THE DEATH OF LOVE
(Dorm Presentation--February 1996)
I promised I would talk about something
more impþrtant than anything I talk about in class. I'm
going to keep promise.
I'm going to talk about most important thing in the whole world.
And what's that?
If I had asked question 30 years ago--or almost any
other time in history--I'd have gotten a quick answer
from almost everyone. Almost everyone would have quickly said
that love is the most important thing in the world.
"Love makes world go around."
"The light of the whole life dies when love
is done." (Bourdillon)
"Flower o' the broom, take away
earth's a tomb." (Browning)
"All thoughts, all passions, all
whatever stirs this mortal frame, are but the ministers of love, and
feed his sacred flame." (Coleridge)
"All you need is love. All
is love. All you need is love is love. Love is all you
Now I suspect that most people today would
still say that love is the most important thing of all. But the
answer would be slow in coming. And we certainly do not live our
lives as if love was the
most important thing of all. As one looks around American
society, it's apparent that love is dying, if it's not already dead.
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love
I am become as sounding brass, as a tinkling cymbal. And though I
have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all
knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove
mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow
all my goods to feed the poor and though I give up my body to be
burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing." (St. Paul)
The best example of this is break up of
the family. Wide-spread divorce and failure to form marriages in
first place is destroying some of the most fundamental of loving
relationships--not just the relationship of husband and wife, but
relationships between fathers and children, between mothers and
children, and between brothers and sisters. Fewer and fewer
people even have brothers and sisters.
The reproduction rate is something like 1.7 per woman.
Now there can
be plenty of love in a small family, but there's something strange
going on here. People are making odd choices--at least, choices
most societies would seem strange. For most of human
desire for children has been incredibly strong. Almost every
culture has its stories about childless couples and their
longings. You see it in everything from fairy stories (e.g., Tom
Thumb) to the Bible. Notice, for instance, Abraham's refusal to
believe that God can do much at all for a childless man, "What will you
give me, seeing I have no son?"
Now where is that intense parental love
for children today? In a lot of places, it's gone
completely. Look at increasing number of incredibly cruel
things parents do to children. And look how much we've grown to
casually accept one of the cruelest of
all things parents can do, breaking apart a child's stable world by
divorce. We have a
neighbor, a little boy of four. Every time he plays with my
children, he tells
the same story. His dad is going to take him to the zoo. But Dad
is more than 1000 miles away, and isn't likely to even see him any time
in the near future. A junior high friend of my daughter's is
constantly waiting for a letter or a call from her dad. But the
come. The letters never come. It breaks your heart.
Even Hollywood understands this one.
Again and again, movies show the pain divorces bring into kids'
lives. And knowing how much pain such a divorce brings into a
child's life, Hollywood parents, theactors, actresses, directors,
producers are careful never, ever to bring such pain into the lives of
their own children. Yeah. Right.
There's something wrong here, something
dreadfully wrong. Suppose for some reason I didn't much like my
lovely wife any more and thought I'd be happier with someone
else. But I've got kids,
kids whom I say I love. How much love would there be in me if I
were to divorce their mom, to cause them the same kind of pain I see in
so many other children? Not much, right? Not so very long
people stayed together "for the kids sake"--and that really wasn't such
a very bad reason.
And it seems like young people are having
a dreadful time establishing the right kind of loving relationships in
the first place. They don't marry and sometimes their marriages
fail astonishingly quickly. One of my great delights as a teacher
has always been to
see my students pairing off, to see them find that wonderful guy or
girl they want to spend the rest of their lives with. But I don't
quite as much delight in watching these couples as I used to. The
is that I keep seeing these relationships collapse--sometimes before
they've really begun.
Last year I ran into one of my former students.
My first question to him was, "How's married life?" The dejected
answer, "I'm not married anymore." This was just six months after
And as you look at our popular culture,
you see that we really don't believe in love any more. Look at
today's song lyrics, and contrast them with those of 30 years
ago. Thirty years ago a typical pop song was "More." The
More than the greatest love the world
This is the love I'll give to you alone
More than the simple words I try to say
I only live to love you more each day
Another pop song:
My love is warmer than the warmest
Softer than a sigh,
My love is deeper than the deepest ocean
Wider than the sky
My love is brighter than the brightest
That shines in the night above
And there is nothing in this world that
can every change my love
Now can you imagine Snoop Doggy Dog singing
songs like that? Madonna? It wouldn't happen. Not
that we don't sing about love. But our love songs have gotten
like the T. Rex song "Life's a Gas":
I could have loved you girl like a planet
I could have placed your love in the
But it really doesn't matter at all
It really doesn't matter at all
Life's a gas
It does matter. It matters more than
anything. I've had the good fortune of being loved as much as
anyone is ever loved in this world I've never had reason to doubt the
love of my parents, my brothers, my sister, my wife, or my kids.
