A Professor Abandoning A Spouse And Kids For A College Student Isn’t Brave, But Wicked

A Professor Abandoning A Spouse And Kids For A College Student Isn’t Brave, But Wicked

Can a professor’s affair with a student diagnose what ails our culture? When that professor gets a celebratory profile in The New Yorker, the answer is, a resounding — and depressing — yes.

Agnes Callard is a married University of Chicago professor who left her husband for a male student, divorcing the former and marrying the latter. As Callard reported the affair to the administration before they had a chance to investigate, the celebrated philosopher managed to keep her tenured position.

Professors have been leaving their long-suffering wives for their students for a very long time. Callard’s case reverses the typical gender roles, but it’s 2023. Most of us recognize, that given enough liberty to do so, some women behave just as badly as men. Isn’t that part of what feminism fought for? The freedom of women to make the same reckless, consequence-free decisions as their husbands and brothers?

Callard, of course, takes it a little farther than the standard-issue account of an affair. In a long and worshipful profile by Rachel Aviv, Callard argues that her divorce and second marriage are part of an Aristotelian pursuit of the Good, the Noble, and the True. Just six weeks after falling in love with her student, she came clean to her classes, not pleading for forgiveness but asking them to join her on a philosophical investigation of the nature of love:

After the talk, a colleague told Agnes that she was speaking as if she thought she were Socrates. ‘I was, like, ‘Yeah, that’s what it felt like,’ ‘ she said. ‘I felt like I had all this knowledge. And it was wonderful. It was an opportunity to say something truthful about love.’

Almost exactly ten years ago, I resigned from my tenured position at Pasadena City College, where I had taught history since 1993. Like Callard, I had an affair with a student. Like Callard, I made the affairs (there was more than one) known to the college. Like Callard, I was never accused of sexual harassment or misconduct by either my student lovers or third parties. Like Callard, I was married with two young children. Like Callard, the revelations ended my marriage.

Unlike Callard, I resigned from my job. In the early 2000s, I chaired the committee that wrote the policy forbidding “consensual romantic relationships” between students and faculty at Pasadena City College. I violated that policy on more than one occasion. I deserved to have my 20-year teaching career brought to an unceremonious end.

When you lose your career in a very public way, as I did, people remember. Over the past 10 years, I’ve had countless conversations online and in real life about whether what I did merited my resignation. No one thinks what I did was acceptable, but there’s disagreement as to whether it should have been career-ending.

That’s a question of great interest to me personally, but it doesn’t have broader implications. What does have real implications, I think, is the increasingly wide gap between how my friends on the left and on the right assess and interpret my actions.

Reckless Lecher or Unfaithful Spouse

Millennial and Gen Z lefties are famously suspicious of any romance that has even the slightest hint of a power imbalance. There’s a new and marked hostility towards age-gap relationships.

When I taught sex education in the 1990s, we focused on the importance of “enthusiastic consent.” The young puritans on the left question whether meaningful consent is even possible unless the two parties are exactly the same age and enjoy precisely the same status.

A student who enthusiastically consents to an affair with their professor may feel powerful, or at least equal; they may believe they enjoy the whirlwind romance. They are wrong, the left says. They have a “false consciousness” that deludes them into thinking they are a predator’s equal. My friends on the left are glad I lost my job, as in their mind, it removed a reckless lecher from a campus filled with vulnerable young people.  

My friends on the right tend to be much more concerned about the betrayal of my marriage vows. They are much more likely to say that my real victims were not the young women who willingly took me into their beds, but my son and my daughter.

My kids were 4 and 1 when the scandal broke. Their mother and I have had a blessedly amicable divorce, but even the most civil of separations is devastating to small children. Some of the students I slept with remain my friends; others are out of contact. None accused me of abuse, or of doing them any real harm.

My children, though? No matter how devoted a non-custodial papa I may be, the harm my affairs inflicted resonates in their lives in ways that they still can barely grasp. It is my friends on the right who look at my ex-wife and children and say, “This is the thing for which you most need to repent.”

Marriage Is Not a Private Affair

It’s obviously possible to think that I behaved badly towards multiple people and institutions. Betrayal is not a zero-sum game. It’s telling, though, that the left tends to dismiss infidelity as a private matter while seeing the affairs with students as a matter for public concern.

Marriage is hardly a private matter. I signed a marriage license issued by the county, and that was just as public a legal document as the offer of employment I signed at a college. The state clearly does have a vested interest in marriage.

The left pushed so hard for same-sex marriage because they understood the incomparable importance of the institution. We can disagree as to whether permitting gay couples to wed merely expands or actively degrades marriage, but there’s no question that all sides consider the issue important. The remarkable haste with which a Democrat-controlled Senate pushed a repeal of the “Defense of Marriage Act” through last year’s lame-duck Congress makes it clear: redefining marriage matters to the left.

Let me qualify that: making sure that marriage is open to everyone matters to the left. It is the right, though, who seem the only ones concerned with the health of those marriages. It is the right that is more likely to recognize that divorce, while sometimes inevitable, justified, and necessary, is invariably a tragedy.

There Is No Enlightened Affair

For Callard, divorcing her first husband was no tragedy. It was, as she tells us in the fawning New Yorker piece, a vital step towards self-discovery. Instead of acknowledging that her first husband and young children were collateral damage of her affair, she insists she has given them useful lessons about their own possibilities for happiness. Instead of apologizing to her students for taking one of their number to bed, she lectures to them on the insights the affair has given her and encourages them to follow in her footsteps.

To be sure, there’s still the pesky matter of college policies, but Callard and her student lover played that part perfectly: “In accordance with university guidelines, they declared their desire to have a relationship to the chair of the philosophy department.”  The medieval church had papal indulgences for sin; modern university campuses have sympathetic administrators ready to absolve horny faculty who are calculating enough to confess an affair with a student in advance.

I knew that it was wrong to cheat on my wife. I knew that it was wrong to sleep with students, even if they were enthusiastic and willing. I knew that it was desperately wrong to risk my children’s happiness. I did it anyway.

I fell into despair, had a complete mental breakdown, and ended up hospitalized for months. Wracked with guilt, I gave ill-advised interviews to the press. When these were published, the embarrassment of my family was compounded. “We love you, but you have shamed all of us,” a cousin said.

