Que(e)rying love and relationships

by Beth Predicate

Love is at the heart of Christianity. Romantic love is also core to many people’s experiences of life today. This often takes the form of an idealised romantic love that seems to exclude or deny love of others. ‘To the One I love’, greetings cards often read. Surely as Christians we should counter this notion that we can only love one person, and advocate against restricting our love thus.

Jesus said that the commandment to love your neighbour as yourself comes only after the commandment to love God. This surely implies that we should strive towards love in all our relationships. Certainly for most people love is different in each of their relationships. However, to accept the greetings-card sentiment that we can only really love one person (in that way, some might add, though this notion somewhat confuses me) is to undervalue the love we have for many of our friends. I, for one, love many people, and tell most of them so frequently.

I happen to be in a romantic relationship with one person, but that does not mean I love my friends less than I do that person. I’ll stick with the term ‘romantic’ throughout for want of a better term, though I’m not entirely at ease with it. Whilst the love I feel for most of my friends is qualitatively different to the love I feel for my partner, I don’t believe that that is always or necessarily the case. After all, many people make the transition between being friends and being lovers or partners. Indeed, it’s not impossible to make the transition from partner to friend, either. I’m sure plenty of people feel uncertain of the precise nature of their feelings for particular people.

In the past I’ve been physically attracted to people and enjoyed a degree of physical intimacy with them whilst knowing that I would not want a romantic relationship in the conventional sense with them. To be ethical and avoid confusion in that type of potentially blurred relationship I have always been as clear as possible about my feelings with the person concerned relatively early on. Usually such honesty is welcomed and reciprocated. Sometimes love doesn’t seem to fit into neat boxes, and yet society would seem to have us believe that it does.

Perhaps many Christians would want to delve a little deeper into exactly what forms of physical intimacy I am talking about here. Hand holding or touching? Kissing on the cheek? A peck on the lips? A cuddle? A kiss where tongues meet? More intimate contact still, perhaps involving breasts or genitals? I’ll leave you to wonder. Partly to preserve my own privacy, but mostly because I believe that the important thing in any relationship is its love, its mutuality, its sincerity and its honesty, rather than the details of its physicality. Many physical acts have, after all, changed in meaning over time and between cultures. Here we could get into a separate discussion of quite what we mean by sex and which of the above acts are sexual. I’ll leave that for another time, and perhaps another article – ‘Que(e)rying Sex’, or something along those lines.

Some people I’ve encountered such blurred lines with I’ve stuck to calling friends, others lovers, and still others I’ve been at a loss to find an adequate description for. Sometimes I’ve felt (and indeed, feel) a very deep love for friends, without their being any physical dimension to our relationship. Admittedly, such an entirely non-physical relationship is relatively rare for me, since I’m a tactile person by nature. By now I’ve largely stopped trying to analyse or find words for many of my relationships. Which perhaps brings us round to that term ‘In a relationship’, which is so common. Most of us are in many relationships, with many different people, and I’d suggest that to imply otherwise is to denigrate those relationships in our lives which society would not deem ‘romantic’.

In a fast-moving world where so much is changing, and where weddings often cost thousands and thousands of pounds, it pays to sell an idealised ‘traditional’ love and a notion of ‘The One’. I suspect I’m not alone in doubting that ‘The One’ exists: at least not for most people. Often we choose to spend a considerable portion of our lives in a romantic relationship with one person, but that’s not to say that no other romantic relationship would or could work for us.

We are all too often defined by our romantic relationships. In magazines contributors are often described briefly. Spouses of contributors are relatively frequently mentioned, especially in the case of female writers. Obviously it’s great that there are important people in such contributors’ lives, but why should people not refer to important friends in such descriptions if they wish, particularly if single? A single life need absolutely not mean one devoid of wonderful and meaningful relationships, much as our society would often have us believe it does.

I’d love to live in a society where it is just as acceptable for my ‘plus one’ at a wedding to be a friend as it is for them to be my romantic partner. This Christmas day I’ll probably be with a friend, though I may well see my partner and my family at Christmas time too. Sadly the potential importance of friendships is rarely recognised or understood by society, and I suspect this will be viewed with incomprehension or even suspicion.

How might we as Christians begin to love our enemies if we do not even fully acknowledge and appreciate our love of friends and their potential importance in our lives? A queer Christian take on love might begin by acknowledging its importance for us in many of our relationships, be they ‘romantic’ or not. Indeed, the only relationships we see Jesus conducting in the gospels, besides chance encounters and comradely ones, are loving friendships, so we have a good example to follow there. One of the apostles is even referred to as ‘the one Jesus loved’, and Jesus undertakes the physical act of washing his disciples’ feet.

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3 thoughts on “Que(e)rying love and relationships

  1. kathz says:

    Great post which I came across by chance (recommended by @symonhill on Twitter). Even though I don’t define myself as gay and probably don’t define myself as Christian, this speaks to my condition – and I’ve recommended it to others.

  2. Do you have any verses to back this up? I have a few but it might be nice to see from your point of view as I am a new Christian.

    I don’t think there will ever be a time when romantic love will be separate from platonic as we all have biological and spiritual desires to share ourselves. I also believe it was and still is God’s intention for one person to be with another only and for that I have this verse…

    “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:6

    You are also battling with two ideas, the view the world has of you and the view that Christians and Jesus might have. The world believes that you should be paired up with someone and as a women you are only as valuable as your partner. You also rightly pointed out that Jesus was single and stayed this way because of his divine purpose. Paul in the bible also wishes that everyone could have the ‘gift of singleness’

    “wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.”
    1 Corinthians 7. 7

    However Paul also understood that we have certain “carnal” desires which you have voiced yourself. For this God has proposed you share yourself with one person. I think it is a nice idea where we can all love each other as a community, equally but I think the idea goes against the word of God. I’ll leave it with this final verse,

    “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”
    Matthew 10:34

    The sword is the truth. While it is a nice image of Jesus washing disciplines feet, he still stood up for what he believed in. There will always be division between the world and Christians because you cannot sit on the fence. You are for or against. I feel we are meant to love one person with all our heart and soul, it is out God given gift.

    • kathz says:

      Try Matthew 22, which includes teaching on marriage (in relation to the Jewish law of levirate marriage) and the following:
      36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
      37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
      38 This is the first and great commandment.
      39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

      (and also Luke 10, 27-37)

      And we should all remember, always, Matthew 7-1 “Judge not that ye be not judged.”

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