Commenters have from time to time chided me for what they perceive as a want of love in my posts, and by inference in my heart. I will confess that there are certain spectacles and sentiments, widely said to be heartwarming, that cause my breast to burn with a sensation that more closely resembles acid reflux after eating a large and spicy garlic pizza, but the people I live with do not regard me as a particularly mean old man. I am perfectly capable of complimenting a young mother on her ugly baby, of patting the head of a smelly and disobedient dog, of smacking my lips over a plate of unsavory slop, and of scrawling a spurious A on a paper that makes no sense at all.
I am, in other words, disinclined to hurt another person’s feelings and entirely capable of flattery and white lies.
And this is, I believe, what my critics mean by love. It is the social oil of praising a bum as fine fellow, of complementing a slattern as a gracious host, of laughing at the joke of a dullard and shedding a tear with any garrulous and self-pitying bungler who happens to flop into an adjacent chair.
And above all this, it is a resolution to forego no opportunity to publicly declare one’s perfect agreement with the most respectable forms of sputtering outrage and sniffling sentimentality.
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When I read the lines from 1 Corinthians that are so beloved of marriage celebrants, I do not form the impression that humans are lovely creatures. Instead, I ask myself why patience, kindness and perseverance are necessary. And the only answers that occur to me are that love is patient because men and women are exasperating, that love is kind because men and women are repellant, and love perseveres because love is very often a dull and unrewarding grind. When Paul tells me that love “is not easily angered,” I take him to mean that the man who loves puts up with a lot because life hands him lots to put up with.
In other words, Paul tells us that Christian love is suffering. To show Christian love is to put up with people who, taken strictly on their own merits, are altogether insufferable. And as the passage in 1 Corinthians makes clear with its stricture on boasting, it is also to appreciate that I am, myself, likewise insufferable. Unbearable is another way of putting it, since to suffer is literally to bear up under a heavy and irksome load.
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In many modern churches, Christian love is represented, not as putting up with insufferable people, but rather as overcoming prejudice and seeing the natural loveliness of people who deserve to be loved. But this doctrine that people deserve to be loved is taken from Humanism, and not from orthodox Christianity. The doctrine of orthodox Christianity is that we have a duty to love people who, taken on their on merits, have no claim on our love—people who are, in fact, insufferable, unbearable, a heavy burden and an irksome load.
The Humanists who propound their bastard doctrine from the pulpits of modern churches will make much of Genesis 1:27, in which it is stated that God created man in his own image, but they neglect to tell their listeners what the 1,350 pages that follow that verse have to say about what men did with that gift.
The orthodox Christian doctrine of love is therefore stoical, not sentimental. As I said above, the familiar lines from 1 Corinthians actually warn the young couple that they are not setting up house in a bower of bliss, but that they must expect to sometimes find each other insufferable, unbearable, a heavy burden and an irksome load. There will be times, it tells them, when loving your spouse will feel like waiting for a late bus in a cold rain, and then holding your tongue when the fool of a bus driver finally arrives.
I disagree with those who say people would be repelled by this orthodox and stoical doctrine of Christian love. One great merit of the orthodox doctrine is that it makes no false promises, and thus cannot be undermined by disappointments and disillusion. Another great merit is that it represents love as a heroic virtue akin to courage, and thus makes love into a manly virtue. Men are, of course, subject to sentimental love, and under its emasculating sway will grow goofy in ways unimaginable in women; but everyone can see that an infatuated man is embarrassing and ridiculous.
Manly love is a suffering love because a man proves his manhood by patiently suffering hardship. Where there is no hardship, their are and can be no men. I believe that this is why orthodox Christianity appealed to manly men of the sort who went clanking away to the Crusades, and why manly men find modern Christianity a repellant spectacle that causes their breasts to burn with a sensation that resembles acid reflux after eating a large and spicy garlic pizza.
I invite any manly men who read this to mix some bicarbonate of soda and watch this.