“A believer, after all, is someone in love; of all those in love, the most in love.”1
I identify with that quote. But I struggle with believers who find it impossible to identify with those who do not believe as they do, and those who do not believe at all.
Many non-believers, I have noticed, fall into the category of jilted lovers. They would like to believe that life has meaning but something about the world has convinced them that the world is characterized by pitiless indifference. Given the experiences they have had, they have come to believe that the categories of good and evil, even the distinction between beautiful and ugly, are without objective reality.
A believer on the contrary is someone who knows, someone who feels, that there is someone in whom we live and move and have our being. One might question whether the personification is a consequence of a sense of attachment, to which a believer will respond, “I sense the attachment goes both ways.”
On this understanding, Michelangelo’s painting of the creation of Adam tells the truth, and so does the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Finally, a monotheist dares believe, as lovers do, that truth and love and beauty are made to kiss each other, passionately.
In the course of describing the Sickness unto Death, Kierkegaard defined sin as despair. It is in fact the case that a failure to love, a failure to be charitable, leads to sorrow and despair.
Love on the other hand believes all things and hopes all things. Faith and love cohere.
Which is why we have the command:
וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ
You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
all your soul,
and all your strength.
In the same teaching, in the same extended discourse:
You shall love the stranger [the resident alien, the Gastarbeiter].
This sense of attachment to the Other, who speaks out of burning bushes, and the other, who shows up on our doorstep uninvited, what is its origin?
What if we are made that way?2
What if it is simply a matter of becoming who we are?
בְצֵל כְּנָפֶיךָ אֲרַנֵּן
דָּבְקָה נַפְשִׁי אַחֲרֶיךָ
בִּי תָּמְכָה יְמִינֶךָ
In the shadow of Your wings I shout for joy.
My soul cleaves to You;
Your right hand holds me fast.
1 “En Troende er dog vel en Forelsket; ja, den af alle Forelskede meest Forelskede.“
2 The thesis of Robert N. McCauley, Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not, New York: Oxford Univ Pr., paperback ed., 2013.