Long, Horrible Effects on the Whole Family

I’ve done the best I can with the decade since. I’ve worked in retail and as a ghostwriter. My large extended family has, slowly, welcomed me. I know I can never return to teaching. There is no way back, but there is always a way forward, and I have walked that way forward. Shame, however justified, is not an excuse for despair.

I have remarried, and my wife and the mother of my children are not merely civil, but genuine friends. That’s not quite the same as Callard’s arrangement, in which her student-husband and her former husband both live with her. The bloom is off that rose; Agnes admits that she’s a little disillusioned with her second marriage as well.

Her dazzling intellect gave her words to defend and elevate a sordid fling, but while words endure on paper, the feelings they describe tend not to last. The reader is left with the distinct feeling that the professor may not have had her last divorce. (Her sons are now older, and not available for the interview, which one suspects is lucky for Callard. I would like to hear their views, someday.)

Insisting that Evil Is Actually Good

“Mostly this woman is just not a good person, and the men around her are pathetically weak.” That’s how a friend, in an email, described Callard and her two husbands. That’s harsh, but it’s also true. What makes her “not good” isn’t that she had an affair. It’s wrong to cheat, it’s wrong to break your promises, and it’s wrong to sleep with your students, but these are things that humans do even though they shouldn’t. What makes her “not good” is the same thing that makes the moral agenda of the contemporary left “not good” – it doesn’t just tolerate vice, or forgive it, it insists on redefining vice as virtue.

It is very human to try and justify our worst impulses. We are all good at making up reasons why we do things we shouldn’t. At some point, if we have a conscience, we realize that the excuses aren’t working. We confess our sins, ask forgiveness, and try to do better.

Callard is a gifted philosopher, so her defense of her own grubby impulses is lofty and eloquent. She’s fooled herself, and two weak men have bought into her vision. That’s their problem, of course, but it’s ours too. Vice that is dressed up as virtue becomes an example.

Callard constructed a philosophical defense of the indefensible and then peddled it to the world. In her self-absorption, she hasn’t connected her moral vision to a broader politics. But her rationalization of id and impulse is standard doctrine on the contemporary American left.

A culture that celebrates leaving your spouse for your student is a culture that has no concept of what marriage is, or what biological sex is, or when life begins. All these contemporary cultural battles are so intense precisely because one side has effectively — and monstrously — redefined basic truths.

Even many of my friends on the left rolled their eyes at The New Yorker piece. Callard comes across to almost everyone as someone too smart for her own good, surrounded by men too weak to tell her “No.” What these friends don’t see is the extent to which Callard’s justification of the morally reprehensible is, in fact, part and parcel of an entire movement to redefine society, responsibility, and virtue.

Hugo Schwyzer was a professor of history and gender studies at Pasadena City College from 1993-2013. He is now a ghostwriter living in Los Angeles.


Reflections on the Asbury Revival

I’ve been following the proceedings at Asbury University over the past week or so. First, there was the excellent coverage by a few other writers here at the Daily Declaration. Then I discovered a number of videos posted by certain people who attended, as well as some critics, most of those being people who weren’t there, and from opponents of anything with even a whiff of the Charismatic.

So a few days ago, I felt the Lord was impressing on me the importance of discovering what it was that acted as the catalyst for this.

For those unaware of what’s happened, a small number of students felt compelled to stay behind after their regular midweek chapel service, and ended up on their knees at the front of the chapel, praying and sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit in an unusually powerful way.

Then others who had left got wind of what was happening and hurried back to the chapel and joined the prayer and worship that had eventuated, and continued unabated 24/7 until the university leadership felt it necessary to step in and organise meetings at particular times of the day so that students who were involved in activities like leading worship could get back to their regular round of lectures.


To find out, I realised that I needed to watch the sermon which preceded this, because God was telling me that in that sermon were the seeds that were now sprouting.

But before we start, most people use the term “revival” to describe what’s happening. In my opinion, it has become a term that is so lacking in definition, as it’s applied to anything out of the ordinary. Instead, I propose the term used by Dr Barry Chant in this Canberra Declaration interview: “divine visitation”.

The first thing I noticed was that the preacher’s tone was devoid of histrionics of any kind, or anything that could be accused of being emotional manipulation. It is a truly ordinary sermon in the sense that it’s no different in tone or style to that in your average mainstream denominational service on any given Sunday.

In fact, the preacher himself thought so little of it that he texted his wife after to say that he’d preached a “stinker”!

So here are the excerpts from his sermon that I felt were significant in light of what happened after the meeting officially ended, and is still ongoing.

The sermon was a commentary on Romans 12:9-21:

“Love must be free of hypocrisy. Detest what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honour, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practising hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never repay evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all people.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (NASB)

True Love

The first point he drew was that this is “about love and becoming love”. He then asked the question, “Do you love me?” He explained it this way: “The problem with the word ‘love’ is that everyone says it or does it, but without Christ abiding in your spirit, receiving and giving, it’s actually not love. It’s wrong.”

He then noted the fact that there are 30 commands in those 13 verses. He challenged his hearers to weigh up how well they are loving those around them based on those commands. He also expanded that challenge to even consider how they love those who persecute them.

He said, “This is ‘agape’ love”.

He then contrasted that with love that is not genuine, which he described as “radically poor love… it should not even be called love”. He was referring here to any form of abuse carried out by people we may know, or particularly by loved ones.

In the light of what we’ve witnessed following this sermon, and the outpouring of love, with people prostrated before the altar, praying for others, and such fulsome glorifying of God through worship and witness, I see the rest of the sermon reflected in what continued after the meeting ended, and what I believe is at the heart of what God is doing there:

“I am happy to sit here and pray with people. If you have experienced that kind of love, there are leaders on campus who will stay in these seats and pray for you. If you need to hear the voice of God, the Father in Heaven, Who will never love you that way, Who is perfect in love, gentle and kind — you come up here and you experience His love. Don’t waste this opportunity.”

Then he broke off his sermon and prayed into that:

“Jesus, if there are people in this room that feel the weight of that perverted thing that one person called love, would you just alleviate that weight right now. Holy Spirit, would you just move through these rows and love on these people. Jesus, there are people who have experienced hypocritical love in the Church. Holy Spirit, move through these rows and alleviate that. Heal them, Jesus. Show them Your true self. Would they be bold and courageous to ask for further healing and further prayer, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

He then referred to the verse, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”, and in relation to this, he said,

“Christian communities aren’t great at this. Rejoicing with those who rejoice feels like, ‘you can’t be prideful’. But what about celebrating one another… celebrating each other’s gifts? What about weeping with those who weep? Do you journey with them? Do you tarry with them?”

