Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence
From All-Creatures
Christian Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence
By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.
http://www.christianveg.com

Part 80: Love, part 5: Committed Relationships

As discussed in the previous essay, if love is grounded in mimetic desire, it tends to generate envy, rivalry, and resentment between models/rivals, which can result in violence. In addition, relationships grounded in mimetic desire are often troubled. In the troubling novelette Kreutzer Sonata, Leo Tolstoy shows the pitfalls of such love. Once the initial excitement of “falling in love” wears off, resentments build. The excitement and sense of self-esteem that accompanies “winning” the affection of a “desirable” object of love invariably wanes, and differing goals and priorities cause discord. Once the object of love is won, there is no further benefit to self-esteem. Indeed, as the object of love ages and becomes less and less a source of mimetic desire, one may find oneself inclined to seek sexual conquests among those deemed more “desirable” by one’s peers.

Since love generated by mimetic desire is related to self-esteem, it is difficult for such love to last. Frequently, person A finds B attractive in part because B expresses affection for A, and vice-versa. This raises mutual self-esteem, but it is a tenuous situation. For one thing, in the initial passion of love, one may be blind to the other’s faults, which become unavoidably obvious eventually. As A comes to recognize B’s faults, in terms of self-esteem, B’s high regard for A becomes less satisfying for A.

Furthermore, as A realizes that B knows of A’s faults, A’s regard for B’s opinion will wane if B continues to express unqualified admiration. However, at the same time, there remains a part of A that wishes B would continue to have unqualified admiration for A.

Put another way, love grounded in mimetic desire, spurred by a quest for self-esteem, can’t be satisfied. In long-term relationships, mimetic desire encourages people to want two incompatible things: They want unqualified admiration from someone they respect, but can’t respect someone who knows their faults and yet continues to express unqualified admiration.

On the other hand, if we see God as the mediator of committed relationships, it is much easier to keep the promise to love and cherish each other “in sickness and health, until death do us part.” One’s primary commitment, then, is to God. In other words, even though a life partner has faults, and even though a life partner may annoy, irritate, or even offend us, we are called to love and honor that person, because we are committed to them through a divinely ordained relationship.

Ultimately, then, love rests on faith in a God who loves Creation and ordains our relationships.

Next week, we will begin to explore the nature of that faith.

Go on to Part 81: The Faith of Christ
Return to
Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence

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