There is an axiom going around that I think needs examining if we are going to continue to use it–especially for Catholics. The axiom is “love is love”, and while it is most often used to support same sex marriage, there are many implications that we need to examine if Christians are going to use it responsibly.
The Essence of Love
Of course on some level this axiom holds true–there are some things that all love has in common. All “true” love is 1) allowing the “other” to influence your actions, 2) wanting the best for the other, and 3) committing to the good of the other.
In other words, all love is Love when we allow it to commit us to the best possible treatment of the one which we love.
What Love is Not
Love is not just a feeling, although it should be at times.
Love is not all about sex, but all sex should be about love (a notion that is nearly gone in secular society)
Love is not giving a person whatever they want or never telling them no.
Love is not always easy, it is sacrifice, sometimes painful, and counter-intuitive after someone has hurt you.
Yet society, in general, says that love is all these things at one time or another.
Different Forms of Love
The most obvious way in which this saying falls apart is that there are different forms of love which are neither same nor equal.
The Greeks distinguished between at least three types of love–unconditional, passionate/sexual, and brotherly. Tradition teaches about a self-giving, oblative love, and a more possessive, sublative love. Even the individual, in their everyday experience, can recognize that, barring some psychological abnormality, one loves their sister differently than their wife, and their brother differently than their “neighbor”. And yet, ideally, we love them all.
Nor are these loves equal (which is different than being the same)–love of family is higher than love of stranger, love of spouse higher than love of brother, and love of God above all other loves. To say that all loves are equal is to say it is just as important to love God as it is the the man who mugged you. Both are important, but one flows from the other and it is more important to have a good foundation before you raise the walls or decorate the room.
Thus, the implication of, and problem with “love is love”, is that it’s a short hop to “all love is the same (or equal)”.
“Love is Love” and Society
What are the effects of this axiom that we see manifested in our society today?
Parenting–Parents don’t know exactly how to love their kids. Should they do what’s actually best for them and risk being “hated” during the teen years, or should they spoil them and give them what they want? Should they be their parents, or their best friends? Does it matter? After all… love is Love, right?
Sex–Not only has sex been separated from love (because according to society, sex is 100% about pleasure) and now its generally not frowned upon to have sex with someone you don’t actually love. Sex has become about pleasing one’s self. Still, we WANT to have sex with people we are attracted to (and thus love), so sex isn’t completely separated from love…but there seems to be a blurring of boundaries crossed. I’ll just leave that as that, for now.
Marriage/Divorce–Marriage, if entered into at all now in the secular world, has become a temporary engagement (pardon the pun?). It has been something you only do for as long as you feel love. There is no understanding that marriage is about Eros (your spouse as your lover), Agape (Loving your spouse UNCONDITIONALLY), and Philia (yes, even your spouse as your brother/sister) and once the eros fades the marriage ends. Society has begun to think that your “soul-mate” is the one who makes you feel the best, rather than the one that will make you the holiest (and thus challenge you the most).
There are others, I am sure, but this is enough for now. While “love is Love” in some senses of the word, I hope that Christians will start thinking about its implications before using it or accepting it in a argument. Don’t just speak–think.