Oh Man…who knew that Anna Mae Bullock was 73 this year! She sure was a looker back in the day. Seemed like everyone….Wait…Wait…Wait…What do you mean you have no idea who Ms. Bullock is??? “It’s Physical…Only logical”…flipping her hair…that ring a bell? Ehhh…never mind its not important anyway.
The important thing that we are looking at this week is what love is…at least, in its highest and most perfected level…or as some would say…“True Love.” But heads up! This post isn’t politically correct or soft. This post doesn’t pull any punches. In fact, this post was basically written on the fly as I was debating two atheists on a local blog about DOMA, gay marriage, and the inherent lack of true love exhibited therein. That said, read on at your own risk! 😉
Ok, so back to the issue at hand…Some, like Ms. Bullock, would sing – “The touch of a hand makes her pulse react – That it’s only a thrill of boy meeting girl…That you must try to ignore that it means more than that.” Boy is she wrong…it’s a cheap way to define love. But hey, it seems to work in today’s culture. How sad. How cheap. Like trading diamonds for dung.
St. Thomas Aquinas defined love as the willing of the good of another and wanting the absolute best for the other person. As a matter of fact, it’s even more than that. Love is no less than acting to make “the best” real for the beloved. We all know that the best for the other person is Heaven itself…nothing less. If love is “only physical,” then it can’t possibly be wanting the best for the other person. Can It?
Well, lets get one thing out of way straight up. Love, in its highest and most perfected sense, is not an emotion or feeling or something that “happens” to us. Love is not limited to, or for that matter, limited by, sexual attraction or romantic feelings. However, those things can be part of love. They just cannot be true love itself. If “love” is limited to just sex or just attraction then its not love at all.
Love, in its highest sense, is a choice, an act of the will – something we do. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, I think it’s a pretty safe assumption to say that he wasn’t thrilled to be up there and wasn’t exactly “happy,” at least in the modern understanding of the word. Nevertheless, he made the conscious choice to want the best for all of us…Heaven…no matter how it made him feel as a man…no matter how much it physically or emotionally hurt. That is true love!
Some people mock this definition of love and say that it is too simple, rudimentary, or even juvenile. I argue that this definition of love is absolutely rudimentary, absolutely simple, and absolutely juvenile – all in the best way. Love is pure simplicity Himself. It is pure act, pure potency, and eternal. Love is also purely juvenile because it gives without asking in return and isn’t deterred by “adult” emotions of jealousy, irritation, anger, or anything else. Love just is. This crazy culture, with all of its “intellectuals,” wants to muck up the definition of love and add all sorts of other words or concepts so that they can manipulate the definition in whatever way suits their situation. Not good.
The current culture hammers us with the idea that sex equals love, and love equals happiness, so therefore sex must equal happiness. If we apply St. Thomas’ definition, then I think it becomes clear that wanting the best for the other is not sex, is not a pleasurable feeling in the glands, its not an orgasm into the orifice of choice, and is not eros. The best is much greater and higher than any physical act could ever be. The best is fulfillment at the deepest of levels leading the other person to no less than Christ himself.
Unfortunately, some relationships in this culture are capped at the physical level. At their most intimate, some end with the sexual act. Sometimes this type of relationship is evidenced as a same sex relationship. Other times, this type of relationship exists when heterosexual contraception is used. In still other situations, the relationship is limited at the physical level when a husband or a wife is seen solely as a provider, or as a caretaker, or as any “thing.”
None of these types of relationships evidence true love…not even close. These types of relationships turn a human being into a human “doing.” They change a person into an “it.” They disregard our natural design and reduce us to an object…of pleasure, of work, or of anything. Such a transformation can never be the best for the other. It replaces purpose with feeling. It replaces purpose with act. The person becomes the thing that brings pleasure, or money, or fun, and therefore becomes replaceable. And just to be clear, this unfortunate conversion can happen in any type of relationship.
All authentic love results in incarnation of some type. Relative to sexual intimacy, the best and authentic love is the biological reception of man by woman and woman by man. It is the absolute giving of all that you have, by each party, and the absolute reception of that gift by the other, within the sacrament of marriage. It is entry into the very creative power of God himself, which is infinitely greater than the act itself.
For many couples, this love results in a physical incarnation of children. Hah…that’s easy.
But what about infertile couples? For these couples, their love is open to life but that life may never come in the form of a child. However, these couples can still exhibit the true and highest form of love based on the marital act of full donation and acceptance…even if new life is absolutely impossible. The idea here is that that the sexual union is total, complete (as much as possible), and biologically based. This love is true and authentic because it is of the type that can result in new life.
