What Is Love?
We are nearing the end of Equality Ride, and I’ve been meditating a lot about this one question: “What is love?” It’s a big concept to think about, but at the same time one of the simplest emotions to feel and identify. I feel love for my fellow Riders, and I feel love for all of the people we’ve met (and will continue to meet) on this wild adventure.
I have to admit – I’ve been thinking about what I want to write in this blog for days, and our recent visits to Southwest Baptist University and Bethel College provided some clarity on the topic of love. While discussing how Christians should love their GLBTQ siblings during a panel at SBU, an SBU professor said: “The way I love you – I call it love, and you call it oppression.” This didn’t sit well with me, for what (I hope) are obvious reasons.
Similarly, our stop at Bethel College was challenging. At one point during a large group discussion with Riders and Bethel students, administrators, and faculty, Jennifer spoke quite powerfully: ”I’ve been sitting here for a long time feeling really emotional. I know it’s not anyone’s fault that your school is the thirteenth of 15 schools that we’re visiting, but I am so tired of hearing over and over again, my experience of being queer listed next to sins like lying, or being queer talked about as something to struggle with like gossip. I understand that people here believe that it’s a sin. And I don’t. I don’t struggle with it. But it’s hard for me to sit here and listen to this being said over and over again because I am in a relationship with a woman that Ilove. I love her. And I want to build a life with her and build children with her… What other sin is a part of building a loving life with someone?”
A professor in the room then said that humans have a flawed perspective of what love really is because we’re all in sin. As a response to Jennifer’s passionate proclamation of love for Cait, he proposed that humans have no idea what love looks like because of original sin, and thereby condemned Jennifer and Cait’s relationship. At this point, I was boiling. I saw the look on Jennifer’s face when the professor said this, and I had to speak up. “Sir, if I understood you correctly, I don’t think that you heard anything that Jennifer just shared. I know Cait and Jennifer, and they are truly in love. How can you say that their love is sinful? It’s not hurting anyone! In fact, it’s beautiful. I feel personally hurt by this comment because I am in love with someone who’s not on Equality Ride, and I constantly have to fight for my right to love my partner.”
When Riders share their stories very openly and honestly, from a vulnerable place that may still be an open wound, we hope to never be met with cruel words or admonishments that who we are – core parts of our identity and our sense of self – is sinful. Unfortunately, we hear those things often. I’m exhausted from trying to find relatable ways of saying (in Jennifer Luu’s words), “You live in this world with humans, as you are a human. It is right and good to be nice to said humans and not be a jerk. Please try it. Please.”
We’ve been all over the country in the past seven weeks, and I’ve learned that people love to play the “us vs. them” game. But when we start playing the “us vs. them” game, we lose sight of what it means to love. One way that WE – people, humanity, folks of every faith background, culture, race, sexual orientation, gender, ability, class – are set free is by telling our own story, sharing from our heart the experience of what it means to be [your name here]. While facts can help explain us, only stories can save us. And only when we know each others’ stories can we truly love each other. So listen. Receive. Learn. Open your heart to what your neighbor shares with you.