While I get ready for my second move of the season, listen to one of Francois' posts from earlier this month.
As must be obvious by now, I write a great deal about morality. In fact, it is my primary preoccupation. I might, however, be accused of being altogether too concerned with the morality of "mean Christianity", the Christianity of a vengeful god and absolutist rules. And that perhaps the morality of "Lovey-Dovey Christianity", that of the peaceful hippie Jesus, is a superior alternative ?
This is, however, not the case at all. "Lovey-Dovey Christianity" (henceforth to be called LDC) is no more rational, and no more desirable, than "mean Christianity". To make this case, I will look at the two main moral principles of LDC : "love thy neighbour as yourself" and the Golden Rule.
1. "Love Thy Neighbour As Yourself"
LDCers lash on to Romans 13:9, which says :The commandments (...) are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
It then goes on to say :Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
That's fine. Few people want to do harm to others, unless it's necessary. So this principle, while not original to Christianity, is not so bad. But what about "love" ? One thing which Paul does not examine at all is the nature of "love". What is "love" and why should we express it towards everyone ?
Love is, according to humanist psychology, a spontaneous affective movement towards beings or things which satisfy our values. While love is very complex, perhaps the most complex emotional phenomena, it has one thing in common : the feeling of well-being and happiness that the loved brings us, because we perceive it as being able to satisfy our values.
So how can we feel love towards all people ? There are people in the world whose value systems are quite opposed to ours, and some who even wish us harm. How do these people satisfy or fulfill our values ? If they do not, then how can we possibly love them ? It is impossible for anyone to love someone who wishes them harm. Even LDCers do not feel that way.
To love everyone is to love no one at all - such universality completely dilutes any meaning it could possibly have. It is difficult enough for a polygamist to keep a loving relationship with two people at a time, so how can we possibly imagine ourselves capable of loving everyone ?
Such love is not desirable, even if it was possible. A healthy cynicism about people's motives is always moral. When we abandon this, we abandon our desire for social truth. In a sense, the idea that "universal love" is a regressive concept can explain this problem. The regressive, childish view entails that everyone holds the same values, and that there is no moral difference between individuals. The Christian concept of "universal love" could only work if this was the case. Therefore it seems to me to be regressive.
2. The Golden Rule
In the Sermon on the Mount - perhaps one of the most evil moral discourses ever written - "Jesus" says :So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
The first problem with this principle is that it is wholly incompatible with other parts of Christianity, such as the God-believer relationship, the priest-believer relationship, the saved-unsaved relationship, the husband-wife relationship, the parent-child relationship... basically every power relation prescribed in the Bible. But LDCs probably profess not to subscribe to those anyway, so let's continue.
The main problem of the Golden Rule is the same as for "Love Thy Neighbour" : it is a regressive, childish rule. It assumes that every single individual in the world has the same values. Otherwise, how can I know that I should do to them what I would want ? What I want depends on my values. What they want depends on their values. Therefore, by asking us to assume uniformity, the Golden Rule is a golden ticket to total social warfare.
And the other problem, which is also similar to the ones for "Love Thy Neighbour", is that no one can follow such a rule. In fact, many people err in the opposite way of moral relativism, completely dissociating values between those of the past and those of the present, those of one country and those of another country. And so does Christianity, for that matter. And so is Lovey-Dovey Christianity - the product of moral relativism !
So what is the general problem with LDC ? Its problem is that it is still working within the framework of Christianity, which is amoral. Therefore, the only way it can be Lovey-Dovey is by starting from the premise that everyone is the same. The only rational position - that everyone has different values but exist in the same world with the same moral principles - is completely outside of the limited amoral framework of Christianity. To be a moral person, you have to completely leave Christianity.
The only difference is that in the dictatorship of Fundamentalism, everyone's sad, and in the dictatorship of LDC, everyone's smiling - because they get shot if they don't.
My only objection to this article is the fact that people can and do love others who wish them harm. However, this stems from emotional and mental illness. Those who truly love others who hate or hurt them are messed up. Can this be said about Christian Love?
Pretending, for a moment, that there is no hellfire and brimstone in Christianity (as Lovey-Dovey Christianity often asserts), there is still a certain taboo against anger and hatred. If one must love everyone, there is no room for anger against the injustice against oneself, as in an abusive household, or nation state, if you will. There is also an incredible amount of wiggle-room for the very definition of love itself. You could say (and I have read and heard it said often) that corporal punishment, spanking, beating, imprisonment and other types of harm are themselves love. Why, even hellfire could be love, according to one Calvinist. Punishment and correction, of course, must be good for you, and doing good to others must certainly be love, right?
Anything that can be done in the name of state, God, or any collectivist belief system can be re-named to In the Name of Love. Murder, torture, violence, and, most relevant to Christianity, self-harm, or suicide. One Man in the Name of Love.