Real Love Lost

Vantage Point
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Jesus’ teachings form the root of what real love is.

With the White House doused in rainbow colors and people dancing in the streets, proponents of same sex marriage exulted in the U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year legalizing same sex marriage. Their triumphant assertion: “Love Won.” But did it really?

For centuries, the commonly held conception of love was decidedly virtuous, calling to mind such things as selflessness, sacrifice, self-control, and a willingness to hold the beloved in high esteem. Understood in this light, love rightfully held the moral high ground. 

It was Jesus who said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Likewise, Jesus linked love with moral excellence: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” His followers maintained, “Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast.  It is not proud, rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.” These teachings form the root of what real love is.

No one doubted that real love grows from something more than mere sexual impulses. The two often go hand in hand, but between them love should always hold the reins. 

Enter the 1960s: the Hugh Heffners of the world convinced many people that sexual impulses are merely biological inclinations that are morally neutral and separate from the lifelong commitments of marriage. Indeed, this philosophy vilified the teachings of biblical Christianity because it denied us this supposedly simple pleasure—a sentiment captured in the lyrics “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” 

Then modern psychology joined the bandwagon. Seeking physical and cultural explanations for all of humankind’s idiosyncrasies without meaningful reference to the spiritual realm, it made biological urges our defining feature. Our genetic make-up sets the agenda. The alignment of my chromosomes determines who I am. It determines who I will love and how, when, and why I will love. I have no control over it, and neither should anyone else.

There’s the rub. If ever there was a force in the world that needs to be educated and controlled by higher influences, it’s the biological urges and appetites of human beings. Without those controls we eat too much, drink too much, and take in life-threatening toxins for the pleasurable sensations they give us. We regularly educate and control our urges: fear, anger, frustration, envy, and revenge. Such education and controls are at the very heart of  civilization. It also explains why the New Testament word for the sin nature is “the flesh.” But for some reason, we’re expected to believe that sexuality is the one sphere in which biological impulses should go unimpeded.

This is not a scenario in which love is the winner.

About the Author

 

bc Cumings is pastor of Mountain View Christian Reformed Church in Lynden, Wash.

See comments (6)

Comments

Thanks bc for your article suggesting that “real love” was lost with the advent of the 1960's and Hugh Heffner.  You of all people should know better than that.  Real love was lost with the fall of Adam and Eve.  You can check any period of history and find huge numbers of marriages and relationships that have failed because they were built upon emotion and feelings rather than sacrificial love.  You really missed the boat there.

As to the same sex marriage victory celebrated by the White House and American society, you missed the point there too.  You sound like you are suggesting that the supposed victory is that gays can now engage in unhindered sex like the rest of society, in fact like heterosexuals. You seem to be suggesting that the same sex marriage law was simply the promotion of sexual permissiveness. 

The reality is that same sex marriage laws had nothing to do with having sex or sexual impulses, as you suggest.  The marriage forms used by the CRC or other churches, or civil marriage wedding forms all call the couple being married to a higher standard of love and fidelity, a deeper commitment than just sexual attraction.  This is the same standard by which homosexual couples enter into the bonds of marriage, the same as heterosexual couples.  Your article states in regard to real love, “No one doubted that real love grows from something more than mere sexual impulses. The two often go hand in hand, but between them love should always hold the reins.”  The homosexual couple seeking marriage will say and believe the same thing.  They just don’t want the fact that they are gay to prevent them from entering into a permanent bond of love and commitment (marriage).  The homosexual married couple desiring membership in the church holds to the same Biblical standard of love as does the Christian heterosexual couple.  At the beginning of your article you suggest what has been commonly held in regard to love for centuries, “selflessness, sacrifice, self-control, and a willingness to hold the beloved in high esteem. Understood in this light, love rightfully held the moral high ground.”  That is the same moral ground that a Christian married gay couple holds up to their marriage.  The new marriage laws, rather than promoting sexual permissiveness (as you suggest), are simply the means by which to prevent those with prejudiced opinions from preventing such wholesome marriages from taking place between homosexual couples.