Relative specifically to the idea of “incarnation”, the true donative love of infertile people is incarnated as a total giving of oneself to the spouse and still acting in a way that represents what is the best for them. In essence, the husband and the wife are incarnating a new life in themselves of total service and giving to the other. There is no substitution here. There is no transforming of the person into an “it” or an object here. The person’s procreative potential (although maybe never fully realized) is still never cut off or purposely frustrated.
But moving even further, what about an otherwise “loving” couple that uses contraception? Well, at its basic level, using contraception also converts the spouse from a person to an “it.” If I treat my wife as merely an object that gives me pleasure, by my artificially blocking my donation to her or her to me, then I fall into the same trap described below relative to homosexual relations. That is not true love.
If I cannot share myself…all of myself…with my spouse, and be received by my spouse 100%, then the unitive concept of love and marriage is broken. There is not full donation and there is not full acceptance. At the very deepest level, by doing this, I am saying to my spouse that you can have all of me…except…
This type of “rejection”, from the person that I am closest to and in most union with in the entire world, is not healthy. It is saying that I want 99% of you but don’t you dare give me that last 1%. Such actions do not evidence true love. They may be “close” but they aren’t genuine and authentic. Just like above, they are cheap counterfeits.
(Congrats to all of you for still reading at this point and for not giving up on this post because it is a bit in-your-face and a bit direct! Although I would like to say that I apologize for offending anyone, I cannot apologize for describing the Truth. And so, for that reason, I go on…)
Ok, so now some of you are probably also asking, how can a person living a celibate life “love” in such as a way as to result in an incarnation? For those living the vocation of celibacy, their love, i.e., their best, is the service of others to their absolute maximum, leading the others to Christ. Their love is the total giving of self to the service of this world for the absolute best of other people, putting themselves second or even third. This love results in an incarnation that is not physical but that is spiritual.
Still others may also be wondering whether the aforementioned definition of love means that people with same sex attraction can never “love.” Again, lets be clear – every single human being, no matter their sex, gender, identity, attraction, etc., is capable of, and is required to exhibit, the highest form of love. That is precisely how we get to Heaven. Loving God first and loving our neighbor as ourself..or, said differently, loving our neighbor into Heaven, is what we MUST do. As a child of God, each of us is capable of this love. In fact, with sanctifying grace, each of us is capable of loving as Jesus loved – yes even to hang on a cross.
Make no mistake, love is a choice. If Male 1 and Male 2 “love” each other, then they must want the best for each other (i.e., Heaven), as outlined above. And, yes, this love involves tough choices of living chastely and for the other. No one ever said that love was easy. If we paid more attention to the cross, the complaint of “love is hard” wouldn’t even cross our minds!
If these men live as brothers, then absolutely they can exhibit the highest form of love, regardless of their attraction or their inclination. No doubt about it. However, once they choose to have sex together, they have not chosen love. They have chosen eros. They have replaced the dignity of the other (and of self) with a counterfeit. They have replaced the person with an action. They have capped their relationship at the sexual level which, again, is no where near the depth of true love.
If I love another person, I want the absolute best for them. I want them to reach their best and ultimate fulfillment. I want them to be deeply happy and joyful to their core. True and perfected love does not, and cannot, affirm self-destructive practices or the limitation of the other person by a destructive and malicious culture. True love does not support the lies of this culture, the do whatever-you-want abuse of freedom, or the changing of human being into objects of lust and pleasure. True love does not grasp at second-rate substitutes for happiness and fulfillment. True love does not grab onto the garbage that this culture slings at us and uses to try to convince us that we are happy when we are sexual.
If we truly love, we want the source of happiness itself…which is true, unending, sacrificial love, that leads to the incarnation of life. We want the power itself, not some crappy counterfeit. Taking a person and making them an “it” or an object – for whatever reason (not just with sex) – is never OK, is never respectful, is never an acknowledgement of the other person’s dignity, and is never…ever…true, highest, and perfected love. Anything less than true sacrificial love of the other is flat out highway robbery of the dignity of the human person and deceit of the worst kind. Let’s not go there…not now…not ever…not even with a gun to our heads. Love is a somebody…so lets start acting like it!
Ohhhhhh…and I almost forgot about Ms. Bullock and her crappy definition of love and sex. Well, maybe she never knew what love really was. Maybe she never witnessed the real deal. Maybe no one ever worked to make the best real for her. Hah…Ike may never have. But Tina Turner should have known better. Tina Turner, with all of her pop cultural influence, should have explained it better. Tina Turner should have been a better example for the youth. So let’s pray for all of the new Ms. Bullocks/Tina Turners that are just coming up, that they provide a better example of love, a better example of wanting the best for the other, and a better example of leading others to true happiness and true love Himself.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1766; See also St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II,26 4, corp. art.