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All you need is love?

By Graham Young - posted Wednesday, 7 April 2021


We live in a moment when "love" is the zeitgeist. Nowadays the worst crimes you can commit appear to be "hate" crimes, a failure to be empathetic, or affirmative, enough to a member of a "marginalised " group.

This idea of love is fatally flawed. It lacks the understanding that the "love" owed to strangers is not empathy and affirmation but something else.

It's hard to know when this pan-empathetic trend germinated. You might think it's been around for a long time, and at Easter it's likely to be conflated with Christianity and a mawkish version of the idea that the crucifixion demonstrates God's empathy for mankind.

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One of the few Bible verses that many people know is the one that says "For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosever might believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Another passage that many know, because they've heard it, out of context, in a wedding ceremony is 1 Corinthians 13 where St Paul says, amongst other things "1. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal…13. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

One part of the context that is missed in most wedding ceremonies is that Paul is not talking about romantic love, but of a more generalised love which the Greeks called agape.

Another part of the context that is missing is that he is talking to the pagan Greco-Roman world in which he lived where, strange as it might seem to us brought up in a Christianised world infused with charity towards others, this generalised love was not a cardinal virtue.

The Hellenic world had 4 virtues: wisdom, morality, courage and moderation. Speaking to the Greek Christian congregation in the city of Corinth, Paul is telling them the classical view misses a significant virtue.

If he were alive today and writing to an Anglosphere audience, he would have to recast his letter, because while love has become a cardinal virtue the version predominating is a cancerous version of Christian love which ultimately actually promotes hate.

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I'd put the moment the cancer developed somewhere in the 60s, in the Age of Aquarius. The Beatle's "All You Need Is Love" is one of the anthems, written by John Lennon, who wrote the equally silly "Imagine".

But silly doesn't matter when you've produced a meme that can infect more than half the population 50 years later.

This is the "love" that has brought us not only "hate crimes" but micro-aggressions, cancel culture, empathy before objectivity, safe spaces, preferred pronouns, valorisation of victimhood, identity politics, sexualisation of entertainment and school curricula, and the whole panoply of post-modernist, cultural-studies-infused progressivism choking the institutions that once made this civilisation great.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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