Gadsden Love

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The second greatest commandment is that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Lev. 19:18). The command presupposes that we love ourselves, and tells us to render that same kind of love to our neighbor.

This became problematic for conservative believers over the last generation or so because representatives of our therapeutic and sentimental times constructed an imperative for the narcissistic self out of it. You can’t love your neighbor until you learn to wuvvv yourself—which structurally was sound enough. All the poison was found in how they were defining love—warm, sentimental treacle, sticky with self-flattering affirmations about how God “don’t make no junk.”

But love is not to be defined as sentimental self-affirmation, or affirmation. Love means treating someone lawfully from the heart. Sin is lawlessness, John tells us (1 John 3:4). Love is the fulfillment of the law, as Paul says:

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:8–10, ESV).

You say you love a man? Respect his goods. And if you don’t respect his goods, it doesn’t matter how soaring your emotions might be concerning him. It doesn’t matter if your eyes well with tears at the thought of him. It doesn’t matter that you call him your best bud—if you light up with a mixture of lust and envy whenever you think of his wife, you don’t love him.

Now apply the previously mentioned argument about the second great commandment. If you need a little help, let Rushdoony do it.

“Since this commandment so defines loving our neighbor as ourselves, it means clearly also that no man is capable of so loving his neighbor if he does not first love himself; if he has no respect for his God-given privileges of life, family, property and reputation, he is not likely to grant them to another” (Rushdoony, The Politics of Guilt and Pity, p. 93).

So this is what we might call a Gadsden love. Self-respect really is a foundation for respecting others. You are not autonomous. Your life does not originate with you, and you have as much of an obligation to treat yourself lawfully, from the heart, as you do to treat your neighbor that way. If you refuse to treat yourself as one under authority, you will not be able to love your neighbor.

There is a divide between what Rushdoony says above and what our therapeutic culture says. Being a good steward of your property is an act of love, and it enables you to fight on behalf of your neighbor when the lustful predators of socialism are hot after him. It does not consist of telling him that it is time for a group hug.

If you comprehend this, then you will understand the gulf, the chasm, the abyss, that separates the American War for Independence from the French Revolution. If you get it, you will understand why C.S. Lewis called Rousseau, “the father of the totalitarians.”[1]

If you don’t grasp the distinctions that are embedded in this, then you are a mark. The swollen state will ply you with flattery, pot, porn and mammon so that you may decorate your cell with an liberty veneer wood pattern that almost looks like oak.

[1] C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (HarperOne, 1994), 120.