Flat White

If love wins, we all lose

6 November 2017

7:33 AM

6 November 2017

7:33 AM

All the way back in 1984 –- an ominous year in the literary world to be sure -– Tina Turner released her single, What’s Love Got to do with it? Significantly, it would be her first and only US number one. Now I don’t normally draw inspiration, or guidance, from the lyrics of pop songs, but what Turner sang in the chorus seems especially apt:

What’s love got to do, got to do with it?

What’s love but a second-hand emotion?

What’s love got to do, got to do with it?

Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?

What has ‘love’ got to do with it? That’s a question that’s been assumed, and more often than not, asserted throughout the current plebiscite. Well, I guess it all depends on what you mean by the term “love,” as well as whether or not you see it as an end in and of itself. For the proponents of the ‘yes’ campaign, they claim to be the only ones who are truly loving. Alternatively, anyone opposed to the redefinition of marriage is said to be motivated by prejudice, bigotry and most of all hate.

A couple of years ago though I experienced their kind of ‘love’ first-hand when I was the subject of a pretty vicious and unprovoked tirade by The Veronica’s. What was my Orwellian thought crime? For simply sticking up for a number of students who didn’t want to participate in what had become the obligatory, “Wear it Purple Day” at Burwood Girls High School. After being labelled everything from an “embarrassment… entitled… a-hole… and a hypocrite,” they then proceeded to ‘lovingly’ tell me this: “You and your religious institution have twisted the message of love and brainwashed young people into believing that acceptance is wrong… LOVE WINS. It always will.”

Two years on, and it seems like the slogan of “love wins” is pretty well the central, if not only, argument of the ‘yes’ campaign. It’s as though the conclusion is in and of itself self-evident and therefore doesn’t need explaining, let alone defending. But has anyone stopped to ask, “What exactly do you mean by the term “love”? It seems to me that their mindless mantra of “love wins” is in some desperate need of clarification.

I was recently reading C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Four Loves. In his introduction, he quotes M. Denis de Rougemont as saying, “Love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god.” To clarify what that statement means Lewis re-states it by saying love “begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.”


The insight Lewis makes here is profound. Christians, in particular, have always proclaimed that God is love (such as in 1 John 4:16). But that does not mean that the converse is necessarily true; that love is God. For while love is a central, even defining, attribute of who God is, worshipping the virtue of love, turns it into something very, very different. As Lewis explains:

We may give our human loves the unconditional allegiance which we owe only to God. Then they become gods: then they become demons. Then they will destroy us, and also destroy themselves. For natural loves that are allowed to become gods do not remain loves. They are still called so, but can become in fact complicated forms of hatred.

Lewis spends the rest of the book showing how the four different forms of love: affection, friendship, eros and charity, while distinct, yet remain harmonious. The key though is to understand that they are all spokes in the wheel rather than the hub. Indeed, it is only God Himself who, as the “hub,” can give each of the four “spokes” (i.e. loves) their proper proportion and purpose.

The problem with the ‘yes’ campaign is that by making the ‘spoke’ of Eros (that is, romantic love) the hub it causes the rest of the wheel to become unbalanced. Or as Lewis would say, by elevating it as a god it has shape-shifted into a demon. That’s why for them it is all about winning, which, by its very definition means that anyone who disagrees with them must lose. Is it any wonder then that they cannot tolerate those who disagree with them?

For a community that identifies itself as being centred on ‘love,’ this is why their attitudes and actions are characterised by hatred to anyone who will not worship their god with them. The greatest irony of all is that as much as they champion a separation of church and state, they are seeking to impose their very own LGBTIQ theocracy. And if they win, then as we have already started to see, theirs will be a totalitarian regime of compliance.

Along with Tina Turner, all the way back in 1984, the rock band U2 also released their single “Pride (In the Name of Love)”. I hadn’t noticed the significance of the lyrics to their chorus until recently but I can’t help but think that it’s prescient to the current situation.

In the name of love

What more in the name of love?

That’s a good question. And for better, for worse… for richer, for poorer… in sickness and in health… in about a fortnight’s time, we’ll all know the answer.

Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield. 

Cartoon: Ben R Davis.

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