From what I’ve seen, this is one of the most significant markers of this visitation, where random groups of people have gathered around others to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”, whatever the need may be.

In finishing, he said,

“You cannot love until you are loved by Jesus. The only way we can love is as in 1 John 4:7-21. So I want to say, ‘Stop striving… You’ve got to love because you’ve tasted and seen the goodness of God. You have been loved. You have to continually put yourself before Jesus and be loved by Him so you can love others… we must become love in action.

What is the purpose of your love? Who or what are you becoming through this expression of love? Some of us need to sit in the love of God. Some of us need to taste and see and experience the power of the Holy Spirit. Because if you want to become love, if you really want to become love in action, you start by prostrating yourself before the love of God. If you want to become love in action, you have to experience the love of God.

Asbury, the world needs this kind of love. They need a bunch of Christians experiencing the love of God so they can pour out the love of God. Not through their own efforts, and not through their own knowledge, but because they are filled with His love… Become the love of God by experiencing the love of God.”

Again, the one distinctive above all in what has occurred after this sermon is the testimony of the Holy Spirit shedding abroad the Father’s love in such a gentle manner through the ministry of others, through those involved being “love in action”, becoming the love of God. But it appears that the first action was that they “prostrated themselves” before God at the front in prayer, worship and repentance. It was from this being a priority that the prayer groups then started, which had the effect of expanding this outpouring of love and intimacy.

Seeking God’s Face

And from my own perspective, as one who has experienced first-hand the power of the Holy Spirit in previous revivals, such as the overflow from Toronto in the ’90s, with the attendant power manifestations, there is something refreshing and fulfilling in what’s happening here.

And it’s because so many of us became enamoured by the manifestations of power in those revivals, which were in many quarters treated almost like a Charismatic parlour game, that I believe this is the reason why God withdrew His hand then. In that visitation, the power that was unleashed in the Body of Christ was meant to be used to draw those outside the church. Its purpose was to release things like prophetic ministry to the lost, healing and other signs and wonders, for revival to break out in the wider culture. This is, after all, the ultimate purpose of revival. It’s not for our benefit.

In fact, I recall a prophecy by the Canadian prophet Stacey Campbell at the time, where she spoke of the Father who would come home from trips away with gifts for His children, and after a while the children, when they would greet His homecoming, would rush to see what was in His hands instead of embracing Him. So the Father stopped bringing them gifts when He came home. She said the Father was saying, “Seek my face, not My hands”.

So in that respect, I believe that what is happening now is the Father responding to a group of believers who “seek His face”. And this is now spreading to other campuses in an ever-widening arc, with Asbury at the centre, and in the same spirit. If I knew nothing else about this 24/7 meeting, this alone would be enough for me to believe that God is moving to bring about a revival that impacts the broader culture through this kind of devotional intimacy.

In this respect, I’m reminded of the passage in the Song of Solomon 5, where the Beloved Bride is awakened from sleep by the King, and goes out in the streets to search for Him. When she’s accosted by the nightwatchmen who ask her, “What kind of beloved is your beloved, O most beautiful among women?”, she gives witness to His excellence and His beauty: “My beloved is dazzling and reddish, outstanding among ten thousand… He is wholly desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend”. (Song 5:10, 16 NASB)

This finds a parallel in 1 Peter 2:9:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.”

Here is the purpose of the kind of deep intimacy being preached in this sermon and subsequently manifested in the meetings. It’s that we tell the world about the excellencies of our Beloved, and our own journey from the darkness in which those in the world are still enmeshed, where they work so hard to find fulfilment that’s not possible to find in the fleeting pleasures of this life.

In his closing prayer, he prayed, “Do a new thing in our midst. Revive us by Your love.” I’m sure that anyone with an impartial mind who watched any of the worship videos from the past week or so would agree that the Holy Spirit has honoured that prayer request.

Last year I wrote three articles on revival (1) (2) (3), where I noted:

“God never uses the same kind of circumstances, and no two revival outpourings are similar. The one common denominator in all of them is a burning desire among God’s people to see God bring transformation to the whole culture.”


“This “burning desire” is actually the consequence of an alignment of our heart’s desire with God’s. So we need to understand that this involves two seemingly opposite manifestations. First, God’s grief, longing and mourning for those who don’t know Christ. Second, God’s passion and joy showered down on His beloved as a means of facilitating the first. We need to experience both.”

I believe it is the second that we are seeing in action at Asbury now. We wait to see when and how the first is addressed, so that it can move from divine visitation to a full-blown revival of the culture.

But beyond that, I feel it’s necessary to return briefly to the issue of those critical of this move of God, as there appears to be no shortage of those who, for whatever reason, believe all kinds of weird and wonderful things about this, but especially for those whose narrow theology simply doesn’t allow God to work in this way.

Whether it’s an opposition to women leading (for which I found the best refutation I’ve ever seen was in an article here by Trinity Westlake) or the source of the worship music, because it was from churches like Bethel, Elevation and Hillsong, or even Christians spreading vicious rumours that the leadership had been infiltrated by LGBTQI+ advocates, is irrelevant.

This kind of divisive, and even malicious and dishonest, commentary from people who at best visited to “rubber neck” or to confirm their own theological biases, or at worst hadn’t been there and were just repeating things others had said, should be roundly condemned.

There is no theological viewpoint that can instruct the Holy Spirit on how He can or cannot move within His Body. And there is definitely no theological viewpoint that allows for the spreading of slanderous rumours. Even going to the extreme that if it were true that there were people leading this with unresolved sin of any kind in their lives, it is wrong to call it out from a distance, as is being done by these rumour-mongers. In fact, they’re displaying the same form of abusive “radically poor love” that was referred to in the sermon.

Again, we can only hope that in time this visitation continues to produce the fruit that comes from the kind of gentle intimacy and passion that’s been the hallmark so far, and in this way, the critics are silenced.

Two things we should all be doing in the meantime. First, watch and pray. And second, be jealous for the same experience of deep love and intimacy that’s on display at Asbury.

That’s how visitation grows and becomes revival.


Photo: Relevant Magazine

Thank the Source

Rebuke and Love

A Leviticus account of rebuke and love.

The book of Leviticus contains instruction for the priests and people of Israel, so that they might be holy and live in the presence of God. For some contemporary readers, Leviticus 19:17-18 seems to contain a conflict between the commands to “rebuke your neighbour” and to “love your neighbour as yourself.”

