Love’s Labors Lost: The End of the American Era
by Anna Kitko, Ratio Christi Regional Director for Tennessee and South Carolina
Executive Summary: Identifying and understanding the concept of “love” has been completely lost by modern society. And this is not a phenomenon that is new to human history. One of the marks of a failing empire is that human sexual relationships devolve into an exclusive focus on satisfying individual appetites. When humans chase after a feeling as opposed to a person, they lose all semblance of intimacy and therefore are always seeking but are never satisfied.
At A Glance:
1) Polyamory: the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all the people involved.
2) The 4 Loves: φιλία (friendship), ἔρως (erotic), στοργή (protective), ἀγάπη (sacrificial)
3) Sister Wives: what women in polygamous households call the other women in the relationship.
Ah, L’amour….how often do we consider the ways of love? And how often are those ways mysterious to us? How is it that one little four-letter word can mean such a litany of different things? If I were to ask you to define “love” for me, what would you say?
Modern American culture has distilled love to this axiom: Love is whatever strikes your fancy.
Are you skeptical? If so, then consider these:
“Love Wins” is the mantra of our social media, while we debate what counts as marriage
Television programming now celebrates sister wives
TEDx is seriously debating the normalization of pedophilia
If love is simply being true to your authentic urges, then how can we say one type of urge is wrong and another is right? By what measure would one urge be deemed better than another? And on and on and round and round we go.
So prolific is our society’s focus on erotic appetites. All this outpouring of eroticism has made polyamory commonplace. Since love is simply the satiation of one’s appetite, why would we place a boundary on the sharing of that? Love now crosses nearly all boundaries. Both gender and age have been breached. Now the exclusivity of a monogamous relationship is under fire. “Love,” says our collective voice, “is an authentic personal sexual expression. And don’t dare judge which form I choose.”
How enlightened we have become. How civilized.
Are you detecting an air of cynicism in the cults and new religions blog today? Well, you are spot on, dear reader. I am dismayed at our culture’s insistence on snuffing out virtue. On recognizing Love’s intrinsic boundaries. On the bludgeoning of what Love has always been and will always be. Let me explain…
English is not always the most precise language when it comes to defining abstract thought. It’s why we rely so heavily on older languages that make distinctions in vocabulary to communicate clearly. For example, consider the word love as used in both English and the language of the New Testament, Greek. English provides no useful distinction; the same word is used (and we readily understand it) in a variety of contexts: I love my mother. I love cheesy fries. Said no one, as cheese dribbles down one’s chin: “I am just so fond of cheesy fries!”
No such problem in Greek. Love is distinguished into four uses. Each with its own context and boundaries. One versus four: let that sink in! Chief among them is what is understood as the greatest expression of love: Divine love (ἀγάπη), or as we put it, sacrificial love. It is the end all. True love is distinguished from all others. It is the love that puts others before ourselves.
When we seek out the truth about how we are to understand love in its truest and purest form we find that our Creator’s word is clear. True love has never been about self. It has always been about the sacrifice of self:
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends.”
When we compare this to our culture’s insistence that Love is what we do when we turn inward and serve our own self-interests, we find a stark contrast. The precise opposite in fact. And in so doing we also find another ancient Greek term to describe it: ϕιλαυτία, or self-love. It seems that culture has taken what was designed as holy, and it has bent it out of shape. It looks and feels for a time like true love, but as time passes, the bentness becomes more pronounced. A bent bicycle wheel may be tolerable for a time, but as time passes, it rapidly becomes the death of the joyride.
A widely-held discussion amongst social theorists is the startling correlation between the adoption of self-love-oriented sexual expression and the collapse of its empire.
It seems every time a culture takes a posture of self-oriented love, an implosion is certain to follow. And we should be petrified of our culture’s present posture.
Because we have reached the end. From the Hellenistic Era and Rome to the Dark Ages; from Montesquieu to the Weimar Republic; and from Oscar Wilde’s decadence movement to now; all have demonstrated that when a society reduces their identity to gender expression alone, it is a society on the verge of collapse. The depressing reality of human error echoes in the sentiment of Ecclesiastes; there is nothing new under the sun. A sentiment that has echoed through the ages in the words of Cicero and Francis Bacon, lovers of themselves without rivals are doomed to end in failure. In short, says Professor and political scientist Dale Kuehne (http://qideas.org/articles/the-gender-tipping-point/) ,
“If the ultimate source of reference is the self, and if no other self than the individual is a reference point, how can you know who or what you are?”
A very good question indeed.
So what exactly happens at the end of culture and the dawn of new era? Those who have previously considered themselves cosmopolitan enough to think themselves firmly entrenched in the pursuit of self-love find that their reality is one that is not reproducible and, “Like artists, their only continuity is through culture, which they have been instrumental in building. Therefore when, by guerrilla tactics, they attack the institutions of culture including religion, they are sabotaging their own future.” [REF] The incessant search for self-satisfaction habituates society into spending their hours toiling after an emotion rather than a spouse. Such a search desires the satisfaction of a mutually sacrificial and exclusively intimate relationship of service to another, but never finds it because at the outset of the search they deny that such exclusivity is required for satisfaction.
And so here we are. A society and culture that worships at the altar of self-love. A society and culture that is begging to be delivered from the reality of their folly. And as usual it is the duty of the Church to do the heavy-lifting and to sacrifice a reputation of being loved by the world for the responsibility of speaking a difficult truth and light into the darkness. We must introduce the world to our Great True Love, the Truth, and the Light. We must introduce mankind to the only satisfaction we could ever truly know: the self-sacrificing Savior of Mankind. The Bridegroom of the Church; and sing along with Solomon true love abundant,
“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”
(Song of Solomon 8:6)
May we continue to sing to him no matter the state of our empires.
Anna Kitko is a Christian Apologist who specializes in Cults and New Religions. Her writing ranges from solving biblical difficulties to training people how to avoid coercive persuasion from aberrant Bible-based groups. She is an avid reader of Christian history and loves to point out ancient heresies being re-packaged and re-distributed in our culture. In addition to being a Regional Director for RC, she personally directs the chapter at University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Anna can be contacted at email@example.com.
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