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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.

The Aquarian version of love hinges on total acceptance of anyone and everything, at the same time as it brutally tries to eliminate anyone, or anything, that might question it.

So any system based on a belief in truth, with systems which attempt to be objective, and which exercises any form of judgment of, or over, individuals, or groups, is the enemy as it is incompatible with incoherent empathy, masquerading as love.

It just so happens that truth, objectivity and judgment are features of every successful modern society, and spring directly not just from the enlightenment, but from the fusion of Greco-Roman culture with Jewish culture which we know as Christianity.

So our culture is the enemy of the Aquarian post-modern progressive one.

At Easter, I think it is worth dwelling on the Christian idea of agape, as an anti-dote to the postmodern "love".

For a start, God's love is judgmental. If you go back to the quote from John's gospel there are two types in the world – those who "believe in him [Jesus]" and those who don't. It's only the first group who will "have eternal life". The other group will perish (and what that means is put into context in over a hundred verses in phrases like "eternal torment").

We all know the verse "Judge not, lest you yourself be judged", but it doesn't mean don't judge, it means you will be held to the same standards as you hold other people when you do judge.

If you were truly to love someone you would want them to be the best person that they can be, and unless you are dealing with someone already perfect, that means there are things they need to change, and what and how is a judgment call.

So the Christian version of love doesn't involve acceptance, meaning "I affirm you as you are", it means acceptance as in "I'll be your friend, whatever your behaviours, but I hope that you will change, and I will try to demonstrate how you might".

There's no coercion in this concept. If someone doesn't change, they will suffer consequences, but they have freewill, which must be respected.

Israel Folau enunciated this version in his defence of his posting of a verse from Romans condemning homosexuality, amongst other behaviours, but the mob had no idea that you can "hate the sin and love the sinner".

Aquarian love doesn't accept the concept of consequences, and it rejects the importance of free will. At the extreme it says we are all creatures of our environment, and we have no freewill. It is others that must change, not us, and if we want to effect change in us, then the system must be changed. Hence the calls to dismantle "systemic racism" because if I don't achieve what I think I'm entitled to achieve, then it must be the system's, or society's, fault. Society is wrong, I'm not, and those who constructed that society are the enemy. And so love is transformed into hate.

Christian love does not mean gentle love either. The Easter story is a modulation on one of the most gruesome and difficult to morally justify stories of the Old Testament. Abraham takes his only son Isaac up onto a mountain to sacrifice him to Yahweh, because he believes that is what God demands of him.

At one level the morality of the story is saved by God sending an angel to stop Abraham, and providing an alternative sacrifice. At another level it is a declaration that, unlike their pagan neighbours, the Hebrews will not practice child or human sacrifice. But you still have to wonder what sort of god this is. It might be a test, but it is a cruel one.

The Easter narrative deliberately references and replays this story, but with variations. At Easter it is God who takes his son not to the temple mount, but to a hill nearby, and allows him to be tortured and put to death in the most gruesome way. God does with his only son what he would not allow Abraham to do with his.

The morality of this seemingly immoral act is salvaged in the first place by Jesus acting of his own freewill, and in the second, under the concept of the Trinity, Jesus is one with God, so his pain is God's pain, and his death God's death.

This isn't schmaltzy Aquarian love this is extremely tough love. And as Christians are told to "take up their cross", it's applied equally to all those who want to be "saved".

This episode also provides the tinder for the valorisation of the victim. Jesus is the victim here, and through his acts of civil disobedience leading up to his crucifixion – the Palm Sunday demonstration and the riot amongst the moneychangers in the temple – he courts that role.

This isn't the same as the identity group version of victim. Jesus is in control – he is active, not passive - and he is a victim as an individual, not as a member of a group. As a victim he doesn't ask for special treatment, but accepts the punishment the law metes out. Being a victim is a strategic gambit in a game which brings huge benefits. He doesn't say to the oppressor "you owe me", he accepts the punishment.

You may find all of this a little esoteric…I do. But if you want to understand the success of Western Civilisation, and how it is being subverted by progressivism, this story, its concepts, and its terms, esoteric as they may be, have been central to the culture we've built.

For example our justice system combines elements of retribution and rehabilitation, objectivity and independence. It stands apart from the mob, and there are people who are prepared to bravely put their lives on the line to enforce and administer it.

It is the antithesis of Cancel Culture, which says no matter how much good you have done, it can be erased by one thing that is judged to be unforgivable and you can never be rehabilitated. While you must empathise with me, I will never empathise with you.

The Greek word for the love of John's Gospel and Paul's epistle, agape, is translated into English as "charity". At this Easter it's charity I think the world needs most urgently, not a woke version of love.

We all need to give each other the space to be wrong, and to hurt ourselves and others.

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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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