The verse reads:

17 ‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart;
you may certainly rebuke your neighbour,
but you are not to incur sin because of him.
18 You shall not take vengeance,
nor hold any grudge against the sons of your people,
but you shall love your neighbour as yourself; I am the Lord.

This conflict, however, is only seeming. Rebuke, when done out of love, is a loving act, restoring the offender back into relation with God and the community as a whole. In fact, to fail to rebuke can lead the offended party to sin by committing hateful acts against the offender.

Complete Sanctity

Leviticus is the third book of the Pentateuch, containing laws particular to attaining and maintaining holiness. The God of Israel is maximally holy, and all that is impure in His presence is destroyed. This means that the Israelites had to practice holiness in order to come into God’s presence and offer sacrifices, which were necessary for atonement and thanksgiving (Lv. 19:2).

Holiness was more than just moral excellence, but was the practice of imitating God’s goodness in all aspects of life.

For some readers, the command to both rebuke and love one’s neighbour are juxtaposed — making judgements, and confronting someone about their wrongdoing, does not seem to be very loving behaviour. This seems to be a very common belief today. Our culture worships an idol of comfort, and far too many Christians are complacent and worried about offending the ‘followers of comfort.’

However, it is a non-issue historically. In fact, the two commands enlighten one another and indicate exactly what each requires in order for the people of God to best imitate God’s holiness.

Course Correction

It is first helpful to notice the parallels in these verses. Both verses contain a prohibition (to not hate/take vengeance), remedy (rebuke/love your neighbour), and rationale (incur no sin/‘I am the Lord’ i.e., be holy). It is the remedy commands that some readers struggle to reconcile. It is proper then to analyse the remedies in light of their prohibitions and rationale.

The prohibition of hate in the heart (v. 17) seems to focus on one’s thoughts and feelings toward another. Instead of hating your fellow Israelite when they trespass you, you are commanded to rebuke them — this term יָכַח (yakach) can also be understood in the sense of being “set right.” In Scripture, reproof is often associated with wisdom (e.g., Pr. 9:8; 10:17), referring to judgement, reasoning, and correction.

The antithesis to hate in the heart is rebuke in the open (i.e., Pr. 27:5). Rebuke removes possible misunderstandings, dispels hate, and opens up an opportunity for communion between the offender and the offended — grievances can be resolved, and the offender can be corrected (that is, be put back on the path to holiness).

Festering Resentment

The rationale given for this command is the avoidance of sinning out of hatred. Hatred can lead to sins varying from anger to murder. This was the case for Absalom, who would eventually have Amnon murdered, after avoiding him and repressing his anger for two years (2 Sm. 13).

One might easily argue that even just the failure to reprove is a sin in itself, as was the (similar) case for “the watchman” of Ezekiel 33, who would bear the punishment of the wicked if he failed to warn them of their wickedness (Ez. 33:8). Rebuking the neighbour is proper, but hating the neighbour is a sin. Interestingly, at Qumran, reproof was not only a moral duty, but a cardinal requirement.

The prohibition against taking vengeance and grudge-nursing (v. 18) functions also as a prohibition of actions and thoughts that result from hatred. Even if the offender does not respond appropriately to reproof, hatred is forbidden. It is for God to distribute justice (De. 32:35a), for only He has the wisdom, power, and authority to do so.

On the matter of how one ought to reprove, this prohibition indicates that to rebuke in anger, or in front of others, is an act of vengeance, and is therefore a sin. Similarly, to refuse to rebuke may be an act of grudge-nursing. The remedy command is to love, referring not just to an emotion, but actions also. The term אַהַב (ahab) is “love” in the sense of affection, reaching out, and befriending. Inner and outer love was a prerequisite for holiness.

True Love

It is a matter of debate as to whether the following כָּמ֑וֹךָ (kemo) modifies “love” and should be translated as “as yourself” — meaning that as one seeks to provide for their own needs, one must seek to provide for the needs for their neighbour. On the other hand, should it modify “your neighbour” and be translated as “as a man like yourself,” the command is that one must love their fellow Israelite because he is made in God’s image and is in a covenant with Him, just as he is also. [Along a similar vein, Gn. 5:1 has often been regarded as the great principle of the Torah — though some have regarded Lv. 19:18 as such.]

Particularly suited to the latter translation, the rationale for the command to love is the fact that God is holy — “I am the Lord.” The Israelite is called to love his fellow covenant people. In light of this, one must graciously rebuke his neighbour out of love for him, so that he might be holy. The command to rebuke is therefore a call to speak truth in love (as would be later articulated in Ep. 4:15). [Note that the use of verse 18 to interpret verse 17 is proper, as it was and is commonplace for biblical laws to be interpreted with regard to the love command.]

Given what has been discussed above, it should be apparent that the commands to rebuke and love are harmonious. The conflict only exists in the eyes of those who believe love is relative, or that love can only truly manifest itself through supportive and affirming behaviours. Today, the popular sense is that loving one’s neighbour requires a full acceptance of who they are (that is, not judging them) — that we ought to avoid those convicting and uncomfortable conversations, because we should never “impose” morals on another person.

Readers must keep in mind that ancient Israel was essentially theocratic — their practices, laws, and governing systems were divinely inspired. There is no instance (at least not in the modern sense) of one Israelite “imposing” their morals upon another. All members of this society were motivated to strive for holiness, so that they might live in the presence of God and be blessed by Him. Their morals were grounded in God’s standard.

In this setting, rebuke can be regarded as an accountability tool, as well as a means of restoring the offender to communion with God and his Israelite neighbour. This, surely, when done with gentle kindness and genuine concern, was a necessary and loving act. Israelites were called to reflect God’s holiness by loving and caring for the needs, holiness, and spiritual/moral state of their neighbours.

One must also note that God, in the Hebrew Scriptures, is recorded as rebuking and punishing Israel, so that they might return to Him and restore the covenant relationship (e.g., Judges; Pr. 3:12; the prophets). Should one then propose that His behaviour here conflicts with His loving nature — or that He is somehow behaving irrationally? It would be highly controversial to propose so.

Stages of Fraternal Correction

Jesus affirmed this union of rebuke and love in both word and deed.

