In the wake of the Orlando tragedy many people have been saying it.
“We will love stronger than they can hate.”
If only it were that easy. What do we mean: “We?”
Do we mean that WE: as good, decent Americans will show unconditional love in our words, our deeds, our…public policy?
It is the last of these three ideas that concerns me.
Post-tragedy, America refocuses. Facebook pulses with the blood of one issue and the best of us speak love over and over: speak forgiveness, support, care, breaking down barriers, reaching out to those who we have not previously considered part of our tribe. And it is good and it is beautiful and it is very right.
But Facebook is also a place of political discourse. When we say WE, do we mean “We the people” as enactors of policy change within our representative democracy? Are we asserting that our very nation, with its laws, courts, and guns should practice this same unconditional love?
I hope not.
Christians are well acquainted with the call to love unconditionally. To turn the other cheek. To love our enemies. To Pray for those who persecute us. It’s the call we’ve tried to follow since Jesus bounced. But with this call to love unconditionally is the call to martyrdom: to suffer, carry our crosses and die both figuratively and literally.
And for the Christian, the idea that love will win, is tied intimately to the idea that God takes care of those who follow Him, that He sets up trials to test our faith, and that He never promised a kind world here: only a better one after we die. God promised His Christians they would be consistently hated and that their love for others WOULD NOT NECESSARILY LEAD THOSE OTHERS TO CHANGE.
For a Christian, a heart is conquered by love, only through God. It is not the result of some deep human sentimentality sparked by our acts of love: overwhelming the psychosis of an individual, the trajectory of a nation or a pan-national movement bent on our destruction.
Christians are supposed to love, to forgive, to sacrifice themselves for the cause of Christ and have faith that the Holy Spirit (not their own symbolic-persuasive acts) is what changes the hearts of their enemies. We also believe that those enemies and their hearts may never change because God gives all of His children free will up until the bitter end.
I worry that, in our zeal to apply the noblest of our ideals, we have mixed Christian piety with national policy. Of course, we Americans have always done this. It’s what the Right does through the culture wars and what the Left does by compelling the State to act as the primary conduit for our charitable impulses.
But: unconditional, sacrificial love? Really? This is the highest Christian act, one of the few that outlasts the rest of what the Bible teaches. That doesn’t make it more accessible to the secular man. It makes charity the least sensible Christian idea to be utilized by the world. We’ve already seen how poorly it worked to mix other Christian ideals with government policies. Why would we apply unconditional love? Do we want our generals to turn the other cheek? Do we want our president to go the extra mile when a minor dictator forces him to carry his proverbial load?
Where the Right created tyranny by imposing Christian morals on a secular populace, the Left would create corporate suicide by imposing Christian pacifism on a secular populace that doesn’t know any better. A populace that really thinks good vibes and Facebook posts will change the inevitabilities of war and the indefatigable seasons of revenge.
Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. By all means, surrender your bodies to the flames. Give all you possess to the poor. Just leave in place a government that is not obligated to do likewise on behalf of your ideals. Your government, any government–is unable to do the work of the Christian God and shift angry hearts, change cultures and stop the fomenting hatred that causes war and death. It is a sword and can only discourage the onset of war by sharpening itself and swinging wide. It can only punish those who bring war.
If we treated our government and its policies more like a sword, we would enable it to do the only thing it does well: punish wrongdoers and repel invaders. If we demand that it manifest familial affections in the name of love: it will reach for the nearest member and become our “big brother.”
Keep showing solidarity with the Muslim community and the Homosexual community. These are the right things to do. it’s what Christ would want and its a hallmark of the great country of America that we tolerate one another. Just please, don’t turn that love into a public policy that compromises the very safety from which you are free to love.