March 19, 2017
If there is no built in guarantee that morality and public policy will jibe, then, what’s a girl to do?
There are moral ‘Noah’s’ who would retreat into a moral ‘ark’ of their own creation, banging the door shut and leaving all but the ‘good’ to perish in the ‘flood’. There are moral ‘Jeremiah’s’ who would gladly call down curses from heaven and stand around to watch the world go up in flames. Then, in between, are all those who decide to ‘live and let live’ – tho’ nimby – not in my back yard.
Are practitioners of morality doomed to be ‘haters’? Is there no morality that brings together the ‘flight, fright or nimby’ triad of options?
You realized, of course, that I have a positive answer to that question: ‘Christianity does’. When asked about the supreme norm of conduct, Jesus declared that it was whole-hearted love of God followed up with love the neighbor as an element of self-love. Why does this work?
Well, love is not blind to right and wrong (as with the nimby crowd). But it perceives all other moral norms as subject to and integrated by love. Additionally, love focuses on the other as a person, not as a saint or a sinner. Principally, love works as a moral norm because it doesn’t inquire about the merit of the beloved; only about his existence.
Does that mean that those who do not believe in God are exempted from the practice of this norm? Maybe … but it seems to me that the question of God’s existence would be irrelevant to the loving atheist. He would still seek to love his religious neighbor, even if he did not love his neighbor’s God (this is the dyslexic deist’s response to the ideal love me love my dog).
As long as one neighbor loves God, God becomes part of the relationship between the neighbors, too.
This brings us to a deep, deep paradox: one must learn to love even the unlovely and unloving; otherwise one’s own love is broken and imperfect.
The fundamental yardstick for love was written by a twentieth-century poet: love and I had the wit the win: we drew a circle that took him in.
Nor is efficacy a norm that supersedes that of love. The lover who flees from the unloving other saves himself
and leaves the other to enjoy the ‘monarchy of the skunk’. But the lover who steadfastly and unflinchingly stands before his hater while he ‘strikes first one cheek and then the other’ engages the striker in a contest between the love that always includes and the anger or hatred or hurt that seeks to destroy. Standing there forces the beloved to see the horror he creates and to experience, at last, the fact that love is stronger than hate which must at last give in to fatigue. Love wins by losing!
Please, do not rush to apply this line of thought to some or other situation in the modern world or in your own private life. Doing so will only produce a conflict between love and some other moral norm. First, get to know love, to love love … only thus and then will you want to live love.
Really and truly and (mostly) lovingly yours, and surely yours to love,