Nevertheless, the weakening and degradation of the axioms that attest to the truth and reality of Christianity are not indicative of any weakening or degradation of the truth and reality of Christian love. On the contrary, the weakening and degradation of the axioms attesting to the truth and reality of Christian love are indicative of a weakened and degraded consciousness – of a consciousness that has been rendered incapable of comprehending authentic Christian love as a worthy and proper force that is self-evidently true and requires no proof to support it.
We live in an era in which authentic Christian love has been fully eclipsed by altruism and the love of mankind. For all intents and purposes, the vast majority of modern people have become incapable of understanding – to say nothing of internalizing or adhering to – the fundamental truth and reality of Christian love. What we are experiencing today is the near-total abandonment of authentic Christian love in favor of a near-total devotion to humanitarian love.
Of course, many have claimed that this shift in “love consciousness” is a necessary revolutionary step; that this transformative movement of love is an ascending force representing the next stage in the evolution of “human global consciousness”.
Mainstream Christianity has certainly embraced this idea, and many mainstream churches have begun agitating for a new social contract to create a new human community, a tangible “civilization of love” based upon a heightened sense of humanitarianism and altruism fueled by “social and political love.” All of this is packaged and sold to Christians as the very same Christian love Jesus demonstrates and attests to in the Gospels.
And for all intents and purposes, most contemporary Christians have bought into this faux conception of Christian love, to the point that most now regard this indiscriminate and abstract “love of mankind” as the highest value to which all human beings, Christians foremost among them, can aspire.
As a result, the “love of mankind” has become not only become synonymous with Christian love in the minds of most Christians, but also forms the axioms attesting to Christian truth and reality, which, in the minds of most modern Christians begins and ends with the temporal expansion of general welfare; an expansion that must include every single member of the human race.
The argument that authentic Christian love and humanitarian love are not only synonymous and compatible, but actually one-in-the-same, is more than a mere misconception – it is carefully crafted and purposive falsehood, as Max Scheler notes in Ressentiment:
If we ignore the verbal similarity of the terms “Christian love” and “universal love of mankind” and concentrate on their respective significance and spiritual atmosphere, we feel that they represent entirely different worlds.
First of all, modern humanitarianism is in every respect a polemical and protesting concept. It protests against divine love, and consequently against the Christian unity and harmony of divine love, self-love, and love of one’s neighbor which is the “highest commandment” of the Gospel. Love is not to be directed at the “divine” essence in man, but only at man as such, outwardly recognizable as a member of his species, at him who “is a member of the human race.” This idea restricts love to the “human species,” detaching it from all higher forces and values as well as from all other living beings and the rest of the world. “Man” is isolated not only from the “kingdom of God,” but also from the non-human forms and forces of nature.
At the same time, the community of angels and souls is replaced by “Mankind” as it exists at the moment— mankind as a visible, limited, earthly natural being. The Christian community of souls also includes the dead, i.e., the whole of spiritually alive humanity, organized according to the aristocracy of its moral merits and personal values. Thus the real object of love extends into visible contemporary mankind insofar as divine spiritual life has germinated in it, but is much wider and greater and is always accessible in a living interchange of prayer, intercession, and veneration.
“Love of mankind” is also polemical against (and devoid of piety toward) the love and veneration of the dead, the men of the past, and the tradition of their spiritual values and volitions in every form. Its object undergoes yet another change: the “neighbor” and the “individual,” who alone represents humanity in its depth of personality, is replaced by “mankind” as a collective entity. All love for a part of mankind—nation, family, individual—now appears as an unjust deprivation of what we owe only to the totality.
It is characteristic that Christian terminology knows no “love of mankind.” Its prime concept is “love of one’s neighbor.” It is primarily directed at the person and at certain spiritually valuable acts—and at “man” only to the degree that he is a “person” and accomplishes these acts, i.e., to the degree to which he realizes the order of the “kingdom of God.” It is directed at the “neighbors,” the “nearest” visible beings who are alone capable of that deeper penetration into the layer of spiritual personality which is the highest form of love.
Modern humanitarian love, on the other hand, is only interested in the sum total of human individuals. Bentham’s principle that each individual should count for one, and none for more than one, is only a conscious formulation of the implicit tendency of modern “humanitarianism.” Therefore all love for a more restricted circle here appears a priori as a deprivation of the rights due to the wider circle—without any reference to such questions as value and “nearness to God.” Thus patriotism is supposed to deprive “mankind,” etc.
The difference between Christian love and modern humanitarianism lies not only in their objects, but also in the subjective side of the process of loving. Christian love is essentially a spiritual action and movement, as independent of our body and senses as the acts and laws of thinking. Humanitarian love is a feeling, and a passive one, which arises primarily by means of psychical contagion when we perceive the outward expression of pain and joy.
We suffer when we see pain and rejoice when we see pleasant sensations. In other words, we do not even suffer in sympathy with the other person’s suffering as such, but only with our sense perception of his pain. It is no coincidence that the philosophical and psychological theoreticians of the 17th and 18th centuries, who gradually elaborated the theoretical formulation of the new ethos, define the essence of love with reference to the phenomena of sympathy, compassion, and shared joy, which in turn they reduce to psychical contagion.
The term psychical contagion is a fitting one, though I would suggest our contemporary wholesale abandonment of Christian love is, in essence, spiritual contagion.
To avoid this spiritual contagion (or recover from it), contemporary Christians must trace their faith back to a proper understanding of authentic Christian love.