It is often argued that God is love. That without love, the idea of or the person of God becomes incomplete. This particular argument is backed by citations to the new testament where Christ declared love as the greatest commandment with a promise.
“Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” the bible declares. This declaration has stood the test of time and have, if we’re being honest, lost some of its validity in the face of how we have defined and redefined it over the century to suit what we want to see.
The idea of love – not in a romanticized or sexualized manner – has become a weapon, a clutch, almost like a gift that can be given and taken conveniently, with conditions attached to it. Love has become an excuse to hide and/or umbrella to shield bigotry and hate and fear.
It was at the AHRDI discussion forum at the U.S consulate, Lagos, that a young man arguing that because God is love and made us in his (God’s) own likeness, with the commission to go into the world and love, then it is his right of place – out of love, of course – to pray and ask an LGBT person to change. Here, in this context, he argues that showing love is the only way to change a person, that one can use love as a tool to effect a certain kind of change, the kind that is most convenient. (While, of course, there is the very obvious, albeit subtle, reference to homosexuality as an abnormality in his talk, I won’t dwell on that).
There we were, some of us strangers, brought together by a common cause: to find a safe middle ground for our different opinion, to learn and enlighten. We were talking about the “Intersection of religion and sexuality” – a loaded topic if ever.
You see, religion – as a number of speakers repeatedly pointed out – is personal; a close and intimate relationship between man and his maker (whatever name he might choose to give it). And since religion is a personal affair, attacking what is perceived to be its basic tenets appears to be a threat, a breach not just on the religious belief(s) but on the perception of what a person considers to be his idea of God – what God should or shouldn’t be. An attack on religiosity is often viewed as a personal identity attack.
And so, when this young man spoke, his elbows rested on his bible, eyes sweeping through a room filled with a handful of queer men and women, he spoke from a personal place – from a defensive position. But even at that he failed to realize that God wouldn’t be God if he attached conditions to his love. Or if he said: “I will love man on the day he stops sinning” or “I love you for now but if you don’t change soon, the love goes, evaporates.”
God is God, and the ideal of him have endured for millennia, because his love remains steady, never falters regardless of how much sin we have committed or how much unworthy we are. It is steady. A constant. Never changes. And so, when you position yourself as a reflection of God, speak on the virtue of love while still dangling your love as a carrot, you’re being nothing less but untrue to the image of the person you proclaim.
It isn’t love when it comes with a condition. It isn’t love when it is a means to an end. It isn’t love when a caveat is attached. Love comes in totality, undiminished and wholesome, regardless of what is and isn’t.
When something is attached, it becomes a means to an end. A self-serving manipulative endeavor.
Kenneth Osakwe (a pen name) is a marketing communications executive based in Lagos, Nigeria.