This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Love For Enemies & Marilyn Manson

When you’re taught to love everyone, 
to love your enemies, 
then what value does that place on love?

i stumbled on this, a quote credited to Marilyn Manson.  i think the question is intended to make an argument equivalent to something like this:

1. If a teaching places a low value on love, then it shouldn't be followed.
2. The teaching that you ought to love everyone, even your enemies, places a low value on love.
3. Therefore, the teaching that you ought to love everyone, even your enemies, shouldn't be followed.

The argument is clearly valid, that is, if the premises are true, then the conclusion does follow.  But are the premises true?

i think you either find premise 1 intuitively convincing or not.  The critical, sensational claim being made by this argument is premise 2.  It implicates the teachings of Christ (or any other source for the ethic) to love your neighbor and your enemies as failing to value love appropriately.  i believe there are several reasons to doubt premise 2 if not dismiss it as simply false.

First, the argument suggests that value is determined by scope of distribution or perhaps rarity.  The narrower the scope of distribution, or the rarer something is, the greater the value.  And value is lessened as something becomes more common or more widely distributed. This is true of, say, the value of diamonds and currency.  But it is not the case that all value operates this way.  Some value is not determined by rarity.  For instance, some things are valuable because of utility or necessity.  Oxygen is common and widely distributed throughout the earth.  Does that imply we should judge oxygen to be poor in value?  No.  It is valuable because it is necessary to our survival.

Second, i think it's rather intuitive if not reasonable that the value of love is not determined in the way the argument assumes.  

Suppose there were two women.  The first woman has one daughter and loves her.  The second woman has ten children and loves all ten of them.  The love of the first woman is narrower in distribution and more rarely possessed by any child in the world compared to the love of the second woman.  The love of the second woman is more common and more widely distributed compared to the love of the first woman.  Should we conclude then that the second woman places a lower value on love than the first?  Surely not.

Or suppose there were two men.  The first man has 100 friends/family and loves them all, and he has 100 enemies and deliberately withholds love from his enemies.  The second man has 100 friends/family whom he loves, but he has never made any enemies, so there is no one from whom he has consciously decided to withhold love.  Should we conclude that the second man places a lower value on love than the first?  Surely not.

Third, Christianity acknowledges differing kinds of love.  While we use only the word "love," Greek, in which the teachings of Christ were originally written, had different words referring to different kinds of love.  Christ does not teach that all kinds of love are to distributed equally among everyone, including enemies.  There is a particular kind of love, agape, which Christ commanded to give to neighbor and enemy alike.  Thus, i can still love certain people differently than others all the while being consistent with the Christian ethic to love both my neighbor and enemy.

Fourth, Christianity teaches that God created humanity and desires for humans to love one another.  Suppose a person has children, loves them, and desires for them to love each other.  If you don't believe that loving your own children and wanting them to love each other devalues love, then analogously, neither does the Christian teaching that i ought to love everyone, even my enemies.

Thus, it is not the case that loving everyone, including your enemies, devalues love.

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