish to fight then the love that they have either is not worth defending or is all about themselves. Both of those outcomes cannot be love and would be at best selfishness. The great author G.K. Chesterton wrote this about that divide:

“You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it. You cannot fight without something to fight for. To love a thing without wishing to fight for it is not love at all; it is lust. It may be an airy, philosophical, and disinterested lust; it may be, so to speak, a virgin lust; but it is lust, because it is wholly self-indulgent and invites no attack. On the other hand, fighting for a thing without loving it is not even fighting; it can only be called a kind of horse-play that is occasionally fatal.” [9]

Many people who end up divorcing regret not fighting for their marriage, but over 80% of couples who rated their marriages as ‘very unhappy’ said they were happily married five years later according to this report from the Institute for American Values. The people who fight for their marriages are the ones who are the happiest because they understand  love is something that is costly due to its importance.

6. Love requires the immaterial soul. Imagine, if you will, a world where the only things that exist are things that we can touch, feel, and observe. That would mean that things that cannot be directly sensed are illusions. Among the illusions would be our thoughts and our will. We have just established that love requires a fight and thus by implication a will to fight, but that will needs to be free because love cannot be forced, as also stated previously. If love was just a bio-chemical or a physical reaction it would be just emotional. We previously established that could not be the case. If love were just the passing on of genetic material due to ‘selfish’ genes (ala Dawkins), then that would mean love is just an illusion for that end. Love would be merely physical and we previously established this cannot be. This imagined world also goes against what we talked about ‘is’ and ‘ought’ because love is not lust. In addition to all that there would no grounding for value or human dignity in that make-believe world. So if we believe that love exists then the make believe world where only material things exist cannot be. So the concept of love contradicts that world, because either that world exists and love does not or love exists and that world does not. Because love exists, love requires the immaterial soul because this soul is where free will resides.

When the Supreme Court released its opinion on same-sex marriage, the presidential twitter account stated “Retweet if you believe everyone should be able to marry the person they love. #LoveIsLove.” Someone should have reminded them of another president who famously said “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” because that would change the kind of love that is being discussed.  According to the past #LoveWins articles, we know that there are counterfeits that seem like love but are just lust, just the physical, just the emotional, forced, and/or free instead.

Like any counterfeit, if it does not match up to how the world works, then it must be a fake. Here is a representational example of that from a local independent paper where I live. This is relationship advice posted on July 24th of this year:

“I am in an open relationship. Why do people feel so free to judge what they don’t understand?

Judgment usually comes from someone who is trapped, looking out at what they might be missing. You do you. If you and your partner are happy and it works for you, that’s all that matters. You’re responsible for pursuing your fulfillment. Sometimes, one person can’t meet all those needs.

Issue 1. The advice self-contradicts. The author here is judging people who judge. Because of this, she falls into the same category she puts those who judge into. This makes her advice just as valuable as theirs so the advice of the others should be considered. Either that or the author’s advice does not matter just like the others, making it pointless and so the advice of the others should be considered.

Issue 2. The advice makes love just an emotion. The goal of any relationship is much more than mere happiness, because if it wasn’t, the relationship would be one of lust. Additionally, even if something ‘works’ it does not mean that it ought to be – this is what we discussed about the difference between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ in part 2 as well. For example, codependence in a relationship makes some people happy and ‘works’ for them but is a very unhealthy thing.

Issue 3: the goal that the advice gives can never be reached. It says that ‘one person can never meet the needs of fulfillment;’ of course not, but neither can 3, 10 or all of mankind put together. Only God can meet that need. Blasé Pascal wrote:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?  This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” [11]

Why is that? Because love requires the immaterial soul. So if the advice is followed, they cannot reach what is sought. That is just folly.

The whole point of this LoveWins essay is this: if love is only defined subjectively then the meaning of it depends on the person, culture, or a court. That would logically mean that love could be just lust, just the physical, just the emotional, forced, and/or free. However, if that is the case we cannot say that ‘love is love’ or ‘love wins’ because the claim of those statements depend on the definition of love being unchanging and understood universally. So, just like the relationship advice above, the idea of subjective love must be counterfeit.

Now what is the true kind of love? Remember when we stated that love requires an immaterial soul? That is the key to understanding this kind of love. If there is an immaterial soul, that would have to come from somewhere. Material things can only create material things. Something immaterial must have created the immaterial. The first immaterial thing that created both the material and immaterial is God and is what “Paul” preached to us.

Because this love is grounded in the nature of God this makes love objective. Because of that there is a ‘telos’ or purpose for that love, one that both Christians and others should try to perfect. Examples of this perfecting is demonstrated in the autobiography ‘A Severe Mercy’ by Sheldon Vanauken and in the novel ‘Till We Have Faces’ by C.S. Lewis.

The perfect example of this love is in the life of the ‘God-man’ Jesus whose life on earth is chronicled in the books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Because that love is real love; that love will ultimately win.

———————–

[1] Stratton, Tim. 2015. “A Biblical Argument for Gay Rights.” Free Thinking Ministries.
 http://freethinkingministries.com/a-biblical-argument-for-gay-rights/

[2] Hall, Amy. Jan2015. “Understanding the Same-Sex Marriage Issue.” Stand to Reason.
http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2015/01/understand-the-same-sex-marriage-issue.html

[3] This is not really what he said, but a rhetorical strategy employed using the ideas that he preached in Acts 17: 22-32. I do apologize to the apostle Paul for this loose paraphrase if it in error in any way.

[4] Here the tactic is used to divide the audience, just like when he was in Athens (Acts 17: 22-31) and also in Jerusalem (Acts 23: 6-7). The divide here is that we enjoy calling ourselves loving and yet at the same time we have very high divorce rates, and other social ills that would not exist or be solved by being loyal and loving.

[5] See Galatians 3:28 for what this boundless love/unity is.

[6] We can only love persons. The love I have for board games is far less than the love I have for my wife and kids. This can been seen in that I would let my whole house and all the stuff there burn down if it meant my family was safe. In the same way God is personal and not an abstract force as no matter what we count not love a thing more than a person. A force or thing can also not love back.

[7] No matter what we fall in love with like a toy, spouse, or whatever there will be points where there will be pain. There will also be parts that we will not feel loved nor want to love. Even if that was not the case anything finite will have an end, and yet we long for a love without boundaries. Death itself is a boundary.

[8] This man is Jesus the Messiah (Christ) whose life on earth is chronicled in the books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

[9] Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens, CW 15:255.

[10] Emphasis is mine and only done to match the points made against it. Also it has been edited slightly by truncation to aid in the precision of the points and to remove any vulgarities.

[11] Pensees 10.148

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