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Wishing upon a star is no substitute for reality

Soon after I arrived in the United States I came to the conclusion that the nation had long ceased to be guided and inspired by the principles laid down in The Bible. Instead, its animating philosophy seemed to be based on the fantasies derived from “The Wizard of Oz”.

After all, diplomas and doctorates were being liberally awarded to legions of brainless scarecrows who were then given the freedom to undermine the credibility of America’s schools and universities with their loony notions.

Praise and admiration were being heaped on heartless tin men in government and industry who routinely sacrificed the public good and the national interest on the altar of their own personal power and profit.

People were being hailed as heroes when their sole “act of courage” had been to embrace the latest popular follies, fads, and fancies and bask in the glow of public approbation for their supposed leadership.

Moreover, public expectations seemed to be increasingly based on Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” rather than actual reality.

A conversation on a radio talk show not so long ago shows the process continues apace. A caller contended that all would be right with American society if only people would love each other a bit more.

It’s hard to quarrel with that. Clearly, if drug dealers loved addicts a bit more they wouldn’t enslave them with narcotics. If muggers loved their victims a bit more they wouldn’t rob and maim and kill them. If rioters loved their neighbors a bit more they wouldn’t burn their homes and pillage their property. And so ad infinitum.

There is, however, nothing profound about this thought. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that loving each other a bit more is the answer to almost all society’s ills—at least those that aren’t occasioned by accident or infirmity.

But the problem is not identifying the problem. If that’s all there was to it, the Flower Children would have solved things back in the 1960s by teaching the world to sing “Coke is it.”

Trouble is that while we know things would be very much better if we all did love people a bit more, the sad fact of the matter is that we don’t love each other even the tiniest bit more. Indeed, these days it seems that we love each other an awful lot less.

Nor should we find this entirely surprising. There is nothing very natural about people loving other people in a generic sense—beyond our immediate relatives and, perhaps, the folks in our own social circle. As for the wider world, most of the people in it are definitely suspect.

So where does this notion that we should all love one another come from? The answer is that Jesus commanded his followers to love their fellow men as much as they love themselves.

But the fact Jesus actually had to command us to love our neighbors is a sure indication that loving people outside our immediate circle of family and friends does not come naturally or easily. If it came naturally he wouldn’t have bothered to mention it. If it came easily, he wouldn’t have made such a big deal about it.

This solves the problem as far as Christians are concerned, but the talk show caller was not a Christian. Indeed, she spoke disparagingly of Christians as she was making her point. It is something of a paradox that so many non–Christians subscribe to the idea that it is natural for people to love one another. How could they possibly have gotten such a bizarre idea? After all, there is nothing, for example, in evolutionary theory that could lead folks to believe it to be so. It certainly runs contrary to the course of the history of the 20th century.

Nor does the concept of altruistic love as a natural phenomenon square with a general rejection of moral absolutes or the adoption of “situation ethics.” The notion that there are no moral absolutes and that ethics change according to the situation is the rationale for treating some people less fairly than others. Such notions engender feelings quite the opposite of love in that it permits us to put our own interests above those of others.

How can it, then, be that so many non–Christians subscribe to the idea that it is natural for people to love one another when, in fact, such a concept runs counter to everything else they believe?

The answer is that a generation or two ago the vast majority of Americans subscribed to the idea that the Judeo–Christian ethic of “do as you would be done by” was the right way to live. And, like Pavlov’s dogs, their descendants still cling to the idea while rejecting the principles on which it is based.

But, in reality, nobody should be surprised that, as Christianity is driven out of the public square, we are loving each other a lot less, not more.

There seems to be a disconnect here: Government and the courts appear to be working together to drive Christianity from the Public Square in order to promote … well … more Christian behavior.

Did their mothers not tell them that you can’t have your cake and eat it? Wishing on a star is all very well, but it is no substitute for thinking that’s based on reality. But then, as grandma used to say: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Go figure! GPH✠

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