David Bowie, on his ground breaking “Let’s Dance” album, sang of his disillusionment of the modern concept of love. He complained about the shallowness of romantic love on the title track. Then he compared the characteristics of this love to a temporary dance under ‘serious moonlight’.  He expresses that modern love is based on feeling and emotion and that we engage in it for fear of not feeling it: Let’s dance for fear tonight is all.

On China Girl, Bowie explores the idea of relationships and uses the image of a fragile china doll easily broken. The song is full of shallow flattery and he even goes so far as to say that he “could pretend nothing meant too much when I look at my little china girl” . David makes another point about this modern love and religion when he compares his declaration of this superficial love to an unreasonable but unchallengeable concept  “I stumble into town just like a sacred cow“.  Ultimately, he is forced to concede that his words are meaningless because she responds to all of it with “shhhhh”.

On the track called “Modern Love” he really gets down to the root of the problem when he says its not real “it’s just the power to charm”. He makes reference to this attitude being a result of our disconnection to religious belief on Modern Love, “This modern love puts my trust in God AND man, no conviction, no religion”. He is saying that ML is devoid of larger themes and focused on the trivial.

Overall it is a very good album and adding to the sad and frustrated feel is a very young Stevie Ray Vaughn laying down the blues licks on guitar in the background. It is worth a listen and some thought.


Right now there is a dilemma in modern christian culture. How do biblical principles fit into the mandate from Jesus to love.  This issue is all about the problem of “modern love” that David Bowie sang about back in 1983.  In this case, however, we are on the other side of the looking glass. Now we are trying to make sense of the biblical imparative to love with the new definition of that word. Modern love has replaced biblical love in the modern christian philosophy. This is a problem because Modern Love is emotionally based and very shallow. It simply cannot fulfill the rigors of what biblical love can do. Modern Love focuses on how the recipient feels regardless of loving actions of the giver.  Modern love teaches us not that a hungry person should be fed but that it is just as important that we can feed the hungry in a way that doesn’t hurt their self esteem. ML wants us to be more concerned with a person’s feelings rather than actually helping them.

What, don’t believe me?-give me one more paragraph, please. I will explain.

I am not saying that we should be cruel or even that we should not be kind. Love IS kind according to 1 Cor 13 but it does not elevate a persons reaction to kindness above the kind act itself. That is the crux of the problem. Sometimes in real life it is actually more kind to hurt someone’s feelings that placate them. For example it is perhaps kinder to make a drug addict mad or feel shame by giving them a sandwich instead of cash. Yet we often hear something like “Just give him the money, what he does with it is not your responsiblity” or “my mandate as a christian is to give what he does with it is on him”.  No, actually our mandate is much deeper than to simply give or make them happy in the moment, our mandate is to LOVE.  We are supposed to care about what he does with the money what is actually the best for him. We are not to make the habitual adulterer feel accepted but to care that sin is destroying them and hurting others.  This is the ugly shallowness of ML. It’s not really kind its kindly.  If you understand the difference of that then you are at the root of the issue.

in Parenting

Another symptom of this thinking works its way into parental love. Remember the old 1980s TV parenting matra of “oh honey I just want you to be happy”. That is in sharp contrast to teaching children principles they will need to conduct their lives successfully. The bible teaches that it is cruel to not discipline our children.  Not raising them with principles sets them up for failure. We should discipline our children at the risk of their displeasure. The goal should never be to cause our children pain but to bring them to what is best for them. Lasting principle is greater than temporary feeling.

In Charity

So it turns out that you can’t really separate biblical love from truth. We can’t really help anyone without being honest about what the problem is. Encouraging a lazy person to work for his meals is not cruel. Making sure a drug addict gets food and not cash and encouraging them to get counseling is not cruel even if it makes them mad or hurts their feelings. These are acts of a deeper love than our culture can currently approve of. The modern culture insists than love is acceptance instead of the more biblical definition of selfless goodwill.

In Christianity

So lets look at the deeper love. Jesus told us that he was the model of love we were to mimic. He insisted that we love as he loved. So how did he love? He was much more concerned with repentance and sin than making them feel good or building relationship. Jesus confronted people with the sin that was captivating them and destroying them. (for more see No More Mr. Nice Jesus). He never approved of anyone’s sin in order to build a relationship with them. He forgave sin and that is very different thing. Jesus was not about acceptance but forgiveness. One cannot be forgiven for something they refuse to repent for. Jesus gave his life to obtain forgiveness for all of us. It is that important! When he encountered the paralyzed man that was lowered down to him through a hole in the roof  Jesus forgave his sin. He was then criticized for not addressing his physical issue but Jesus responded which is harder: to forgive his sin or to heal him. In fact he went so far as to make the point that he would heal him but only to prove to everyone that his power to forgive sins was true. He was utterly unconcerned with the man’s feelings. He knew what was best for the man, and that was to be right with God. To be free from his sin. That is true love.

This is just what happens when CS Lewis’s “men without chests” from ” The Abolition of Man” try to love.

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