Can There Be a “Politics of Love”?

Feb 3, 2023 by David Fowler

Can There Be a “Politics of Love”?
Last week I put the LGBTQ movement and the Christian Nationalist movement “in the dock” to evaluate the nature of the love each professes. Today, I put my first book, The Politics of Loving God, in the dock. My purpose is to see if there can be any such thing as a “politics of love.” Many who have read it may be surprised by my critique of the book.

The Two Theses in The Politics of Loving God

To appreciate my analysis, you should know that The Politics of Loving God rests on two theses. 
My first is that Christians demonstrate their love for God by stewarding well all that He has given them. Since politics involves the “power of the ballot box” and matters of authority, and since both originate in and come from God, Christians love God well if they steward political power and authority according to what God declares good and right. 
The second is that all law is pedagogical. Even the complaints filed by those among the LGBTQ movement over state marriage laws speak in terms of what the law “teaches” and “instructs.” We “lay down the law” to our children to teach them what is good and right. We do that because we love them.
Thus, we all know at some level that to love our neighbor well we must care what the law is teaching him or her. Those who only want the law to serve their own ends are selfish, and love of others is not in them. Therefore, I assert that Christians should care about what the law teaches or instructs and that should be moral values that accord with what God declares good and right.
I think the book is biblically sound as far as it goes. The problem is that it does not go far enough. Consequently, it can lead Christians to some wrong conclusions and that can engender a hatred of Christians by those in the LGBTQ movement that has more to do with who we are than who God is.
The shortcomings with my book (hopefully remedied by another to come) are at least two-fold.

The First Shortcoming with The Politics of Loving God

First, its thesis can too easily be reduced to mere moralism. By that I mean Christians love God by pushing for biblically sound laws and assume that means they are “being good Christians.”  
However, that can be nothing but self-righteous justification. It can easily parallel the story of the Pharisee in the Temple praying to God so that others would know how good he was by keep the law: “Look at me God. See how much I love you? I am pushing for good laws according to your commandments.” 
Such an attitude of self-righteousness or the perception that such is our attitude and that morality, not God, is the singular aim of our efforts rightly makes us hated by those in the LGBTQ movement. It wrongly portrays God as the Great police-cop-in-the-sky that demands from us what we don’t naturally love.[1]
I know I had a moralistic view of God and Christianity and for good reason: Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). So, I said to God, “I will push for laws that are righteous because I love you and love my neighbor.”
Sadly, because I did not know who God is (or put another way, I had a skewed definition of God’s essential nature), I grew up treating what Jesus said as an imperative statement rather than an indicative one. 
The difference between the two is this: is Jesus saying the effect of you loving me is you will be keeping my commands (indicative) or is He commanding me to prove I love Him by keeping His commands (imperative)? The former I believe is Christian, the latter is impossible to fulfill and thus, Pharisaical righteousness, because, as I wrote the other week, Pharisees don’t realize how short of loving God they fall—all their heart, mind, and strength is a tall order.
And that leads to the second, and most important, shortcoming. 

The Second Shortcoming of The Politics of Loving God

The book can leave the impression that the love is coming from me to God rather than my love coming from God, who is love, through God (by means of His indwelling Holy Spirit), and simply being returned to Him (Romans 11:36). God is the only resting place in which our loves cannot be disturbed by outside factors.
That is far easier said than done, but that is what love is—God—and He is the one to whom all loves are to be directed as their final destination (what could we ever love in place of God if we know who He is?) and in which love can find unperturbed fulfillment, because He never changes. 
We were made to know the love of God (it’s why we were made in His image), and when we “abide in His love” then our other loves—spouses, friends, and “stuff,” including our nation—can be shaken and sifted by God, but not thereby destroyed (see 2 Corinthians 6:4-10).
Until we know this and love this way, we won’t find ourselves “fitting in” very well with the harmony of the new creation God is now bringing into being (I Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). 
Christians and non-Christians who do not understand that they are presently living in a cosmos in which all things are in the process of being renewed toward being made eternally glorious will be like uneasy sailors in a ship blown off course by “every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14) that comes along. Whether it is a doctrine being blown by those in the LGBTQ or Christian Nationalist movements, those wind-blown doctrines will become our North Star, not the real one.
The real reason Christians should be hated is because they are living with a different understanding of the cosmos than everyone else who has not come to know that God is Love. 

The “Politics of Love” Has Nothing to Do with Law, But Law Has Everything to Do with Love

I suspect some Christians will see that section heading and brand me as an antinomian (don’t worry about what it means if you don’t already know). But what I have come to understand is that law, in the abstract, is the kind of law that can be used “unlawfully”[2] according to the Apostle Paul. And strikingly he adds that those who want to “be teachers of the law” are the ones most likely to use the law unlawfully.
It is in that context the following statement broke me down last week and exposed me; it made me begin to reorder my loves and my thinking about politics and law: 
For Christ is the end [telos] of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4).
I had always read that verse the following way, and I invite my Christians friends to see if sounds like the gospel they have heard.
Jesus is the only person who is completely righteous from beginning to end. So, if I want to be righteous, which is the only way I will ever see God as He is in the glorified person of Christ, I need to be like Him. Thankfully, by grace, God imputes Jesus’ righteousness to me. If God did not impute that to me and only gave me a little “grace juice” every week so I could do better, I would always be only “closing the gap” between where I started and where Jesus’ righteousness is. It would be like the runner who is always closing the distance between himself and the lead runner by half. There will always another half, no matter how small, by which he could close the gap.
That, too, is good and true as far as it goes, but I had not noticed that the telos, end, or purpose of law is a person. 
My focus had always been on the law itself, what it required, and how I got what it required. It was all focused on me.
But any law that does not find its end and purpose in knowing the person of Jesus is misdirected. Pharisees focused on the law’s requirements, and did not see the person behind, filling, forming, and directing law to Him that they might see and know Him (see John 5:39; Galatians 3:24).

What Makes for a “Politics of Love”?

Unless the law is found or rooted in a person, law itself can never be loved, or at least loved rightly. But law in a true Christian sense defines the parameters of love and points to Him who is love (1 John 4).
Law cannot be an end or final resting place for love. Law itself can only be an instrumental love. It is a means by which we come to some greater love. That greater love will have as its objective (end) either Jesus or me. The latter makes law selfish, and that is what makes law and politics mean and unlovely.
But when the end of the law is a person, and it is the person who represents God’s love to us—the person of Jesus—then we can say, with the Psalmist, “Oh how I love thy law!” (Psalm 119:97), and it be full of deep, objective personal meaning. This is the only foundation for a politics of love.
The prospect of a politics of love is held out to us in the person of Jesus. Conversely, we reject Jesus, we get a politics of hate. And that we have in spades. 

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006.

[1] A God like that may be feared and supremely appreciated if he lets us off the hook, but he’s not lovely. In fact, a God that makes us love what we don’t love and will not give us the love we need is horrible and evil. That’s why Martin Luther said, before he understood grace, he sometimes “hated God.”

[2]     “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.” 1 Timothy 1:5-11.

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