Thursday, November 1, 2007

Reflections: You Don't Know What Love Is

Luke 10:27 He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

Love is central to the Christian religion. We say "God is Love." Jesus Christ charged us to love God, neighbor, and self, as the supreme commandment. Yet what do we really know of love? Love is sometimes seen as that which temporarily manipulates the mutual activities of a Kid Rock and a Pamela Anderson, for the titillation of the public. It is seen by some as the relationships that they have with their golden retrievers. Love is experienced by nearly every contemporary person as the jealous, competitive, co-dependent possessiveness which entangles mates and family members in nets of anxiety-ridden, yet voluntary, emotional slavery. So who knows what love is?

In her essay “The ‘Symposium’ of Plato” from the anthology Imitations of Christianity Among the Ancient Greeks, Simone Weil quotes the following, from the discourse of the tragic poet, Agathon:

196b. The most important is that Love neither causes nor submits to injustice, be it among the gods or among men. For, when suffering happens to him he does not suffer by force, for force cannot reach Love. And when he acts, he does not proceed by force, for each one consents to obey Love in everything. That agreement which is made by mutual consent is righteous, according to the laws of the ‘City royal’.

Weil herself next comments:

“These lines are perhaps the most beautiful in Plato. Here is the very center of all Greek thought, its perfectly pure and luminous core. The recognition of might as an absolutely sovereign thing in all of nature, including the natural part of the human soul, with all the thoughts and all the feelings the soul contains, and at the same time as an absolutely detestable thing; this is the innate grandeur of Greece.”

Does this not speak directly to the power-plays at the heart of every domestic drama, or “family romance”—a stuggle between affinity and repulsion—the initial desire to be as one, which gradually morphs into a struggle to be oneself?

Weil continues:

“Today one sees many people who honor might above all, whether they give it that name or other names possessed of a more agreeable sound.”

Right, a more agreeable sound--such as “democratization” or “nation-building.”

“One also sees many, however, in rapidly decreasing number, who despise might. This is because they are ignorant of its powerful effects. They lie to themselves, if need be, in order not to learn about it.”

Here, I believe, Weil has her finger on the pulse of that evidently numerous variety of “religious conservative,” whose moral cognitive dissonance renders him at the same time hawkish, and, in his own mind, pious. He is unable to see the conflict between the coercive use of force against his neighbor, in pursuit of his creature comforts and personal security, and the commandment to love his neighbor.

“But who knows the whole extent of the empire of might and at the same time despises it? ...perhaps some Christians very near to saintliness, but seemingly few.”

Amen, sister. You got that right.

6 comments:

jb said...

Rob,

A very timely message to me. Thanks,
I really can't say more at this time.

Rodak said...

jb--
Thanks for stopping by.

EdMcGon said...

Jesus Christ charged us to love God, neighbor, and self, as the supreme commandment.

Rodak,
Quite true, yet you will happily take from one neighbor and give to another neighbor, using the force of government to accomplish your goals.

“Today one sees many people who honor might above all, whether they give it that name or other names possessed of a more agreeable sound.”

Right, a more agreeable sound--such as “democratization” or “nation-building.”


Yet you would use the U.S. government to force Americans to submit to your socialist ideals, in much the same way you complain about what Bush is doing in Iraq.

You assume you know the mind of God to such an extent that you are willing to force your neighbor to submit to your beliefs, regardless of whether he shares them or not. That's really loving your neighbor isn't it?

Christ never said, "Steal from the rich and give to the poor." On the contrary, he said "Render unto Caesar..." But the key difference you forget between now and Christ's time is that "WE THE PEOPLE" are Caesar.

Rodak said...

Ed--
In fact taxes are only collected by force if an individual violates the social contract by refusing to pay them.
As I'm sure you remember, one of the battle cries of the American Revolution was "No taxation without representation!" Well, you and I have representation.
Christ actually spoke explicitly to the question of whether one should pay taxes to Caesar. He said "Yes." You could look it up.

EdMcGon said...

In fact taxes are only collected by force if an individual violates the social contract by refusing to pay them.

You, in effect, use force by proxy when you ask the government to pay for your altruistic programs.

As I'm sure you remember, one of the battle cries of the American Revolution was "No taxation without representation!" Well, you and I have representation.

I never once said you have no right to vote however you want under our current political system.

What I am saying is that you are incorrect in your interpretation of Christianity as supporting your political views.

Christ actually spoke explicitly to the question of whether one should pay taxes to Caesar. He said "Yes." You could look it up.

I never said you shouldn't pay taxes.

I am saying that, as a Christian, to demand that your neighbor pays taxes to support your political view that the government should be responsible for YOUR duty to take care of the poor, is un-Christian.

Rodak said...

"You, in effect, use force by proxy when you ask the government to pay for your altruistic programs."

Ed--
That's just absurd. I don't have any programs.
As for taxes, by living in society and taking advantage of those things taxes pay for, like roads, police protection, and all the array of other things, you agree to pay taxes. If your fellow citizens pass legislation that mandates helping the poor, then you pay for that, along with your running water and sewers. If you don't want to pay it, catch the very flight out to a country where they don't pay taxes.
I don't like funding the war in Iraq. That's tough for me, ain't it?