Curious how violence so frequently accompanies ‘peaceful protests,’ such as the recent May Day melee in Olympia. Thankfully, a smattering of liquid sunshine sufficed to melt away the belligerence of Seattle’s snowflakes that day, but we’re only ever one leftist ‘lovefest’ away from metropolitan meltdown. I would posit that the existentialism of our post-modernist culture has propagated the myth that transcendent values such as ‘love’ and ‘peace’ can be conjured – as through sorcery – by merely chanting their names. Why? Because a sizable contingent of secular society regards these values with the same substance as the breath expended to make their references. These modern spectacles of ‘peace’ and ‘love’ are exercises in the misunderstanding and misapplication of the highest attributes attainable to humanity – as much a travesty of display and irony of approach as the reassurances of affection an abuser showers upon his traumatized victim. Participants in such demonstrations utterly fail to grasp the principle that you can’t give what you don’t have. Professing ‘love’ without its substance is an impotent mockery that serves ought but to denigrate the term, perpetuating the jaded cynicism of a loveless culture.
In the May 20th broadcast of Spotlight on the Sound, I contend that love – actual love, as opposed to these meaningless professions – really does make the world go round. Think for a moment about the individuals who motivate you to make sacrifices: your spouse, your children, and others you care for. People will endure amazing hardships to provide for the ones they love, and society benefits greatly from those accumulated contributions to the economy and wealth of the nation. What else would drive people to clean a stranger’s teeth, or their toilets, or even areas less savory still? But there’s a troubling shift at work in the land, undermining the structures and drives that maintain civilization. Narcissism is replacing selflessness, and selfishness is supplanting sacrifice, because our values, and our focus, are becoming inverted.
A movie came out about 15 years ago called Pay It Forward – a sweet film, with a rather implausible storyline, wherein the young hero seeks to make the world a better place by pushing a concept of ‘paying it forward’ – that is, instead of trying to ‘pay back’ the good someone has done on your behalf, you pass the favor along to someone else in need, and request that they do likewise. But such a system for transforming the world requires a common sense of decency, fairness and accountability. When a culture’s lovelessness has foundationally perverted the effectiveness of these principles, you end up with ‘decency’ expressed by shutting down commerce and transportation for the sake of personal agendas, ‘fairness’ demonstrated by the excusing or condemning of individuals based on race or political views, and ‘accountability’ ascribed to the dictates of one’s own fickle, narcissistic heart.
Still, in the wake of cultural disintegration, there are countless unheralded individuals and groups, often inspired by Christian convictions, planting seeds of love into the city’s most unloved cracks, and harvesting fields of changed lives – not by parading flamboyant banners, and spraying bullhorns with angry spit, but by actions speaking orders of magnitude more loudly to the hearts of hopeless and broken people – the loving sacrifices of strangers: buying a meal, providing clothing, tending to any number of crucial needs with nothing expected in return. These are true sacrifices – or sacred works – pointing the objects of beneficence to the love of the Father in whose image they were created.
For all the hysteria over cuts in government funding, I am convinced, having conducted scores of interviews with non-profit organizations, that were government handout moneys directed to non-profit and faith-based communities, an incomparably greater impact in aid and edification could be had in the lives of the indigent. Why? Because true love changes people in ways entitlements can’t. Government loves only its power, and the needy (and even not-so-needy) recipients of its largesse are merely useful conduits for retaining that power. But it is the sacrifice born of love that sublimates the decadent and decaying social strata of a country, as unloved individuals come to a deep realization that there are people motivated by a transcendent value system that has real power and substance beyond the breath used to speak its name. Love must be expressed through willing sacrifice, or it is not love – because only by paying a price is value conferred, and only when people come to understand their intrinsic worth by the value others place on it, are they likewise willing to make such sacrifices for others – and so love really does make the world go round.