The cruelty of cultural love

Just the other night, a short TV advertisement promoted a culturally forged love. Part of its message was quite biblical and healthy for society – love everyone. What disciple could argue with this? Just as God loves all people, so too Christ’s followers should seek the well being of everyone. While Christians should hate evil, they should neither hate sinners nor saints.

However, another aspect of its message was quite cruel. As might be expected in our culture, the epitome of love was presented as affirmation and acceptance. However, this makes no sense, unless you assume society exists within a vacuum.

A parable reveals the flaw.  Imagine a country called Everywhere. As benevolent rulers tend to do, Everywhere’s governing authorities established policies and laws protecting its citizens’ wellbeing.

One such guiding norm prohibited theft because they realized how stealing undermines a society’s health. Furthermore, infractions carried stiff repercussions.

Near the outer edges of Everywhere existed a small town called Mysociety. The residents of Mysociety possessed a rather unique trait which they mistakenly assumed was common to all.

They refused to tell anyone anything that might be regarded as unpleasant, lest it offend someone’s sensibilities. Gracious smiles were constantly exchanged. Affirming words were always spoken. The cruelty of such behavior became blatantly obvious one afternoon.

Earlier that month, a family who had suffered some misfortune, decided their best course of action would be to steal, but not too much, just a little from different families. In this way, no one family would “donate” too much to their cause.

In fact, as they stole a little here from one neighbor and a little there, they increasingly grew convinced that acquiring such “gifts” was justified. After all, they needed help. It just felt right.

As might be expected, others soon learned about the thieving family’s activities. Yet, in spite of their own personal losses and the government’s austere penalties, no one dared to say a disapproving word. After all, to expose their erroneous thinking or disapprove of their behavior would cause them to be viewed as haters. In their minds they were loving their kleptomaniac neighbors.

Then one afternoon everything changed. A group of state policemen arrived in town and arrested the family on charges of theft. The family was led off in chains. Eventually each of them was convicted.

The folks of Mysociety finally realized that their smiles and silence was the cruelest course of action. To affirm them and accept them as though everything was fine failed to pursue their wellbeing. Loving behavior would have entailed warning them about the consequences they would face.

As long as Mysociety exists within and under the domain of Everywhere’s benevolent governing authority, failure to alert a fellow citizen to real consequences is not a loving course of action. To smile, affirm, accept and be silent when ideas, worldviews or behaviors are misguided constitutes cruelty. To think otherwise a person must assume that he or she lives within a vacuum, where no authority exists higher than my society.

 

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They are the parents of two young men.

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