Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Margaret Farley's Just Love: Just Love Is About Real Persons and Their Concrete Reality

More excerpts from Margaret Farley's Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (NY: Continuum, 2006): these strike me as very significant because they encapsulate the central theme of her book--that love must be just if it's authentic love, that authentic love never ignores the concrete embodied reality of the person who is loved:

I am arguing that it is the concrete reality of the beloved that must be attended to if love is to be just.  This will be shorthand, however, for my conclusion that love is just and true, in the sense of "accurate," (1) when it does not falsify or "miss" the reality of the person loved (either as human or as unique individual), (2) when it does not falsify or "miss" the reality of the one loving, and (3) when it does not violate, distort, or ignore the nature of the relationship between them (202).


Although I am aware that there are many ways to specify the requirements of justice—through social contracts, longstanding customs, certain kinds of noncontradictory reasoning—I move forward here with the perspective I have already introduced.  I begin, then, by translating the formal meaning of justice (render to each what is due) into the following basic formal ethical principle: Persons and groups of persons ought to be affirmed according to their concrete reality, actual and potential (209).

And also: 

They [i.e., questions surrounding the ethics of same-sex relationships] are ethical questions that must be addressed also because they are questions about real persons—questions about identity, place in community, relationships, and callings (271-2).

Ethical questions about same-sex relationships and about gay persons are questions about real persons.  Love is not just if it falsifies or "misses" the reality of the person loved.  Fundamental to the formal meaning of justice is the principle, Persons and groups of persons ought to be affirmed according to their concrete reality, actual and potential.

These are themes I've stressed over and over on this blog, because they seem self-evident to me.  I'm influenced in my thinking about these themes by a core principle enunciated by Gustavo Gutiérrez in his seminal work The Theology of Liberation, which is that in theologies employing the term "love," those speaking about love miss the point altogether if they prescind from the concrete, embodied personhood and lives of those who are loved.

Gutiérrez takes a close look at the proverbial Christian formula attributed to Augustine--hate the sin but love the sinner--and finds the formula seriously lacking.  It's seriously lacking, his theology argues, because it imagines we can prescind from the concrete, embodied, real life and real humanity of the one we love, even as we claim to love some human being who exists alongside that concrete, embodied, real human being with a real human life.

The formula, hate the sin but love the sinner, allows us, in fact, to deceive ourselves in a fundamentally self-serving way.  It allows us to imagine we're loving those whom we actually target and upbraid with the intent of doing the opposite of loving and with the intent of thwarting rather than according justice.  The self-deceptive formula allows us to pretend we love those whom we treat in eminently unjust and unloving ways.

This recognitions--that much of Christian rhetoric about loving sinners while hating their sin is sham, self-deceiving rhetoric and is about the opposite of love and justice--is bred in the bones of those of us who are gay and lesbian and who have the misfortune to deal with churches like my Roman Catholic church, whose bishops in the U.S. right now are "ramping up" their opposition to me, to my humanity, to the humanity of my brothers and sisters.

With anything but love and justice in their minds and hearts . . . . 

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