Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Love and War

Joseph Pearce writes about love in this perceptive post , which rightly and gently critiques the great C. S. Lewis.  Joseph does so by asserting the essential unity of Love, thereby echoing Pope Benedict, who wrote an entire encyclical on the unity of love, the unity even of Eros and Agape.  And while I've written on the unity of love at length, today I'm going one step further.  Today I'm pointing out that not only is Love, like God, One - with Eros, Agape, Philia, etc. being many aspects or elements of this unity of love ("elements" or "aspects", I'd say, rather than "accidents", as Joseph claims) - but I'm going to assert that Love can also be expressed in fighting, even in violence.

How?  Well, Chesterton said it better than I, but I'll get to Chesterton in a minute. 

First, let me talk about God.


My correspondence with a regular blog reader continues.  Earlier, he had asserted a dichotomy between the Old Testament God and the New Testament God, which I answered here

Now he counters with more specific examples - God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah because of sin, but Jesus eats with sinners in an effort to save them.  The God of the Old Testament wipes out whole cities (and everybody but Noah and his family at one point) but the only violence Jesus does while on earth is turn over the tables of the moneychangers.  I would go further.  James and John ask if they should call down fire on unwelcoming Samaritans, but Jesus rebukes them. 

This is certainly evidence of two Gods not one, isn't it?  Yahweh the brute and Jesus the nice guy - right?

On the contrary,

God wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. - 1 Tim. 2:4  (New Testament)
As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!  - Ezekiel 33:11  (Old Testament)

The residents of Sodom and Gomorrah were inveterate sinners.  They wanted to anally rape two angels, for example.  Abraham pleads for Sodom in Genesis 18, and it's clear that God is more than willing to spare the entire city if it contains even one good man. 

But it does not.

Now, if God wanted our destruction and not our repentance, He would not say what He says in First Timothy and in Ezekiel above.  He would also not say what He says and do what He does throughout Scripture, from start to finish.  The entire story is the story of God offering mercy and love to His people and of His people rejecting it and rejecting Him.  The entire story is the story of His bringing good out of our evil; of His loving us even when we don't love Him.  That's the theme of both Testaments - God's love overcoming our sins.

But this love is not a love at the superficial level of being nice.  It's not a love that turns a blind eye.  It is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29).  It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Heb. 10:31) not because of His narrow minded judgmental anger, but because of His love.

The problem is that love has been emasculated these days.  Love is a eunuch.  Love is safe, like "safe sex" only more lame and more sterile.  We no longer believe that fighting for something is an indication of loving it.  We no longer understand Bishop Sheen's remark (which I quoted over the weekend) ...

"Christian love bears evil but it does not tolerate it. It does penance for the sins of others, but it is not broadminded about sin. Real love involves real hatred: whoever has lost the power of moral indignation and the urge to drive the sellers from the temples has also lost a living, fervent love of truth."
"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him," G. K. Chesterton observes. 

Chesterton elaborates ...

There have been many symptoms of cynicism and decay in our modern civilization. But of all the signs of modern feebleness, of lack of grasp on morals as they actually must be, there has been none quite so silly or so dangerous as this: that the philosophers of today have started to divide loving from fighting and to put them into opposite camps. [But] the two things imply each other; they implied each other in the old romance and in the old religion, which were the two permanent things of humanity. 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… 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. Wherever human nature is human and unspoilt by any special sophistry, there exists this natural kinship between war and wooing, and that natural kinship is called romance. It comes upon a man especially in the great hour of youth; and every man who has ever been young at all has felt, if only for a moment, this ultimate and poetic paradox. He knows that loving the world is the same thing as fighting the world.

Look at the Bible through the lens of the Unity of Love, and it will begin to make some sense.


In passing, the reader asks me, a la Euthyphro, if a thing is good because God wills it or if God wills it because it is good.  God wills it because it is good, but a thing is good only is so far as it resembles God, Who is the source of all goodness.

And of all love.

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