As recorded in Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus commands His followers to rebuke each other lovingly. So as not to embarrass the offender, the offended should confront him privately — not gossip about him to others. If the rebuke proves ineffective, one is to bring witnesses to rebuke him again. Further still, if the offender remains unrepentant, the matter is brought to the church community. If the offender still refuses to heed the rebuke, he is to be cut off from the community — he can no longer be considered a Christ-follower.

Like the desire for holiness in ancient Israel, Jesus is concerned for the holiness of His church and the righteousness of its members. The rebuke is borne from a heart of love for the neighbour and the community as a whole. In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus describes a close relationship between rebuke and forgiveness. A person may not hold a grudge, but must forgive his neighbour when he repents of his wrongdoing.

Some readers will improperly take Jesus’ command not to judge (Mt. 7:1) apart from the verses that follow. This, however, is not a call to never rebuke one’s neighbour, but is a call to abandon hypocrisy. Those who rebuke should not themselves reject rebuke. One should not correct another’s error until he recognises his own personal failings.

Israel Ba’al Shem Tov rephrases the love command as follows: “Just as we love ourselves despite the faults we know we have, so we should love our fellows despite the faults we see in them.” A reader might identify a separation between the act and the person — the believer is commanded to rebuke the sinful action out of love for the person, who is created in God’s image, and expect the same.

As it was for ancient Israel, the command to rebuke is aimed particularly at those within the community, toward other members. The command to love, however, seems to be applied universally (Mt. 5:44; 22:29), and just as with Leviticus 19:18, Jesus teaches that love implies deeds (Mt. 7:12). Christians are called to rebuke and, in particular, to rebuke one another — but we are called to love all people.

Jesus also embodied the command to rebuke and love through His actions. For example, Jesus loved the adulterous woman when He prevented her from being stoned and rebuked her when He told her to “sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). Similarly, when He healed an infirm man and commanded him to stop sinning (Jn. 5:1-15).

God’s Kingdom Come

Rebuke, when done in a loving manner and with a loving heart, is a tool of love. In fact, in the New Testament, the most common Greek verb for “rebuke” is ἐπιτιμαω, which is an amalgamation of ἐπι, “on” (move/place/locate on/in, in the time of, on the basis of), and τιμαω, “I honour, value.” Ἐπιτιμαω, therefore, means literally “to place honour.” It’s restorative. Jesus’ ministry, as the Messiah, was to proclaim the Kingdom of God, which was holy. He loved people, and so He taught, rebuked, and died for them, so that they might be regarded as holy and enter (i.e., be restored into) the Kingdom.

In Leviticus, rebuke and love are regarded as necessary for the holiness of oneself and one’s neighbour. Out of loving concern for their fellow Israelites’ moral purity, as well as their own, God’s people were commanded to rebuke their neighbour, directing them back into communion with God and the community. Likewise, Christ rebuked those He deeply loved so that they might become holy.

Earlier, when I spoke of the ‘followers of comfort,’ I was not only referring to non-believers. Many Christians have slipped into the cult of comfort. They refuse to be a light toward each other, let alone the world — but we are called to be salt, not sugar. We are called to walk amongst wolves, not to walk on eggshells. We are called to transform, not conform. Avoiding discomfort is a secular etiquette.

Do not put eternal souls in peril for the sake of temporal unity. If you love your neighbour, rebuke him.


cf. The Walk. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko.

Thank the Source

Australia Day is ‘Unity Day’: Indigenous Elder James Dargin

Forget the division. Australia’s national holiday is an opportunity for unity and forgiveness.

My children say to me, “Happy Invasion Day, Dad.” But I say to them, “Happy Unity Day.”

These powerful words come from Pastor James Dargin, a recognised Indigenous leader and elder in Wollongong, who has a deep love for people and for Australia. 

James has seen much pain and suffering in his life and his message is simple: we need to forgive so we can build a united future for our children. The only way to do that, he believes, is to stop the division and work together.

According to James, there is no better opportunity to practice this than on Australia’s national holiday. “Let’s not change the date of the 26th of January,” he says. “But let’s change our heart on the 26th of January.”

The Power of Forgiveness

In explaining why he is such a strong believer in forgiveness, James opens up about his childhood:

I grew up with mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse. I was tied to a bed, my brother was tied under our house. My brother was put on a stove. I grew up with racism. I grew up with a lot of abuse. And it got to a point for me to hide that abuse is that I was on alcohol and drugs for 40 years straight.

But that was not the end of his story. He recounts that “At the age of 50, I gave my heart to the Lord. He changed my heart. I have forgiven the people that have hurt me and I’ve forgiven family members.” Why? “When I gave my heart to the Lord, I realised He forgave me. He died on the cross for me.”

Hug Someone on Unity Day

As a result, James is convinced that division over issues like Australia Day is unproductive and ultimately destructive. He has a better vision for how we can celebrate:

Let’s come together and call it Unity Day, Forgiveness Day — to forgive each other, to love one another. It should be a day of celebration, of love. Hug someone. Forgive somebody. Love somebody. That’s what we should be celebrating. What happened in the past was horrific. Let’s come together, let’s build a future for the next generation.

James has not always thought this way about Australia Day. He grew up thinking about it as ‘Invasion Day’. He said that perspective often stirred up anger in his heart. But no longer: “Now that I forgive, that pain, that anger, has been removed and replaced with love and joy and unity.”

Now he wants everyone to know the freedom that forgiveness brings. “Let’s share Unity Day with the whole nation. Draw it anywhere, put it on your t-shirt, share it on social media.” James concludes his reflections saying, “So on the 26th of January, Unity Day, love somebody, hug somebody, forgive somebody, because we are one.”

Thank the Source

How to Bond with Your Kids – According to Neuroscience

Research reveals the amazing science behind creating a strong, lasting bond between parent and child, helping the child develop into a secure, well-rounded and independent person.

“I think it should be cool to be a good partner, a good spouse, a good father… If I’m one of the people who helps make that cooler, I think that’s great,” are the prescient words of mega-selling recording artist, John Legend. John is right, and becoming a good father means developing good bonds with your children. That means building a deeper connection, but how do you do that?

Dr Pascal Vrticka has offered some great observations in an article titled, “Synced brains: how to bond with your kids — according to neuroscience.”

“New research, simultaneously measuring brain activity of parents and children, offers some insights.

To effectively interact with others, we must establish an emotional connection as well as swiftly and accurately infer each other’s goals and intentions. Research shows that this works best if we coordinate our behaviour and bodily responses. Luckily, we have a natural tendency to get in sync with others. For example, we automatically imitate one another — with classical examples including laughing and yawning — and engage in complex patterns of coordinated eye gaze or touch.

