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There’s a degree in philosophy embedded in this classic Peanuts cartoon. Well, at least a good hour of lively discussion.

Martin Luther King, Jr. observed that the Greek New Testament uses three separate words for love. Eros is sexual love, he wrote, and you will find it in the root of the word “erotic.” Philias is affection — it lingers in the word philanthropy and in my hometown, Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. This is the love of friends and family, of mutual affection. It is a love based on relationship. The third kind of love is agape (pronounced ah-gah’-pay), unconditional love, love that expects nothing in return. In Christian theology, it is the love of God for humankind, the love of the people for God and, by extension, the love of the people for all of God’s creation.

The “people” that poor Charlie Brown can’t stand is a failure of philias. The question here — the BIG question — it is possible to experience agape in the abstract (his “I love mankind”) without experiencing it in the particular, for those with whom you actually have a relationship.  The liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez thinks not. He said: “So you say you love the poor? Name them.”

What do you think?

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