Country singer Johnny Lee's 1980 hit not only reached number one on the Billboard charts, but its unforgettable refrain dominated pop culture references for some years.
Lookin' for love in all the wrong places...
It is what musicians call "a great hook," or something that you can't forget after you've heard it. If you know the song, I apologize. It will be stuck in your head now for the next day or so.
But it's one of those rare popular hooks that also happens to capture an important truth, in this case one that lies near the root of today's "culture wars." Are we seeking for true love, or are we just seeking the fleeting feeling that popular culture tells us love is?
The differences between the two should be clear to us, especially in their consequences. One way involves surrender, sacrifice, selflessness and the recognition of one's own and the beloved's ultimate destination -- heaven. The other is it's polar opposite -- involving using another, self-satisfaction and only caring about the moment.
With the latter, when one is indeed looking for love in the wrong places, we find a radical individualism and shallowness. It is this view that is behind the confusion that allows the Culture of Death to thrive. A person holding this view may say he or she is opposed to murder, but can turn right around and murder an unborn child because this tiny human being threatens what they think will be their individual happiness. A mistaken search for love can have deadly consequences.
Consider those who promote abortion, euthanasia, sterilization and contraception. What lies at the root of this population control mentality other than a radical individualism, and a willingness to deny another person's right to life to achieve what appears to be the happiness of the moment?
This radical secular view is dominant in many areas of society, having convinced many that their happiness lies in sexual "freedom," and in personal glory and wealth. When "developed" nations look at the suffering of developing nations they thus misdiagnose the problem and, therefore, the solution. To them, the solution is to get rid of the extra people, those who are holding back "sustainable development." So they saturate these cultures with media, advertising and "education" that is intended to make them into radical individualists like so many are in wealthy nations -- to change their view of love and happiness into being about self-fulfillment. Most important to these death peddlers is how to convince people to have as much sex as possible without producing children.
Of course it's not just in developing nations where this is being sold. The contraceptive mentality, so diagnosed by Pope Paul VI and John Paul II, and railed against by HLI founder Father Paul Marx and many others, has had many consequences other than the intended sexual "freedom" and "women's empowerment." We see the nations who long ago bought into this warped view become far less free, and certainly not empowered. Parts of Europe and Asia are in demographic free fall and can't convince people to start having children again. The most populous nations -- those whose fertility was the highest until recently -- are becoming the economic powers, even buying the debt of "developed" nations who can't be bothered to have children. Even here in the supposedly most developed nation on Earth, our fertility rate is dropping, and any connection between this and our faltering economy is ignored.
Among the seven new saints canonized by Pope Benedict on Sunday was Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. At a time when we need to be reminded of what true love is -- that is, a true and complete gift of self -- we receive this great gift of saints we can look up to in our own age. Saint Kateri once said "I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love."
This love is radical. It is selfless and most certainly focused not on the next moment of fleeting happiness, but is focused rather on the eternal, and bringing the eternal into today, here and now. It is a love that is all about gift -- about the other, and finding a deeper and more true happiness in giving oneself to another.
The false narrative that happiness is found in power, pleasure and individual fulfillment is sold to us constantly, even as the consequences that clearly follow this lie are ignored. But we have a choice, a way to use our freedom to truly love others in a total gift of self (cf Gaudium et Spes 24). Thanks to Saint Kateri and others even among us who know where to look for true love, we can avoid looking for love in all the wrong places, and firmly set our gaze upon Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Shenan J. Boquet
President, Human Life International