Christian Love, Queerly Considered

TW: discussion of rationalisations behind queerphobia.

This post is a late submission to April’s Carnival of Aces hosted by luvtheheaven. Its theme is the 5 Love Languages, a concept authored by a Big Name Evangelical that’s crossed over into mainstream pop psychology. As a queer Christian I have much to say on it. Before diving into how I express love, I wanted to introduce how faith has influenced my idea of love, how this translates to a queer perspective. And in the next post, how I my being queer has influenced my view of what may be expressed through the 5 love languages.

Agapè and Eros and Storge and Philia

What love is meant to be expressed in the 5 love languages? The American-evangelical discourse on Christian life and love influences christian communities worldwide. Its conception of love is based on the Gospels, Acts and the Apostle Paul’s letters, which are themselves heavily influenced by Greek philosophy. The most common form of love often called platonic love in English, for God, for friends, for family but even when you have deep rapport with a stranger, acquaintance or enemy. According to C.S. Lewis these may be split into ‘storge’, the love you share based on belonging and familiarity and ‘philia’, the love you choose and cultivate such as for friends. The other two forms are ‘eros’, an amalgam of sexual and romantic love, and ‘agapè’ or charity, compassion or care you may cultivate by doing good or thinking well of others, but also the general love you may have for humanity or the planet as an activist or environmentalist. This is also the love God has for humans. The 5 love languages focuses on expressing affection for specific people: storge, philia and eros.

Christian Love Queered

How do these types of love translate to a queer perspective? Most Christians (that I’ve met) would say the core of their religion isn’t any organisation, or a holy text, a law or a doctrine. It’s a relationship. An exclusive relationship between a consenting human follower and an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God. All human-to-human relationships are meant to be reflections of this central relationship.

Some key features are:

Communal and individual: in human-to-God relationships the person-to-God relationship is almost interchangable with the community-to-God relationship. This is alien to and overlooked in Western culture. It means one’s love for and investment in community (friend group, family, team) is equally as important as one’s love for specific people. And that as community you can love a person (co-parenting! safe spaces!).

Consensual: an all-powerful God lets humans decide whether to enter into a relationship with Him, in which salvation is freely offered, not earned by good deeds. As such, relationships and acts of affection between humans should also be offered and accepted freely. It should also mean no one is barred from following God, regardless of their life. Logically meaning that whether being queer is a sin or not isn’t just a distasteful question, but an irrelevant one.

Equal: each human is loved by God. Each Christian’s first allegiance is to God, not spouse, family or leader. These two combined mean all humans should be treated as valuable and all humans have an authority higher than any human to which they may appeal. So, for example, a woman is not her husband’s property, but both are followers of God, should they invite his blessing over their relationship. Meaning Christians can often be found in equal rights movements, even when they have a reputation for being conservative in the Western world.

Amatonormative: since the highest form of love is human-to-God, all love between humans is potentially a good reflection of that. This does not hold true in communities that hold up marriage – and thus eros – as closest to the love between God and humans. This is why conservative media will style itself family- or marriage-focused, to express their (hetero-)amatonormativity. Such individualistic churches often skip agape, obsess over eros (in dos and don’ts) and rank philia and storge as less important.

Monogamous: the demand that one worship God and only God translates to a strong preference for monogamy within Christian communities. How strictly this is enforced within and without the community depends on whether loving people as they are is considered more important than how people love one another. This is reflected in the emphasis on exclusive long-term relationships between same-sex partners whenever acceptance of queer people in religious communities comes up.

Cis/heteronormative: whether queer people are accepted depends on whether they are thought to be loved and accepted by God. If one considers God’s love to be unconditional and people’s deeds less important, then the Christian (community) is likely to be very inclusive. If God is considered harsh; if certain behaviour or identities are considered to constitute a rejection of God, then the Christian (community) will reject those people.

Personally, the love I consider good based on my faith is equal, consensual and with a more communal focus than commonly found in the Western world.

I would be monogamous towards my partner, but mostly because that fits how I love, I’d hesitate to say others should be as well. I have found my love towards friends and family, philia and storge, to be truer reflections of God’s love for humans than what I felt when I dated, a chaste incarnation of eros.

I hate the near-obsession with marriage and ‘family focus’ I find in my current church. I consider churches that exclude queer people wrong because I very much believe God’s love to be unconditional.

Once again, please consider this a personal account. I do not pretend to speak for over a billion Christians, and I cannot cover the variety of encounters queer people have had with Christian communities. If you wish to share your experiences, I’d love to hear about it. I hope I’ve given you some insight into how my world view may differ from yours. Coming up, the 5 love languages!

Featured image from unsplash.

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About demiandproud

I am a demisexual Christian Dutchwoman who explores the vagaries of what the intersection of those identities means. On my main blog I post a few times a month, my favourite being participating in the Carnival of Aces. I'm exploring writing about my orientation elsewhere. The pride flag in my profile picture was created with 4 eye pencils (black, purple, silver and white).

Posted on May 3, 2019, in Asexuality and Christianity, carnival of aces, Personal reflection, What others say and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Interesting post. When you say, “a Big Name Evangelical that’s crossed over into mainstream pop psychology” do you mean he was a big name in any way BEFORE that cross into pop psychology, or is it because he’s a Big Name Pop Psychologist who happens to be Evangelical… he became popular with Evangelicals? I just am trying to understand better since I’m pretty oblivious to any of that context. Any light you shed might be helpful.

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    • Oh, hadn’t even thought of that. I think that came out of two things: he’s a household name in that particular way Rick Warren and Billy Graham is, so I put him in that grouping. Similarly, the 5 love languages I’ve known for over a decade. I’ve also read excepts from the book and website and… Well… the Christian subculture actually has its own variety of English that I recognised straight away.

      I’d actually have to check up on the man to see where he came from.

      It’s one reason I wanted to make a separate post on the love in love languages. It’s such a different concept between what I find in church and how my friends define it.

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      • Hmm. Interesting. I definitely have Heard of the Love Languages by osmosis in my culture over the years but any of the Household Names I’m not sure if I’d know like Gary Chapman unless i looked into taking the quiz and the others unless I’d joined the New Atheist movement. I just don’t know if I when would’ve heard of them. But that doesn’t mean they’re not huge names to Evangelicals. They all probably are. I just hadn’t realized. I hadn’t realized the Love Languages books were THAT popular in Evangelical circles but of course it makes sense they are since they’re consistently best seller books for like decades on end.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: “The Five Love Languages”—Round Up of Posts submitted to the April 2019 Carnival of Aces – From Fandom to Family: Sharing my many thoughts

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