In the Old Testament book of Genesis, a young man named Jacob fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Rachael. Jacob went to Laban, Rachael’s father, as young men did in those days, and asked for permission to marry his daughter. Laban agreed on the condition that Jacob would first serve him for seven years. The beauty of the story is only given justice in the Authorized Version, which says “Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.” However, at the end of the seven years Jacob discovered that he had been lied to. Laban refused to allow Jacob to marry Rachael, and instead married his other daughter. Jacob, still in love with Rachael, asked again what he must do to marry her. Laban responded by saying that he must serve for another seven years. The text only reads “And Jacob did so.”
In 2013, as recorded by the New York Times, a young and bored college student with nothing better to do sent a text to a man she was not even dating and asked him what he was up to. He responded by saying nothing, so they hooked up. When asked about the hook-up culture on campus and why she indulged in it, she explained “I’m always busy and the people that I am interested in are always busy, too… there are so many other things going on in my life that I find so important that I just, like, can’t make time, and I don’t want to make time.” When asked about her current relationship, she further explained “We don’t really like each other in person, sober… we literally can’t sit down and have coffee.”
What a long way we have come. The NYT article continued to document the reasons students give for putting off marriage and choosing instead to indulge in the hook-up culture. All of the excuses start with the revealing phrase “I need…” We live in a culture that champions self-expression and accomplishment, and leads people to believe that things like finding love and starting a family must wait until you have your own house in order and have completed all the items on your bucket-list. However, deep down people sense there is something wrong with that arrangement. We know we were not made to be alone, and are always filled with a longing for companionship. But relationships in their traditional form require a great deal of work and sacrifice. We are told the energy devoted to such a relationship would be better used if spent on some other self-gratifying enterprise.
This is why the hook-up culture makes sense to my generation. We have been told that rights trump duty, that your greatest mission in life is to be true to yourself, that fun is more important than responsibility, and that love can wait till you achieve your personal dreams.
The greatest problem that faces our country today is a failure to truly understand the nature of Love. Many of my fellow conservatives may be tempted to call me a hippy after reading that, but I assure you I am a Bible quoting, gun owning, church going, flag waving, John Wayne watching, and an unrepentantly American loving old Southern Tory. It is precisely because of those things that I am able to say, without a doubt, that Love is the greatest Conservative cause.
Russell Kirk once said, “At the back of every discussion of the good society lies this question, What is the object of human life? The enlightened conservative does not believe that the end or aim of life is competition; or success; or enjoyment; or longevity; or power; or possessions. He believes, instead, that the object of life is Love.”
Love is not merely an emotion; it is something very real that manifests itself in our daily life. To misunderstand this, or to think that love is merely the good feeling that accompanies the pursuit of something you enjoy, is to do a tremendous disservice to true Love. Love really has nothing at all to do with your feelings, and everything to do with your actions. As such, it requires you to deny yourself, feelings or no feelings. This is why John Paul II pointed out that “In the Rite of Matrimony the Church does not say: ‘Are you in love?’ but ‘Do you will? Are you decided?’” Similarly, in the Church of England and most other Protestant Churches, the wedding vows begin with “I take thee” and the participants answer the question “Will thou have?” with “I will” or “I do.” This is done to illustrate the truth that love is manifested in an act of the will. To merely stand before each other and say “I love you” is meaningless.
Conservatives, myself included, often debate how to win the next generation of voters to the conservative cause. However, all such attempts are ultimately futile if the next generation does not understand Love. Like Love, Conservatism believes that exercising duty is nobler than claiming rights, and that the individual must recognize something higher than the self. The generation that fails to understand Love will never understand Conservatism. Love requires you deny yourself by admitting the transcendent relationship between you and your fellow man as something higher and nobler than your autonomous self. Conservatism requires recognizing the transcendent bond between God, generations present, generations past, and generations to come as being greater than any mere wants we may have in the measly here and now.
If you were raised anything like me, stories like that of Jacob and Rachael were a large part of your childhood life. The stories not only came from the Old Testament, but also from the classic fairy tales, the Arthurian legends, and the Greek Myths. If you were a boy like myself, you probably remember less about the romance and more about St. George slaying the dragon, but the fair maiden was still there in every story, and her presence implanted in my young mind that there is a deep connection between chivalry and love. Looking back it makes sense that the death of chivalry has brought about the death of Love. It’s also no surprise that the death of chivalry brought about the death of Duty, and therefore a failure to understand the Conservative emphasis on the transcendent.
If you want Conservatism to not only win a few mere elections, but to take heart and plant deep roots for the future, then Love is the answer. As long as our culture misunderstands Love then sad debacles like Bro-Choice rallies will go on and the hook-up culture will continue to reign on campus. As long as my generation fails to understand that love is linked to sacrifice it will continue to ask what society can give, instead of what they can do for society. They will “just, like, can’t… and won’t want to.” Only a culture that understands Kirk’s observation that the object of life is love will be able to summon the strength to resist the temptations of a decadent culture and throw off the shackles of an overbearing government. Only Love can give someone the strength, regardless the cost, to look at what must be done and to merely “do so.”