Love for the Fatherland
Christians are called to love all men (and women and children and those of indeterminate gender). God makes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust. We are called to love even our enemies. But are we called to love all equally, in the same way and in the same measure? Is the Christian call to universal love a solvent of all natural distinctions? Or does the commandment to love apply in different ways to different people?
A secular universalism born of the Enlightenment wants us not to discriminate (a doubleunplusgood word, in the politically correct Newspeak of George Orwell’s 1984) between people: We should have the same attitude toward the Australian aborigine and toward the Arab terrorist as we do toward our next-door neighbor. Whatever coherence and practicality such an attitude may have (and no one in practice follows it), it is not Christian. Christianity has always recognized an order of charity that takes into account the distinctions in our obligation to love other men, distinctions that are based on our different ties to them.
Thomas Aquinas recognizes that some Christians, following Augustine, claim that we must love all equally. Thomas thought this “unreasonable,” because both natural affections and the affection of charity are “orderly,” that is, they follow an order, since both affections flow from Divine Wisdom. We are not simply more obliged to love those near to us; we are obliged to love them more. “If any man have not care of his own and especially of those of his house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8).
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Leon J. Podles holds a Ph.D. in Old English and Old Icelandic from the University of Virginia and is a senior editor of Touchstone. His latest book is Losing the Good Portion: Why Men Are Alienated from Christianity (St. Augustine's Press, 2020). He and his wife Mary (author of the Touchstone column "A Thousand Words") are the parents of six children. He resides in Baltimore, Maryland.
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