Love endures—even more than it emotes

Published February 14, 2024

WORLD Opinions

Valentine’s Day is the annual reminder that love is an important part of what it means to be human and that the rituals surrounding it strike deep chords. The exchange of cards and gifts has been somewhat transformed in recent years. Now everyone seems to be in on the action. Children give Valentine’s cards to their teachers, for example, whereas in my youth the exchange was restricted to those in, or those aspiring to, a romantic relationship. Still, even this broadening market for Valentine’s cards and gifts witnesses to the fact that people see love in various forms as important.

While a consensus exists on the importance and goodness of love, there is little agreement today on what love is. It is no insight to comment that for many “love” has become simply the affirmation of a person on that person’s own terms. This was the understanding epitomized by the hashtag #LoveWins with reference to the campaign for the recognition of gay marriage. Criticize anyone for any belief or behavior that happens to reflect the spirit of the age and you are likely to be denounced as unloving or even hateful. Love in these terms is a form of selfishness: I will consider you loving if, and only if, you give me the affirmation or the pleasure I crave. It’s about taking, not giving.

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Carl R. Trueman is a fellow in EPPC’s Evangelicals in Civic Life Program, where his work focuses on helping civic leaders and policy makers better understand the deep roots of our current cultural malaise. In addition to his scholarship on the intellectual foundations of expressive individualism and the sexual revolution, Trueman is also interested in the origins, rise, and current use of critical theory by progressives. He serves as a professor at Grove City College.

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