We even socially synchronise our physiology, for example, through the alignment of our heartbeats and hormone secretion (such as cortisol and oxytocin). When we bond with others, it is as if our entire body engages in a “social dance”.

Socially dancing with others enables us to more easily feel what they are feeling and think what they are thinking. This process, called bio-behavioural synchrony, helps us to more strongly connect with one another. During childhood, being in sync with others is also vital for social, emotional and cognitive development.

Brain-to-Brain Synchrony

Researchers have recently started testing what happens in the brain when two people interact in this way. Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) “hyperscanning”, brain activity can be measured while people are doing various tasks and wearing a cap linked up with optical sensors. This is done for each participant, and brain activity is then compared. Synchrony arises when there are aligned decreases and increases in the same brain area at roughly the same time.

Studies using this approach with adults have shown that brain activity also tends to become coordinated during interactions. Also, brain-to-brain synchrony was found to be higher in romantic partners compared with friends or strangers.

But what about parents and children? Our new research reveals that brain-to-brain synchrony is also increased when both mums and dads interact with their children, especially when they play or solve problems, such as puzzles, together. Tellingly, the stronger the brain-to-brain synchrony, the more problems parents and children can solve. We have also found increased brain-to-brain synchrony in mums and their kids when they talk to each other.

Engaging in activities with one’s children, such as solving problems through play or simply having a conversation, should therefore always be seen by parents as opportunities to strengthen the parent-child bond and help their children develop vital social, emotional and cognitive skills.

Mums and Dads

Brain-to-brain synchrony has been observed to be stronger for children interacting with their parents than with an unknown adult. Although this shows that the parent-child relationship is special in terms of coordinated brains — probably reflecting their closer emotional bond — it does not yet reveal much about the relationships’ underlying qualities. When we looked more closely at how brain-to-brain synchrony between parents and their children related to interaction and relationship quality, we found several additional clues. Interestingly, these clues differed somewhat between mums and dads.

We saw stronger brain-to-brain synchrony during both puzzle solving and conversation if mums and kids took more turns, meaning that they performed the task or spoke alternately — or in succession. The same was true when children were able to more strongly engage in the task instead of being led by their mothers, and so given more autonomy…

In father-child pairs, however, we did not find any links between brain-to-brain synchrony and turn-taking, child autonomy or stress. In turn, we saw higher synchrony in those pairs where dads indicated that being involved in childcare is important for child development and rewarding for themselves.

Take-Home Message

It seems that brain-to-brain synchrony between mums and dads and their children can be achieved by different means. One possible explanation may be that mother-child interactions are marked by more rhythm and structure, whereas father-child interactions may be somewhat jerkier and energetic. Such different experiences enable children to successfully and simultaneously interact with different types of caregivers and practice a variety of social, emotional and cognitive skills.

But it is important to note that social roles — like dads’ attitudes towards fatherhood — can also have an influence. Recent reviews emphasise the value of recognising fathers as caregivers and attachment figures for their children. So, it is vital to keep promoting dads’ role in child development and enable them to spend and enjoy more time with their kids.”

The above article about neuroscience reveals two major things. Number one, mothers and fathers parent in different ways and both are desperately needed by children for that reason. As I keep saying, the truth is always in the tension. Children need both.

Maleness and femaleness are very important. Children feed and are nourished by the difference. Destroy the difference, and you destroy our children.

The second thing and this is big. Love is the missing ingredient in many families today. Only true love will create true synchrony between children and their families. It can all be summed up in the famous Love Chapter from the Bible that is often read at weddings and then promptly forgotten about until the next wedding because it is so rarely put into practice.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails…

Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.”
~ 1 Corinthians 13: 4-13

Jordan Peterson in this short two-minute video called “The Definition of Love” puts all this into perspective.


Love is an easy word to say, but a hard word to do. That’s why I write each week to help you do it, and to help me do it too. I am such a hypocrite, but trust me I am working on it, and I am not giving up. Neither should you!

Yours for More Loving,
Warwick Marsh


First published at Dad4Kids. Photo by Pavel Danilyuk.

Thank the Source

How NOT to Help Others

If we really want to help other people, we must do it God’s way.

If we care about others, we of course want to help them when and where we can. But not everything we do may be helpful. We may in fact cause more harm than good by not doing that which is really in the other person’s best interests. Here I speak more to this, coming from a biblical point of view, of course.

Consider this: You will take a stand for biblical truth and morality, and you will get plenty of opposition, resistance and angry reactions. This is to be expected of course from non-Christians. But the really worrying thing is how many folks calling themselves Christian will have the same negative reaction. And so often this happens because the believer has a close friend or relative involved in some harmful or sinful behaviour.

Making Excuses

So you will often hear something like this: ‘I have an X (sister, brother, spouse, cousin, niece, relative, friend, etc), who is involved in Y (homosexuality, transgenderism, fornication, adultery, etc), so I will not judge them or call out their sin. I care about them and therefore I cannot speak against what they are involved in. I would rather defend them than go with what Scripture might say on this issue.’

Sadly, this is so very common among some Christians. Sure, we can all understand wanting to support a loved one or relative and be there for them. But when you end up siding against God and His Word to do so, you really are not helping these people — you are actually hurting and damaging them.

I am sure many of you have encountered folks like this as well. Because they have a loved one who is involved in some sin or some activity or lifestyle that the Bible clearly condemns, they will stand with them and reject what the Bible says about it. In their mistaken sense of ‘loving’ the person, they prefer to tell God that he is wrong.

They have made a choice. They can either keep agreeing with what God has said on these matters, or they can reject that and instead seek to validate and justify the activities and behaviours of their friend or relative. Of course, we should seek to obey God and seek to help others, but that always involves telling the person truth — biblical truth.

When the Bible says without equivocation that no adulterer or homosexual will enter the kingdom of God (see for example 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), then we either agree or disagree. Here we have a choice to make: we either affirm what God has said about these matters, or we run with a fake love and tell God to butt out. And that is exactly what too many believers do.

