Every now and then I get a burr under my saddle, and I have to vent. (“No, really?”) (Shut up, you.) Today is such a day. I hope you’ll indulge me, as the subject matter is critical to the future of Mankind. Yes, the subject is the one in the title of this piece – and if you’re put off by the notion, then stick around because it’s especially important that you get the message.
There are four categories of love. The classical Greeks had a word for each of them:
- Eros: erotic, passionate love.
- Philia: love of comrades. (a.k.a. “Brotherly love.”)
- Storge: parental and filial love
- Agape: impersonal love, sometimes inaccurately called love of Mankind.
Christian love is of the fourth variety: “good will toward men,” as the angels sang over the shepherds of Bethlehem two millennia ago. It’s not a mushy-gooey sort of love. It seldom features in romance novels. And it involves neither the desire to possess, nor the desire to control. It is exactly and only the desire that others be and do well.
When Christ articulated the Two Great Commandments:
But the Pharisees hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together: And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him: Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?
Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.
…He made reference to two different kinds of love. Love of God is Storge, the love of a child for his Father. Love of neighbor is Agape, the impersonal love that is a desire for the well-being of others, including a willingness to help out when appropriate. Neither seeks anything from the other except the same kind of love in return.
How could it be clearer? Yet the number of people who “don’t get it” – some of them maliciously and deliberately – sometimes seem to dwarf the number of those who do. This is particularly a problem among fiction writers, far too many of whom treat Christianity and Christians as some sort of malevolent, sentient plague.
I seldom see fiction writers denigrate or condemn any other religion. Judaism? Just about doesn’t happen. Islam? Too risky, unless your last name is Ringo. Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Wicca, Scientology? Haven’t seen it at all. But Christianity! We must be the spawn of Satan, to judge by how often other writers label the villains of stories and dramas as Christians.
It’s not right. How recently did Christians go slaughtering in the name of Christ? What was the body count? Who cleaned up afterward? And what parts of the Gospels did we cite to justify our rampage?
There have been villains who’ve called themselves Christians and who’ve acted in a wholly non-Christian manner – certainly without any trace of love-of-neighbor. But the creed prescribes love and condemns hatred. The Founder of the creed, when hung upon a cross to die in agony, said of his torturers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And there’s this:
And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.
Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.
Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee?
And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.
Does that sound as if Christ wants His people to run around murdering, raping, pillaging, and oppressing others?
Yet I keep encountering this notion that Christians are a danger to non-Christians, when in point of fact we’ve sallied forth many times to come to the aid of others who don’t share our faith. On occasion that’s included persons who openly and actively hate us and wish us dead or enslaved. And then there’s the abuse we get from writers and dramatists. To go by what they say about us, you’d think we adore Hitler and Stalin rather than Jesus of Nazareth, the Prince of Peace.
We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s there in black and white. In the many times and places where Christians have been persecuted for being Christians, how many instances of violent resistance have there been? If the number isn’t zero, it’s really BLEEP!ing close to it. Yet the number of our persecutors is legion.
By now you’re probably asking yourself “Who pissed in Fran’s Cheerios® this morning?” It’s a fiction writer, a man of vast imagination with a large and varied body of work. As much as I’ve enjoyed his stories, I’ve had to grit my teeth over his treatment of Christians and Christianity. While P. S. Power is entitled to his own beliefs and opinions, I would advise him to think seriously about controlling that particular prejudice. Undisguised bigotry can cost a writer a good share of his potential audience. That’s something indie writers, in particular, can ill afford.
Well! Until you mentioned soiled Cheerios, I hadn’t wondered at all.
You *did* provoke me into wondering about the dimensions of love.
BUT NOW THAT YOU”VE BROUGHT IT UP …
I think you owe us a little explanation here …
The Four Loves, pace Lewis, play as large a role in my future history as the Four Laws. I do not think there is a single book of mine which doesn’t at least mention them. Even my recent short story has a nod to them.
“Islam? Too risky, unless your last name is Ringo.”
In one of my novels a character states, “Except for Islam; that’s banned in the Republic of Texas.” Related, a demi-human talking to a human: “Yes, some of the Thinking Machines are Christian. Thank God none of them are Muslim.” “Indeed, that would not end well for any of us.”
And in Faustina’s Imperium: “Christianity is the only tolerated religion. All others are banned.”
While there’s nothing canonical – yet – I have a suspicion that the Habsburg, Russian, and Japanese Empires are much the same. Liberty is a luxury item of decadent societies.
Good God, what a horrible, vicious thing to say! Are you feeling all right, Clayton?