Friday, September 16, 2011

Law and/or Love

Law is often paired with order and juxtaposed to love and compassion as if one is being asked to consider the dichotomy that where there is law and order love and compassion are absent (and the other way round of course). The juxtaposition of law and order to love and compassion can also be seen in less stark terms, that is, in terms of the contrast of priority and posteriority. In such a juxtaposition one assigns priority to one emphasis or the other such that the one emphasis frames and assigns meaning to the other or vice versa. Either one views love and compassion within the frame set for them by law and order, or one views law and order as meaningful only in the context set for them by love and compassion. Viewed separately, the two emphases will have different meanings than when the one is viewed in terms of the other, or the other way round. In both cases a choice is involved: “this” or “that.” The choice itself bespeaks a prior distinction: “this” is not “that.” But, what if the distinction presupposed is itself contestable. What if somehow the terms of the one emphasis come to bleed into the terms of the other? What then? What if one began to think not of law or love but law and love, the love of law or perhaps the law of love? This little bit of wondering, inspired by the attempt to test the choice for compassion of colleague Hendrik Hart, and the fascinating views on law and normativity in the context of freedom and love of colleague Nik Ansell, occasioned an admittedly peculiar reading of Psalm 119 (118), given as a chapel talk at ICS’s Fall Retreat this September. I post it here for your consideration and comment.