I have teenage son who thinks I'm the greatest guy in the world, and a
teenage daughter who clings to my arm everywhere we go. Even my
students like me--a pretty incredible thing for a history teacher.
But what makes me sad, what brings tears
to my eyes, is to see that fewer and fewer people seem to be able to
find this kind of love, that love is dying, and that fewer and fewer of
my students will have anything like what I have had in my own life
Why? What's killing love?
To a certain extent, love has been killed
by ideas--the ideas of men like Freud, Darwin and Nietzsche. For
many modern thinkers, love is only an illusion, a product of
It is no wonder that love dies when we are constantly propagandized
into believing that our only real desires are to survive and reproduce.
But the real problem is not one of ideas.
The real problem is that we have deliberately kicked love out of our
lives--or at least, out of many areas in our lives. We've kicked
love out of the schools, for instance. In the 1960's and 70's, a
series of Supreme Court decisions and bureaucratic rulings banned love
from every classroom in
Yes. That's right.
Now some of you might say, "I don't know of any
Supreme Court decisions banning love in the classroom."
But you do.
You see, the courts and the bureaucracies
have eliminated prayer, Bible reading, the things like the posting of
the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms.
have tried to ban God himself from our classrooms, and from most
aspects of public life. But do you see what that does,
The Bible tells us that God is love. And we get rid of God, we
of love--quite literally.
And what replaced God in the classrooms?
To a large extent, we've replaced the old Christian philosophy of
education with a "new" philosophy, the philosophy of John Dewey.
Dewey was exceedingly influential, "the founder of modern American
progressive education." The way children are taught today in
public schools today owes more to Dewey than to any other
individual--and no one is more to blame for what's wrong with American
education and even American society than John Dewey.
Christians often point out that Dewey himself
was an atheist, and certainly he was no friend of religion. Dewey
was one of the original signers of "The Humanist Manifesto," a document
basically saying that the traditional religious approach to life should
But Dewey has rejected far more than traditional
religion. When one looks through Dewey's works, one discovers
somthing exceedingly odd: there's never a mention of love. Look
through the index of Dewey's Reconstruction in Philosophy.
There are references
to law, learning, licentiousness, life, literary culture, Locke, logic,
logical system, and Lotze--but not love. Look through Dewey's "My
Pedagogic Creed." Not a single mention of love. And look
goals and objectives of our teacher education programs in America, look
at the philosophy statements, the educational credos, the state and
national standards for K-12 students. You won't find one mention
There's something's wrong here--something
dreadfully wrong. Jesus said the most important thing was to love
God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. How
can we love God with all
our minds if 90% of the time we don't even think about Him? Is it
any wonder that love is dying, when we abandon the source of love
But you know, all this isn't really as new
a thing as I have made it sound. It isn't a new thing that love
is dying. Love has
"Then the soldiers of the governor
into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band
of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet
robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put
it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand; and the bowed the
knee before him, and mocked him saying, hail, King of the Jews.
And the spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on
the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the
robe from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away
to crucify him."
Love has been rejected before our day.
Love has been mocked. Love has been spat upon. And love has
died. But that death
did not destroy love: instead, it showed us what love truly is--putting
others first to the very last, sacrificing oneself for the beloved.
I told you earlier that I have been as much
loved as anyone ever in this world. But you know, each one of you
has been loved with
a love equally great, and every one of you right now can enter into a
love that truly is "more than the greatest love the world has known."
For you see, it is not some romantic lover, some girl or guy who has a
love for us that is warmer than sunshine, softer than sigh, deeper than
the deepest ocean, wider than sky. That love, the love nothing
can every change, comes from God Himself. It's a love that can
transform our own hearts so that we too can love fully and
completely. And it's a love that, in the end, triumphs even over
"Now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three things:
but the greatest of these is love."