Love (Part Two)

Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Yes, these may forget,
yet I will not forget you!
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

Isaiah 49:15-16

Purely secular value systems favor utilitarianism.*  If we insist that only that which is measurable can have value, and maximizing happiness is the aim of morality, then morality becomes simple math: the happiness of two people must outweigh the happiness of one, because two is greater than one.  Inevitably, we are each one born into servitude to the many - which doesn't sound so bad when we use the euphemism, "the common good".

A faith-based value system begins with the premise that every individual is the beloved child of God.  Our value is not cumulative and simple math does not apply: if you touch a second flame to a lit candle, the flame does not double.

Countless Scriptural passages attest to this, in addition to the passage from Isaiah, above:

Aren’t two sparrows sold for an Assarion coin? Not one of them falls on the ground apart from your Father’s will, but the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore, don’t be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:29-31

He told them this parable. “Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it? When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Luke 15:3-5

Or what woman, if she had ten drachma coins, if she lost one drachma coin, wouldn’t light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she found it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma which I had lost.’ Luke 15: 8-10

Even the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is usually seen as a story about divine condemnation of an entire city, actually stands for the opposite. The vast majority of the text is taken up by a dialogue in which God agrees that He would spare the city if fewer and fewer innocents might be caught up in the maelstrom. Finally, God would spare the city if as few as ten people would be unjustly condemned (and the implication is that even one would do it). 

This is the basis of Christian love.  It does not require productivity or net benefit to the common good.  You can be an overwhelming burden on the common good and make many, many people unhappy and still be the object of dignity and love.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails. 

Image: St. Joseph's Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts

* I am taking the view that deontological arguments fail.