Tuesday, February 22, 2011

All You Need is Love

"Love only is always good.  Love is the only norm.  Love and justice are the same." - Joseph Fletcher, from his book Situation Ethics, Westminster Press, 1966.

Pope Benedict said in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "Today, the term 'love' has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words."  We constantly hear the term love.  It is splattered across the airwaves.  It is on t-shirts and on the seats of girl's pajama pants.  Every time I come into the Miami Airport, I run into the art display of "LOVE" in the concourse.  It is the cultural categorical norm by which this society operates.  Do you love him?  Then, it's okay to engage is premarital or extra-marital affairs.  Love of a football team is more important, to some, than love of children or wife.  If it is done in love, then it must be okay.  The opening quote sums it up.  Hazel Barnes, from whom I got this quote, went on to speak of Fletcher's concept as such, "He points out that every end, too, is relative and can be justified as such only if it serves the cause of love."*  For love of country, we can rid ourselves of all that taint the country.  That was part of what drove Hitler. Or love is so free that anything goes.

To a Christian, the opening quote seems perfectly satisfactory.  The caveat given Barnes colors the quote in a totally new manner.  Why is there a difference?  For Fletcher, love is arbitrary, relative to the arbitrary arbiter.  It has a foundation in everything and therefore a foundation in nothing.  It has no stability.  It becomes pure multiplicity.  It ultimately will fall apart like a poorly made deck of cards.  For the Christian, love is based on a person, on three persons, in fact, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Deus caritas est.  God is love.  Love, for the Christian, has foundation in Truth, in Goodness, in Oneness.  The foundation is rock solid.

These two concepts butt heads often within out lives in the world but not of the world.  We might not be aware of the harmful consequences of the former understanding of love because it seems so pleasing and enjoyable.  It lacks responsibility, which due to our first parents, we never really want to take (just think, "It was the woman" & "The snake told me to").  Furthermore, it exalts our weak egos lifting them to arbiter of our morality.  We can make ourselves.  These are what make the former understanding of love so popular.

The Christian understanding demands sacrifice.  It calls someone to go out of themselves and be for someone else.  It challenges to lay down ourselves in the law given to us by the creator.  It moves us to responsibility for our actions, those times when we rejected love or failed to act in love toward someone.

I would agree with the Beatles that "All We Need is Love."  However, not love based on my arbitrary will but rather Love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who has offered me redemption and eternal life, a lasting beatitude.

* Hazel Barnes, The University as The New Church, C.A. Watts & Co., 1970.

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