There is nothing natural about loving one another

Doubtless inspired by the rapid approach of the “Season of Good Will,” a radio talk show caller recently opined 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, maim and kill them. If rioters loved their neighbors a bit more they wouldn’t burn their homes and pillage their property.

If Democrats and Republicans loved each other a bit more … No, that’s just a bit too much to hope for!

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.

Trouble is that while we know things would be very much better if we all did love people just a little bit more, 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 very fact that Jesus commanded 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. It isn’t, sad to say, one of our natural human inclinations.

If loving our neighbors came naturally Jesus wouldn’t have bothered to waste his breath on the subject. And if loving them came easily once he’d pointed it out, he wouldn’t have made such a big deal about it.

This should dispose of the question 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 seem to subscribe to the idea that it is natural for people to love one another. How could they possibly have gotten such a bizarre idea?

There is nothing, for example, in evolutionary theory to lead them to believe such a thing. What’s more, the grisly, blood stained history of the 20th century (not to mention the opening years of the 21stt Century) provides ample evidence to the contrary.

Philosophically speaking, the concept of altruistic love as a natural phenomenon hardly squares with the general acceptance of assertions that there are no such things as moral absolutes. Nor is it reflected in the widespread adoption of the practice of “situation ethics”—ethics that change according the situation confronting people.

An obvious example of “situation ethics” at work can be seen in the media on a daily basis. Journalists who demand they be told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth seem to see no contradiction serving up to their audiences a distorted mélange of omissions, half-truths and evasions.

The contention that there are no moral absolutes and that ethics change according to the situation provide the rationale for championing the cause of one sector of society at the expense other sectors.

But such behavior is scarcely calculated to engender feelings of affection. Indeed, the feelings such conduct is likely to inspire is very far from love. Envy and hatred are the most likely emotional products of pitting one group of people against another.

How, then, can it be that so many otherwise quite sensible people here in the West subscribe to the idea that people would quite naturally love one another if only they were offered the opportunity?

Certainly it reflects Dr. Samuel Johnson’s cynical observation about of second marriages: “A triumph of hope over experience.” But there is more to it than that.

It is also an illustration of the dangers inherent in a nation shrugging off its fundamental animating principles without bothering to consider the effects it will have on its society—a phenomenon all too evident in today’s America.

Americans once subscribed to the Golden Rule—the Judeo-Christian ideal of “do as you would be done by.” But while they accepted that it was the rule to live by, they realized that the only way to do so was to censure those who did not do so.

It didn’t work perfectly, but it worked well enough for folks with a “post Christian” mindset to blandly assume that it is possible reap the benefits of the Golden Rule by talking the talk without walking the walk. GPH✠

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