And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
Who was the scrub who made the petty remark that in fact no one would remember the battle if it weren’t for Shakespeare? In attacking military glory, he was merely substituting another kind of glory, literary glory, for it. But he was also right. Glory fades, though at the time its eternity seems so insistent. So insistent that even practical men fall into its blandishments and find themselves talking of real, lasting achievement.
I don’t know the terms philosophers would use, maybe phenomenology, maybe telos, maybe internal logic. Whatever the term, part of the essence of glory, as we experience it, is this feeling that it lasts or ought to last forever. Paradoxically, we also experience glory as part of an overwhelming present that denies the future or ignores it. Live only for the moment! Act! Glory is a denial of regular time—“One hour of life, crowded to the full with glorious action, and filled with noble risks, is worth whole years of those mean observances of paltry decorum”—and of ends or terminations—“Old soldiers never die; they only fade away.” The paradox might be explained if both ways of experiencing glory are really ways of experiencing eternity. Forever and the immediate now are our two closest approaches to it.
Love is the other thing we experience like glory. Love wants to be forever and it wants to live only for today.
The scriptures are full of love and glory. They flow from the eternal God.
Are love and glory the same thing? They intertwine, certainly. There is much they share—their orientation towards eternity, a kind of headiness and exaltation about both of them, and their inability to be experienced alone (love requires an object, glory requires an admirer or a spectator even if only notional). But each adds something essentially different to the common element.
Love wants to be unconditional. We fall in love for reasons, but make vows to stay in love whatever happens, sickness or health. The highest form of mortal love is motherly love, because a mother loves despite what you are or have become. When we praise Him, we brag that God’s love is unconditional. He did not die to save us from our sins because we were awesome, because if we were we wouldn’t have needed saving.
Glory, on the other hand, wants to be merited. Glory flows from achievement. Respect is glory tranposed into a workaday key. Respect comes from character. Respect—glory—is false unless it is earned.
That’s why one can say that men and women are different in that men need respect more than they need love, and women the converse. Whether it is true or not is besides the point; what matters is that its intelligible. Glory and love are meaningfully different. Meaningfully similar, meaningfully different. One could even think of them as two ends of the spectrum of love, unconditional love and earned love, and all the mixed up partially merited/partially undeserved loves in between, and God who is love encompassing them all. A few years ago an Apostle riled up the usual suspects and some of the rest of us too by talking about two kinds of love that God offers us. If I could find his talk, I think I’d find this is what he was getting at.
Now that I know what to look for, I see the love and glory spectrum in many places in the gospel and the kingdom. It has some relation to the sexes. Women are preached unconditional love and acceptance. Men are preached that they need to do more and sin less. Women’s primary identity is as mothers, a status that is available to all without righteousness or desert. Men’s primary identity is as priesthood holders, a status that is as fragile as bubbles and as conditional as if-then logic.
The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.
I doubt whether these differences between men and women are eternal. But they exist in the here and now and we can see in them meaningful reflections of glory and love.
We see them reflected in other parts of the Kingdom and the gospel. Christ died for everyone, unconditionally. But he expects us to repent and become righteous nonetheless; indeed, that was the object of his dying. We are neither saved regardless of our merits nor are we given grace in proportion to our deserts. Christ freely and unconditionally offers us grace that we might become more deserving. He has held our hand and from one moment to the next helped us to do that for which he praises us, “well done, thou good and faithful servant.” In the end, our greatest glory and our highest desert will be that we have learned to love unconditionally. Having learned that, our glory will then be to bring the objects of our unconditional love into a greater and more praiseworthy state. “This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”