I believe in love.
I feel that I must take a moment to define my term as best as I can here. I’m not talking about romance or affection or coziness or anything else that we all sometimes call love.
I mean the force that moves us to see others as fully human. The force that moves us to care, and to hope for (and more importantly work for) a world where everyone is seen as (and treated as) fully human.
Love, the absence of abuse, oppression, discrimination, exploitation.
Love, the absence of violence and war.
Love, the action, and love the feeling that calls us to action.
Love, the spark of anger that burns through our apathy when we see others in pain that could be prevented if only society were different.
Love, the conviction that leads us to examine our own lives and look at how we sometimes help cause that pain.
Love that holds abusers accountable.
Love that is powerful.
Love that is quiet and comforting or fiercely passionate (or both at the same time).
Love that isn’t always nice, but is always on the side of justice for the oppressed and marginalized.
Love, love, love.
Love I can worship. Love I can sing about. Love I can believe in.
I’m a theist (albeit a slightly agnostic one), so I believe that God is love. I am a Christian so I believe that Jesus was ultimate love in human form.
But sometimes those labels don’t feel honest–I don’t always believe in God. I don’t always believe that God loves me, or anyone. Sometimes they feel too heavy, laden with imperialist, patriarchal, capitalist bullshit. Sometimes those labels are just restricting because they turn us into religions and denominations and dichotomies and keep us from uniting as believers in love. During these times I put aside my Bibles and theology books and center myself on what I find most important.
People occasionally tell me I’m not allowed to claim the labels of theist or Christian because I can’t claim them with assurance or orthodoxy. Sometimes my response to those people is to assert my right to self-identify. Other times, I just want to say, “That’s okay. I just believe in love.”
Love often leads me back to those labels, as imperfect and burdened as they are. I think love also leads different people to different labels–Buddhist, Muslim, Humanist, Atheist, Universalist, Feminist. I haven’t given up on labels. I think we all have different worldviews and vehicles that helps us understand and enact love in ways that work best for us and for our communities.
But I think there are times when commitment to building a more loving world can unite us if we’re willing to let it. If we’re willing to listen to it call us and convict us. If we’re willing to work, and give up privileges, and treat others as human.
Today, I’m exhausted with a Christianity that overall doesn’t seem willing to do that.
But that’s okay. I believe in love.