We used Newtonian physics to formulate the laws of nature. For hundreds of years, that is all there was. Objects could not be in two places at the same time. What goes up must come down. We understood these laws as defining reality itself and believed nature did not, and could not, work outside of them.
But Einstein’s theory of relativity changed all that, introducing physicists to the quantum world. Suddenly we began to discover that an entire universe existed that we had known nothing about, where the laws of nature that we believed to be immutable simply did not apply. The movement of one particle could affect the movement of another particle millions of miles away. Particles could disappear from one place and pop up again instantly in another place. Seriously. That’s what we have learned through the discipline of quantum physics.
And so what we in effect discovered was reality operating on two levels at once. But did quantum physics nullify Newtonian physics? In other words, did we have to throw the old physics out the window once we began to understand the rules of the new physics?
Of course not. Newtonian physics applies in all of the observable world. But quantum physics takes us into another world entirely, where the rules of Newtonian physics simply don’t apply. There are rules in quantum physics, but they’re very different from what we learned about the world through Newtonian physics.
The law of love as modeled and taught by Jesus is like quantum physics. It takes us into an entirely different universe, where our previous understandings of things, typical conceptions of morality and immorality, simply do not apply any more. This is obvious because one of the things Jesus did most often was show the Jewish leaders that their skillfully honed conceptions of God and love didn’t even come close to reaching far enough.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev got the death penalty for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing. I get that. On a certain level, it makes sense.
But if he were my son, do you know where I would have been during his trial? Sitting right behind him, praying for him, wanting the best for him that would be possible. Even hoping against hope that others might have some kind of mercy or compassion on him, because the way I loved him would prohibit me from being able to ever see him in any way except through the eyes of love.
A parent’s love for their child is, when it’s healthy, quantum. It’s other-worldly, one where the usual rules of reciprocity, tit-for-tat, and performance-based approval do not apply.
This is how real love always works.
The closer we get to love, the more our traditional notions of morality are turned on their heads. (Proof of this? Almost every one of Jesus’ parables.)
It’s not that they disappear, or that there is no difference between good and bad, right and wrong.
But in the universe of love, you simply cannot think in those terms anymore. You can acknowledge them, intellectually, just like I could acknowledge, if I were Tsarnaev’s father, that what he did was terrible, and deserves to be punished, but I would not be capable of wanting death for him. I would forever and always be biased in favor of my son.
When Jesus gave us the command to love, I believe it was precisely because he understood that love is this universal biasing agent.
When I love you with the love of God, I am unable to want anything but the best for you. Others can have their judgments about you, and they will. People make all kinds of moral arguments about everything, and some of those arguments will make a great deal of sense. But if I love you, I love you, and nothing can change that.
And the thing is, God already loves us in exactly that way, at least according to what Jesus said.
That is already how God sees gay people, straight people, criminals, rich, poor, Muslims, peace-makers, terrorists, everyone.
In our Newtonian world, we must pursue justice to the best of our ability. We must make legal judgments, actions must have consequences.
But in God’s quantum world, all of that disappears in the blinding light of pure love.
Most certainly Jesus appealed to and upheld the old Newtonian morality when he told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more.
But by that time, everybody else was gone. None of those standing in judgment over her, none of the self-righteous enforcers of the old morality, were present. Jesus had dismissed them. Dispensed with them, really.
It was not up to any of them to tell her this. It was between her and Jesus.
We learn from that story that God is the one who tells us how to live.
We are completely dismissed from being the ones standing in judgment over others, from being the ones commanding that someone else live this way or that.
That is a heavy burden, and we do not have to carry it. Not even in the name of being faithful to God, which of course is what those men standing in judgment over that woman thought they were being at that moment — faithful to God .
At this moment Kim Davis and thousands of her Newtonian supporters appear to be standing in judgment over gay couples, out of what they believe is faithfulness to God.
Whether they are sincerely mistaken, ignorant, spiteful, or misled is not for me to decide — I’m sure it depends on the person — but one thing I know. The people who cried out for the death of Jesus were not bad people. They were sincere, religious, Newtonian-thinking people who really believed that by getting rid of Jesus, they were doing God a favor. A person can be deeply convinced they are doing the right thing, and sincere as they go about doing it, and still be deeply wrong.
Because Newtonian math doesn’t work in the quantum world. No matter how hard you try to apply it, all your calculations will be off..
Though I don’t support Davis, I have pity for her, because she admits she is doing this out of fear of being punished by God.
I suspect this is not unlike the fear many people have, that they will do what they sincerely believe is best in this life, only to find out in the end that they screwed up, God is angry, and they are going to suffer for it for eternity.
Can you imagine what it would be like to really believe this, to deeply believe God has placed you on this kind of razor edge and required you to balance on it?
When you really believe that, you err on the side of harshness and judgment every time because to you, your immortal soul depends on not being wrong. The penalty for being wrong is just too terrible and fearsome.
This is a rule, by the way. When you believe in Kim Davis’s God, you can be a really sincere person, trying hard to please God and love other people, but in a bind, your fear of punishment will always push you into harshness and lack of love.
I know this because I believed in that God most of my life, and tried desperately to apply my Newtonian understanding of love to the mind-blowing, counter-intuitive, quantum concept of love Jesus introduced to us. I know where that road leads. I hope and pray Kim Davis and all her supporters one day see this as well.