True Compassion

As I say, I see this happening all the time. In one situation, someone took me to task for writing on a recent case on transgenderism that had made the news. An Anglican priest had fully embraced and defended this and was causing all sorts of mischief in the churches. But this person said he had a relative who was trans, and so I needed to stop being judgemental and show some compassion. What follows is a version of how I sought to respond to this person:

Sadly you have completely missed the point of this article, and really about everything I have ever written on this and related subjects. And I have written hundreds of articles on this — even books — to carefully make my case. So let me try to once again explain things in a brief and simple fashion.

~ I of course knew nothing about your situation in this regard. I did not write this piece with you in mind. I had no awareness that you might have a relative involved in this. This article is about a vicar in the UK and the damage he is doing, as he twists the Word of God in diabolical ways to justify his lifestyle.

Did you actually read the whole article, or did you instead just run with an emotive knee-jerk reaction? Moreover, did you think the priest was right in what he was saying and doing? If not, why not? It would be interesting to hear your views on the topic that I actually wrote about.

~ I always have a real problem when someone comes along and says that we cannot comment on something unless we have experienced or encountered it directly. That of course is the standard line used by folks to justify all sorts of things.

How many times have pro-lifers heard it said, for example, that we cannot speak out against abortion unless we are female and unless we have had abortions ourselves? This is obviously just plain foolish. I can and should denounce things like rape, even though I have never experienced it personally. Some things are wrong, full stop, regardless if they have been personally experienced or not.

~ It goes without saying that as believers we are to have compassion on others and pray for them. And I did speak of the need for prayer in my article. Prayer and compassion are for everyone, whether the person is a Sunday School teacher, a homosexual, a trans person, a drug addict, or a bank robber. But obviously, we are to love them in the biblical sense of the word.

And that always means willing the highest good for the other person. Loving a homosexual means wanting to see them set free from a risky and dead-end lifestyle. Thus the most loving (and truthful) thing you can tell a homosexual is, ‘You don’t have to be gay.’

It is the same with those caught up in the trans agenda. Loving a trans person is not catering to their delusions and not being happy with them lopping off parts of their body and causing irreversible physical damage to themselves. Instead, loving them means wanting them to get the mental, psychological and spiritual help they really need.

~ As I have often said, if we have a person who is anorexic and identifies as being overweight, and is close to dying because she is so underweight, is it really compassionate and loving to go along with this harmful delusion and encourage the person in that?

How can anyone claiming to be a Christian just pretend everything is fine in this situation? How can we say God is wrong when He clearly said He made us male or female? It is always tragic when concern for someone we know causes us to jettison Scripture. Doing that will not help the person we are concerned about — it will harm them instead.

~ In this article, I was NOT talking about some person that you might know, but an Anglican priest who is misleading many. Approving of those who are twisting Scripture and misleading people into a lost eternity is hardly a loving or compassionate thing to do.

If a loved one comes out in any sinful lifestyle, we still love them of course, but we love them enough to want them to be set free, because Jesus is in the transformation business. That is what the Gospel is all about: turning peoples’ lives around and freeing them from the clutches of the devil.

All this is just basic Christian teaching. How anyone claiming to be a biblical Christian can not understand all this is a mystery to me. It really is. We have simply ditched Scripture and basic Christian ethics when we think the loving thing to do is affirm and encourage a person who is living in a sinful, ungodly lifestyle.


It should be clear that I am not picking on just one individual here. As I say, I come across folks like this all the time. Often they are strong Bible-believing Christians, but because some situation like this arises in their personal circles, they may start to waver or weaken in their beliefs.

Again, it is understandable that a person wants to support and stay close to a friend or loved one. But there is a basic biblical reality that we must always keep in mind: when a conflict arises between a personal experience (our own, or that of another) and the clear teachings of Scripture, then the latter should always trump the former.

But way too often, we allow experiences we have had — or others have had — to determine how we run with the Bible. This is not only doing things backwards, but it is sinful and idolatrous. God and His truth must always come first. Otherwise, we demonstrate how little we care about Him and His Word.

And as I keep saying, if we really want to help and love other people, we will do it God’s way, and not against God’s way. When we run with a humanistic, sentimental or worldly ‘love’, it is NOT going to help the other person. It will simply harm them further, as well as send them to a lost eternity. There is certainly nothing loving about that.


Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.

Thank the Source

There’s A Reason Moving In Before Marriage Makes Divorce More Likely, But Barstool Can’t Figure It Out

There’s A Reason Moving In Before Marriage Makes Divorce More Likely, But Barstool Can’t Figure It Out

First comes love, then comes an indeterminate period of conveniently living together to decide whether your partner’s dishwasher-loading habits are a dealbreaker, then comes marriage.

Today a lot of young daters assume moving in together is a prerequisite for matrimonial success. But it actually hikes up a couple’s proclivity toward divorce compared to spouses who wed without first cohabitating — a statistic that shocked hosts Jordyn Woodruff and Alex Bennett of Barstool Sports’ “Mean Girl” podcast in Wednesday’s episode.

“Couples who live together before marrying have nearly an 80 percent higher divorce rate than those who do not,” Bennett noted incredulously.

“Which is crazy because you’d think you’d be the opposite,” Woodruff responded. “I lived with my boyfriend of five years and we broke up because we knew we weren’t compatible because we lived together.”

“Because living together is the way you find out,” Bennett added, even though, as she noted, she and her husband didn’t move in together before marriage (mostly as a matter of coincidence).

“Of course the natural step would have been to move in together,” she continued. “You save on rent, I get to know how you do the dishes, we get to do all of these things beforehand, before we get married.”

For most young couples, that’s the prevailing mindset. Producer Alanna Vizzoni piped in to note that she didn’t know anyone who hadn’t lived together before tying the knot: “I feel like that’s just kind of how people do it now.”

Instead of leading to better marital outcomes, however, the cohabitation trend is making marriages less successful. Why?

Maybe it’s because the mentality that encourages moving in together also fosters an approach to relationships that is focused on self-fulfillment instead of mutually gratifying self-sacrifice and permanence — while stripping the dating-to-marriage process of its natural tendencies toward steadfast commitment.

The common mindset toward marriage on display in Bennett and Woodruff’s conversation asks: Does this person meet my needs? Does he make me feel happy? Those are questions easily answered by living together outside the sacred commitment of marriage. But they are the exact same questions that, as a rubric applied within marriage, often culminate in divorce as soon as one spouse is perceived to not sufficiently meet needs and inspire happiness.

That self-focused mindset is revealed in Woodruff’s theory about why the statistic might be true. “When you’re not living with someone you’re continuously keeping your own life, your own hobbies, your own things that fulfill you,” she suggested. “But when you live with someone, because I did this, your life becomes their life, and you forget to take care of your own life and your own needs.”

