I happened to catch the latter half of the Ultimate Issues Hour on Dennis Prager’s radio show today. I was somewhat perplexed about the idea that people were calling in and claiming that people have an obligation to love Darrell Brooks– the horrible person who deliberately killed 6 people and hurt an additional 40 in Waukesha.
This is absurd!
Unfortunately, this emotional position is a bastardization of Christian practical theology surrounding love. That is, there’s a misguided notion of unconditional love that has seeped into the idea and practice of loving one’s neighbor. However, there’s no Biblical predicate with respect to unconditional love. Even in the Hebrew text, Leviticus 19:18, there’s no claim to unconditional love, despite the admonition against seeking revenge or bearing grudges– both of which have nothing to to do (in my rendering) with seeking or having justice rendered.
Further, I don’t read biblical texts where God loves unconditionally. God is able to do this because, in his person, he’s eternal/infinite and bears the ability •to• love unconditionally, though I’m not sure he does. Conversely, humans are finite and are limited by this inherent characteristic of who we are, among other limitations–such as imperfection– that prevents us from being able to love unconditionally.
When Jesus teaches that we are to love our neighbor (or our enemy) as we love ourselves, this subversive ideal comes with inherent limitations. One, people have difficulty loving themselves for a host of reasons. Two, there’s an understanding that our neighbor (or enemy) is one who we have come into some contact with. This is evidenced by the understanding that our interactions and behavior with others are supposed to draw us into closer relationships (at best) or better understanding of our neighbors/enemies (at worst)– see Matt5:44ff (even here, how can one be another’s enemy if they haven’t interacted in some way?). Again, contact and interaction are key to deciphering this text (and others that echo it in the NT Gospels).
Moreover, there’s an understanding of acting in good faith toward our neighbor, such that the relationship moves from distance to close proximity (the developmental progression of enemy, to neighbor, to brother) or, at least, minimizing conflict between two or more opposing parties. This foundation of this is laid out in Exodus 23:4-5 (and somewhat echoed in I Samuel 24:17-19).
Additionally, in Proverbs, we’re taught that “to fear the Lord is to hate evil…” Psalm 45:7, 97:10; and Amos 5:15 say somewhat similar things. What Darrell Brooks did was evil, and should be treated as such, full stop.
There’s nothing biblical/Christian to suggest that people are supposed to love this murderer. This misguided pathos (compassion-based racial justice) is what was responsible for this monster not being punished sufficiently in a way that could have prevented this tragedy as well as what will potentially lead to punishment that isn’t commensurate with the crime committed (really, anything short of the death penalty).
People should be screaming for justice, not love. “Love” should be left to Brooks’ family (or family members of those affected, if they so chose, to express compassion for Brooks). This isn’t beyond the pale. Remember what the loved ones of those shot to death in Charleston, South Carolina said to Dylann Roof when they were allowed to speak in the courtroom?
In my estimation, Dennis Prager was right in his assertion against this kind of compassion-based positioning. It’s foolish… and dangerous.