(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." (Gilbert and Sullivan)

"The light of the whole life dies when love is done." (Bourdillon)

"Flower o' the broom, take away love and earth's a tomb."  (Browning)

"All thoughts, all passions, all delights, whatever stirs this mortal frame, are but the ministers of love, and feed his sacred flame."  (Coleridge)

"All you need is love.  All you need is love.  All you need is love is love.  Love is all you need." (The Beatles).

"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)

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.

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 that to most societies would seem strange.   For most of human history, the 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 calls never 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 ago, 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 take quite as much delight in watching these couples as I used to.  The reason 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 his wedding!

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 lyrics:

      More than the greatest love the world has known
      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 sunshine
      Softer than a sigh,
      My love is deeper than the deepest ocean
      Wider than the sky
      My love is brighter than the brightest star
      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 bitter, 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 stars
      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 evolutionary development.  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.  Essentially, we have tried to ban God himself from our classrooms, and from most aspects of public life.  But do you see what that does, automatically?  The Bible tells us that God is love.  And we get rid of God, we get rid 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 be abandoned.  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 through the 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 of love.

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 altogether?

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 died before.

"Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus 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 death.
"Now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three things: but the greatest of these is love."

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