Woodruff is right about one thing: it’s a lot easier to be selfish when you don’t live with another person. Seeing the ability to “take care of your own life” as the top criterion for a healthy marriage is a recipe for failure.

If you enter a marriage with the ultimate goal of meeting your own desires, you’ll likely walk out as soon as those desires aren’t met. And since the practice of living together before marriage is typically a convenient means of testing out how well those wants are met, it simply indulges that mindset further.

But the primary function of marriage is not to make us “happier,” even though it does. Marriage is designed to glorify God by sanctifying us and creating families that reflect his intimate and unconditional love, in ways that also offer us joy and strengthen our communities.

That is a goal that can survive the annoyances of living with another imperfect person’s habits and quirks. It can survive seasons of heartbreaking loss and moments when “feelings” run dry, because marriage is an intentional commitment to sacrificial, unconditional love.

While it’s absolutely wise to thoughtfully evaluate a relationship through dating before making such a holy commitment, that doesn’t require testing out the sacred vulnerabilities of marriage with none of the promise of permanence. In fact, it is that very security of permanence that makes the vulnerabilities wonderful.

Later in the episode, Woodruff and Bennett ponder the reality that, when making the decision to marry, few people ever feel “100 percent” sure they’re making the right decision. For many, moving in together first feels like a way to make the marriage decision less “risky.” But that unhealthy risk aversion paralyzes us from finding joy in commitments that might close off other options.

“I don’t know if anyone will ever be 100 percent [sure,] because we’re always looking for the next best thing, like that’s in our genetics these days,” Woodruff notes.

Her diagnosis is accurate — and sad. The root of that risk aversion, and the “fear of missing out” that nourishes it, is usually selfishness. We don’t want to commit ourselves to anything (or anyone) without a guarantee that we’ll receive the greatest possible gratification in return, because we’ve been taught that self-love is the greatest love of all. That cautious instinct can be good to an extent; obviously, we shouldn’t continue in relationships that are abusive, unhealthy, or simply going nowhere.

But to approach relationships as means to the end of loving ourselves is to deny ourselves the joy of loving another person unconditionally, of giving and receiving each other fully. (Incidentally, it also makes the marriage as futile a pursuit as “self-love” is.) It cheats us of participating in the ultimate earthly replica of Christ’s love, and destines us to eventual dissatisfaction. It makes marriage more fearsome, since a marriage’s success suddenly depends on unpredictable feelings of satisfaction instead of an intentional, constant commitment to love.

Any real love requires giving yourself, and that’s a “risk” that terrifies disciples of the “Mean Girl” hosts’ self-love gospel. The irony is, it’s riskier (and less rewarding) to give time, trust, and emotional and physical intimacy to a person who is only bound to you, as you are to him, by your present satisfaction of his desires. The guard rails of marriage aren’t just safer — they’re ultimately far more liberating.

Elle Purnell is an assistant editor at The Federalist, and received her B.A. in government from Patrick Henry College with a minor in journalism. Follow her work on Twitter @_etreynolds.


C.S. Lewis on Feelings vs Faith

Very wise words by Lewis on the place of emotion.

Because C.S. Lewis was such a deep thinker and so widely read, he was able to offer incisive and wise words about all sorts of things, including those things he may not have yet experienced. Thus he could offer us sage advice on things like marriage and sexuality, even decades before he was married.

He also could tell us great truths about emotion, and how we must guard against being guided by feelings alone. Faith may well incorporate emotion, but it is not limited to nor defined by it. He wrote often about this matter, but here I want to just quote from one of his books: Mere Christianity.


Let’s start with his chapter on Christian marriage:Mere Christianity CS Lewis book

The idea that “being in love” is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all. If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing, and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.

The curious thing is that lovers themselves, while they remain really in love, know this better than those who talk about love. As Chesterton pointed out, those who are in love have a natural inclination to bind themselves by promises. Love songs all over the world are full of vows of eternal constancy.

The Christian law is not forcing upon the passion of love something which is foreign to that passion’s own nature: it is demanding that lovers should take seriously something which their passion of itself impels them to do.

And, of course, the promise, made when I am in love and because I am in love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits me to being true even if I cease to be in love. A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way. He might as well promise never to have a headache or always to feel hungry…

What we call “being in love” is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it subordinates (especially at first) our merely animal sexuality. In that sense, love is the great conqueror of lust. No one in his senses would deny that being in love is far better than either common sensuality or cold self-centredness.

But, as I said before, “the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.” Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling.

Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last, but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called “being in love” usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending “They lived happily ever after” is taken to mean “They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,” then it says what probably never was nor ever could be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships?

But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parents ask, and receive, from God.

They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love” with someone else.

“Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

Loving the Sinner

In his chapter on forgiveness, he says this:

We might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbour as yourself means. I have to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself?

Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. So apparently “Love your neighbour” does not mean “feel fond of him” or “find him attractive”. I ought to have seen that before, because, of course, you cannot feel fond of a person by trying. Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do (and those are, no doubt, my worst moments) but that is not why I love myself. In fact it is the other way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself.

So loving my enemies does not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief. For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain that they are.

Go a step further. In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.

He continues:

For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life — namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.

Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again.

An Act of the Will

This from his chapter on charity (love):

But though natural likings should normally be encouraged, it would be quite wrong to think that the way to become charitable is to sit trying to manufacture affectionate feelings. Some people are “cold” by temperament; that may be a misfortune for them, but it is no more a sin than having bad digestion is a sin; and it does not cut them out from the chance, or excuse them from the duty, of learning charity. The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets.

When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.

There is, indeed, one exception. If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his “gratitude” you will probably be disappointed. (People are not fools: they have a very quick eye for anything like showing off, or patronage.)

But whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more, or, at least, to dislike it less.

Consequently, though Christian charity sounds a very cold thing to people whose heads are full of sentimentality, and though it is quite distinct from affection, yet it leads to affection. The difference between a Christian and a worldly man is not that the worldly man has only affections or “likings” and the Christian has only “charity.”

The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he “likes” them: the Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on — including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning…

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

Lastly, some thoughts from his chapter on faith:

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.

This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue; unless you teach your moods “where they get off”, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.

The first step is to recognise the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious reading and church going are necessary parts of the Christian life.

We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?


Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by Michelle Leman.

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