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“Love all, Serve All”

February 19, 2017

Passing by the Hard Rock Café in Edinburgh today, I noticed again their slogan: “Love all, serve all,” and noted that it reflects the (likely unconscious) influence of the NT upon western culture.  For the motto self-evidently owes to the sentiments first expressed in NT passages such as Matthew 5:43-48, with its distinctive injunction to “love your enemies” as well as your “neighbour”, and Matthew 20:26 (and Mark 10:43-44), with the striking demand that “whoever would be great among you must be servant of all.”

I suspect, however, that neither the founders (nor the Seminole Indians of Florida who now own the restaurant chain) are aware of this.  It just shows how the values and themes of the NT have now become part of the conceptual “ground water” of western culture.

My recent book, Destroyer of the gods:  Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor University Press, 2016) makes the points that early Christianity (in the first three centuries) had distinctive features, and that these once-distinctive features have now become cultural commonplaces for us.  I don’t refer to the Hard Rock Café or its slogan, but there’s lots of other (and, hopefully, more interesting) stuff that I hope will address our “cultural amnesia.”

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11 Comments
  1. Jon permalink

    Larry,

    It seems to me that the terms “love” and “serve” in the Christian tradition are simply synonymous with the idea to treat others how you would like to be treated in the same circumstances. Of course you already know this idea existed in many religious traditions centuries before the NT was written: e.g., “One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to one’s self; this is the essence of morality” (Hindu, Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113:8); “Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself” (Confucius, Mencius VII.A.4). “Hurt not others with that which pains yourself” (Buddhism, Udana-Varga 5:18). “Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others” (Zoroaster, Shayast-ne-Shayast 13:29). “Ensure that the strong do not oppress the weak” (Law of Hammurabi, 1780 BCE!).

    All of the codified statements of morality above probably have their origin in some way shape or form in the human emotion of empathy. How do the Christian ideas of “love” and “serve” all people differ from the ideas expressed above?

    Thank you.

    • Jon: First, you’re certainly correct that there are various versions of the so-called Golden Rule. That’s not the issue, nor is it to do with what I wrote. What I wrote was that the phrasing on the Hard Rock Café echoes in an uncanny way the Gospels statements that I cited, and that the best explanation for that is that those Gospel statements have (among others) been influential across centuries, such that now people have forgotten where they came from.
      The commands to “love your enemies” and to be “servant of all” aren’t the same thing as your versions of the Golden rule, Jon. The point isn’t whether morality requires Christianity, but whether these specific topoi that I named likely derive from the NT.

  2. So true!!
    I’ve had many debates with atheists who don’t believe Christianity has any impact on the West and it did, it was detrimental.They think the values of love all, serve all, thou shall not kill, love thy neighbour etc., just come from human common sense. When I ask them where they get this common sense from they usually attack me as being a moron because it’s obvious that killing is wrong. They can never explain why it’s wrong.

    • The role of Christianity as an institutionalized religion has been varied and often ambiguous, as to whether positive or negative. But there’s little question that it has been influential.

  3. I appreciate the way you illustrate this kind of thing in “Destroyer of the gods,” and there are countless more examples you could point to. One thing that I’d love to see is a more in-depth study of exactly how we got from the early church to “Western culture” with its assumptions today. I think you’re right that the thought of the early church laid the groundwork for a lot of the fundamental assumptions that we take for granted today, but it’s not a straight line; for example, today’s assumptions about the moral wrongness of slavery, the right to freedom of religion, and cafes with mottos like “love all, serve all” stem from the fundamental principles of Christianity, but you can point to times throughout the history of Christendom when none were assumed or even agreed upon. This isn’t a criticism of “Destroyers of the gods,” since such a study could easily take up many volumes, and your focus was primarily on the early church itself (which makes sense, as this is your field). But I would love to see medievalists and scholars of modernity dig into some of the suggestions you make in “Destroyers” and trace the development of those ideas from ideals to underlying assumptions. Do you know of any work along those lines that has been done? Thanks for your work in this area!

    • Coleman: You are certainly right that the path of historical developments has not been straight but meandering and even convoluted. And various forces to take into account, among which Christian ideas/influence are only part.
      For one example of the sort of diachronic study that you ask about: Orlando Patterson, Freedom in the Making of Western Culture, Vol. 1 (New York: Basic, 1991).

