Thursday, 12 July 2018

Love Without Wisdom is Foolishness

In fact, it's not even love. I am talking about love as a spiritual virtue here, not the feeling directed towards those we really do love on a personal level. But love as in love your neighbour has to be understood in the context of intelligence or else it descends into sentimentality and self-indulgence.

I am prompted in this thought by the story of an Italian priest who says that all migrants should be let into his country because it's what Christ would have wanted. I don't know whether this is spiritual naivety or just virtue signalling, but it is not what love requires nor can it be assumed it is what Christ would want. For a start, Christ said that the poor will always be with us. This is clearly not a recommendation to stand by and do nothing in the face of suffering but it does imply a measured response. Who is the priest really loving (not that he is really loving, he is just responding to love as an idea)? The migrants, one must suppose. But they are not his neighbours. He does not know them. However, he does know his flock and his fellow countryman. Is he thinking of them and how an influx of tens of thousands of people with no connection to the land they are entering might affect them? Is he thinking of the generations that follow on from the current people of Italy, his spiritual heirs, so to speak, to whom he and his contemporaries could be said to hold the land in charge. What legacy is he leaving them?

All men are brothers is a saying often repeated by spiritual people. I've said it myself. But what does it actually mean? For if all men really are brothers that effectively means none are, not in any serious sense. Do I have the same duties and responsibilities to someone I don't know, living in a land I've never been to, as I do to my actual family and my real neighbours? The wisdom of our forefathers told us that charity begins at home. This is not an excuse to do nothing for those who might be distant to us but it does mean that we should get our priorities right. And our first priority is to protect home and hearth. It may be that sometimes we do have to sacrifice these for the greater good but that is an extreme situation and we had better be sure we know what the greater good is and are not, as this silly priest clearly is, acting from a sentimentalist ideology and pathological altruism.

Sometimes love, as in compassion, is a luxury one cannot afford. I would not be saying this in a hard, cold world where it was every man for himself (though actually this can be just such a world once we go behind what people say to what they really are). But in a world in which the natural human tendency to compassion is exploited to do harm to the spiritual order, where short-term 'feel goodery' triumphs over long-term sense and wisdom, and good to one side is used to justify harm to another, then the point needs to be made that emotional reactions unrestrained by intelligence are foolishness at best and may even be evil.

For to act from love, or, better put, so-called love, can only be spiritually justifiable if the consequences are spiritually good and lead to a situation is which the reality of God is better known and expressed either on an individual or collective basis. 

There's something else this priest and many like him have failed to understand. The real reason we are enjoined to love our neighbour and love our enemy is not for the good such an attitude does them. It is for the good it does ourselves. It is to do with what tends to spiritual salvation not worldly improvement. These are not necessarily mutually exclusive but there is no doubt which is the more important. Real love transforms our being which is the primary consideration when considering the role and purpose of love. Transforming the world by the supposed actions of love is very much secondary and implies effects are more important than causes. True transformation can only come when love and wisdom are both observed.


ajb said...

Jesus combined toughness and compassion. Either one on its own is vice, combined properly you get virtue.

The proper response to mass immigration such as Italy (and many countries) is facing is both toughness and compassion.

William Wildblood said...

Nicely put, ajb