It is a sad commentary on the church (especially the CRC) when all our denomination wants to do is not recognize such marriages as valid in our churches and also not allow them to be professing members of our churches.  The Banner has surprised many in our denomination in the past for letting questionable articles slide under the bar.  An article such as this, that is so defaming toward gays, is a sad commentary in regard to our editorial staff.  I hope our editors recognize that the author of this article is calling gays, sexual deviates.  Our Banner doesn't need that kind of publicity.

Of course Roger already realizes that he and I thoroughly disagree on this.  I think this article is precisely in keeping with what the CRC, in its century-plus existence, recently affirmed in a study commit report (both majority and minority report), says about gay marriage.

What is a bit surprising to me is that Roger presumes in his comments to chastise the Banner for allowing a "questionable article" like this to be published.  What is questionable, judged by the standard of the CRC's communal statements made and positions taken since it's beginning in the 1800s, is Roger's judgment as to what the Banner should or should not print, not the content of this article.

Hey Doug, good to see you in print again.  You make a fair point in your comment.  The position by our denomination is “not” to recognize legalized gay marriages as valid within the church and to “not” allow such married partners to be professing members of our churches.

The problem is that our denomination wants to sugar coat our position so as to give the impression that we want nothing more than to demonstrate our love and compassion for such people while still calling them sexual perverts behind their backs (or to their faces).  To accuse homosexuals, seeking legal marriage, of vilifying the meaning of “real love” (as Cumings does) in exchange for sexual perversion and allowing one’s biological urges and appetites to run wild, is not the position of our denomination.  That is where Cumings’ article is not “precisely in keeping with what our denomination” teaches.  I doubt that even you, Doug, would make such a statement.  Homosexuals entering into marriage know the deeper meaning of love as much as heterosexuals.  And they enter into marriage with that deeper sense of love for their partner, as much any heterosexual entering into marriage.  Such a position (of exchanging real love for sexual perversion), suggested by bc Cumings, does not fit any statement by our denomination.  And making such statements in our denomination publication does not show editorial discretion, nor does it move forward any evangelical effort suggested by our denomination or by its study committee.

bc Cumings' conception of love as "selflessness, sacrifice, self-control, and a willingness to hold the beloved in high esteem", completely describes the relationship of several gay Christian couples I know.

Then I read: "Our genetic make-up sets the agenda. The alignment of my chromosomes determines who I am. It determines who I will love and how, when, and why I will love. I have no control over it, and neither should anyone else."  If this is bc Cumings'  own personal confession, that's fine.  However if he is pretending that this is how the psyche of gay people operates, then I have some concerns about the nature of his psyche. His caricature of gay people is deplorable.

I am confused by the logic of the argument contained in the article "Real Love Lost".  The author has a problem with "biological impulses" ruling the day, as in being unregulated by the institution of marriage ("Hugh Heffners of the world convinced many people that sexual impulses are merely biological inclinations that are morally neutral and separate from the lifelong commitments of marriage", "I have no control over it, and neither should anyone else" & "we’re expected to believe that sexuality is the one sphere in which biological impulses should go unimpeded").  But does the author realize that legalizing same-sex marriage is the extension of a regulatory institution rooted in the authors favored definition of love to areas of human sexuality that are currently outside the regulatory domain of 'official marriage'?  Based on what is argued in the article, it seems to me that the author is actually providing a very traditional christian argument in favor of extending marriage to same-sex couples ("real love grows from something more than mere sexual impulses").  Or have I misunderstood something here...?

I feel the pain that Rev. Nick Overduin speaks of in his response to this article.  There is sufficient research documentation to show that homosexuality is more than giving in to "merely sexual impulse".  As I wade through the Pastoral Guidance for Churches Regarding Same-Sex Marriage going to Synod this summer, I pray that our focus will be on Pastoral Care and Guidance, not just Guidance.  It can't be denied that same-sex marriage has become culturally acceptable. The challenge in the past was whether we could accept same-sex couples as part of the church.  I think the challenge going forward is how will churches find ways to incoprorate same-sex couples into their church family.  While the current committee did well staying within their Synodical guidelines, I don't think we will be able to lovingly care for same-sex couples and welcome them into our church without re-examining the original Synodical position on homosexuality.

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