  4. Deane permalink

    You say the Christian origin of the “Love all, Serve all” motto is “self-evident”?

    “Love all, Serve All” was the motto of Indian guru, Sathya Sai Baba. To be clear, Sathya Sai Baba was Hindu.

    Sathya Sai Baba was, you might recall, influential in the circles of ’60s counterculture. One of his devotees was a co-founder of the the Hard Rock Cafe, Isaac Tigrett.

    Hence the (Hindu) motto of the Hard Rock Café.

    It is an great example, though, of what gets remembered at certain points of time as distinctly “Christian” tradition. What is interesting here are the wider cultural (including ‘religious’) factors which serve to valorise “loving” and “serving” as distinct of Christianity ethics, to the exclusion of other equally valid, but perhaps presently less-charming, contenders.

    • And, ah, Dean, this Hindu guru is from what period? Prior to European contact, and encounter with Christian missionaries? And your text is? I’ve given the NT texts. Let’s see yours.

      • Deane permalink

        The ’60s counterculture originated in the 1960s, Larry.

        Let’s assume you’re right in what you just implied – perhaps even that Hindus only started talking about loving and serving other people after Christian missionaries came to India. I have my doubts, but this is all a red herring.

        It remains the case that the co-founder of the Hard Rock Café, Isaac Tigrett, took the phrase directly from the Hindu guru Sathya Sai Baba. There is normally a photo of Sai Baba on the wall of every Hard Rock Café, which should be a clue. The Hard Rock Café motto comes from a Hindu guru, not the New Testament.

        So “Love all, Serve all” is NOT, contrary to your contention, “the (likely unconscious) influence of the NT upon western culture”. You were wrong. It is not unconscious, because Tigrett *consciously* took it from Sathya Sai Baba, of whom he was a follower. And it is also at best misleading to describe “Love all, Serve all” as the influence of the NT on western culture. Even if you were right in speculating that Hindus would only come up with such things after being taught them by Christian missionaries(!?!), it is misleading to describe this as the influence of the NT on western culture, without noting the *direct* source (Sathya Sai Baba).

        You stated that the derivation of “Love all, Serve all” from the NT was “self-evident”. But it is certainly not “self-evident”. Moreover, derivation from the NT is self-evidently NOT the case, given that the co-founder of the Hard Rock Café, Isaac Tigrett, took the phrase from a Hindu guru.

        Lastly, just to satisfy your (oddly Protestant) request for a “text”: Sathya Sai Baba spoke these words on a number of occasions, and they appear in a number of compilations of his sayings, but here is one, in ‘chapter and verse’: Sathya SaiSpeaks, Vol. 6, Page 3.

      • Gosh, Deane, you’re a veritable fount of info on this thing. Do your masters thesis on the Hard Rock Café? In any case, I defer to your expert knowledge that the IMMEDIATE source of the phrase in question may well come from Sathya Sai. But (as you somewhat gingerly dance around), he in turn manifestly expressed and acknowledged a rather wide-ranging inter-religious stance and influence, among which the NT and the sayings of Jesus were included. So, I should correct my earlier statement to indicate that the motto exhibits the wide influence of these NT sayings on world culture, not just western culture. So, thank you for helping us all see that!
        BTW: In “Sathya Sai Speaks” vol 6, p. 2 you see the eclecticism: “We hear the parables of Galilee, of Arab shades;
        We hear the tales of twenty lands
        To probe us on the onward march to Him.
        We hear how Dhruva prayed, how Paul did teach,
        Dr. Johnson joked, and Dara Shukoh sang.”
        And on p. 3, “I and my Father are One”: Hmm. I wonder where he got that??
        It’s not insulting to suggest that he and other Hindu voices adopted stuff from Christianity, Deane. Just an acknowledged fact.

        And one further thing, Deane, should it ever happen (however remote the possibility) that you have something positive to say, do feel free! It’s helpful, I suppose, to have someone ready to carp at so many things, but do consider making a contribution sometime.

      • Deane permalink

        You’re welcome, Larry. I’m just pleased I could help.

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