Political Agape: Christian Love and Liberal Democracy

Political Agape: Christian Love and Liberal Democracy

Political Agape: Christian Love and Liberal Democracy

Political Agape: Christian Love and Liberal Democracy

Synopsis

What is the place of Christian love in a pluralistic society dedicated to "liberty and justice for all"? What would it mean to take both Jesus Christ and Abraham Lincoln seriously and attempt to translate love of God and neighbor into every quarter of life, including law and politics?

Timothy Jackson here argues that agapic love of God and neighbor is the perilously neglected civil virtue of our time -- and that it must be considered even before justice and liberty in structuring political principles and policies. Jackson then explores what "political agape " might look like when applied to such issues as the death penalty, same-sex marriage, and adoption.

Excerpt

Political Agape (2015) completes my trilogy on Christian love (agape), begun with Love Disconsoled (1999) and continued with The Priority of Love (2003). the individual volumes stand on their own, I trust, but each has its distinctive tone and foci. Love Disconsoled, as the title suggests, is largely deconstructive and sobering. It celebrates Jesus’ sacred heart, but it basically seeks to discourage false or destructive hopes. It warms itself with “the fire of love” (Rolle), so to speak, yet it also aims to burn away some theological deadwood. Specifically, it tries to uncouple Christlike love from certainty, invulnerability, and immortality. Epistemic humility grants that foundationalist certitude is a chimera; ethical realism acknowledges that even the good person can be harmed; and eschatological simplicity emphasizes that “eternal life” need not await a postmortem heaven. in this via negativa, the challenge is to uphold Christian candor in the face of human finitude without precipitating despair, to defend the reality of radical evil (a.k.a. abomination) without losing sight of radical goodness. My heroes in this enterprise are Abraham overcoming childsacrifice, F. Scott Fitzgerald going into the dark night of tenderness, and Simone Weil practicing the love of God amid affliction. Behind them all is Christ on the cross, the Messiah full of anxiety and pain yet obedient to the will of God unto death.

The Priority of Love is a more positive and constructive text. Whereas Love Disconsoled emphasizes agape’s uniqueness, its “supernatural” character in rising above (without neglecting or vilifying) eros, philia, and amor sui, Priority accents agape’s primacy. It explicates Christian love as a metavalue, that good without which we have no substantive access to other valuable things (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3). Rather than other loves being demoted, however, now modern justice is relativized. Agape is prior but not antithetical to contemporary . . .

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