A victory for love

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

This column first ran last Nov. 13 after the Illinois state legislature voted to legalize same-sex marriage. I'm reprinting it now to coincide with our Pride section, which you'll find elsewhere in this week's issue. This column also recently won second place in the Best Column category of the Illinois Press Association contest. It has been updated to reflect the June 1 implementation of the law. 

The new law that went into effect, June 1, legalizing same-sex marriage was a victory for gay rights.

But it was also a victory for love.

The law acknowledges that the love between two men or two women is of equal value to the love between a woman and a man.

Too often in our effort to set societal guidelines and expectations, we overlook love, which belongs to the realm of the heart, whereas we tend to legislate with our heads. Often we fail to reconcile the two realms, which helps explain the inadequacy of our efforts.

For too long, we tried to define marriage strictly as a union between one man and one woman. But that is based on a deeper assumption — that love is only legitimate, maybe only possible, between a man and a woman, that only sex is possible between two men or two women.

If anything, love between two men or two women was considered a "lesser" love, a false love, not the kind that could be sanctified in the eyes of God or justified by his believers on Earth.

That's an almighty big assumption, based largely on one or two passages in the Old Testament of the Bible, written well over 2,000 years ago. Illinois — and 14 other states previously (with many more to come) — is saying that's a bad assumption because it claims to be able to judge the "quality" of the love between two consenting adults.

We cannot make that assumption. We must not make that assumption.

Legislation isn't the only place where love gets overlooked. The Catholic Church's opposition to contraception, for instance, is based on the assumption that the primary purpose of sex is procreation. Preventing conception has long been held by the Church hierarchy to be "unnatural" and therefore sinful — though not by most Catholics, who use and approve of contraception.

The Church's obsolete theology in this matter comes from the head and overlooks the heart. The primary purpose of sex is neither procreation nor pleasure — it is a profound, physical expression of love between two adults. Procreation, if desired, planned for and freely chosen, can be a wonderful consequence of that love. (The same is true if achieved through adoption or in vitro fertilization.)

When we create theology or legislation without considering love, our laws and doctrine are inevitably flawed.

Nowhere is this more evident than the Catholic creed, of which there are two versions, one recently revised. These list the bedrock beliefs of the faith. Yet somehow, after 2,000 years, the word "love" appears in neither version.

Compare that to the Unitarian/Universalist "Covenant," recited at the beginning of every service at Unity Temple:

"Love is the doctrine of this congregation …" 

The first word of the first line — and they don't even identify themselves as Christian.

Which is doubly ironic because the very core of Christianity is love.

 Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40).

He also said, "Love your enemies." (Matthew 5:44).

How can a religion based on love not mention "love" in its very creed? If Jesus didn't overlook love, why, so often, do his followers?

Well, Illinois, as of June 1, does not. Good for us. The vote last November was not just a victory for the LGBT community. It was not just a victory for Oak Park as a whole, which has welcomed that community and rooted for them. It was not just a victory for equal treatment under the law.

All of that is worth celebrating. But more than that, it is a victory for love — and a reminder that love needs to be the doctrine of all our congregations and the center of all our deliberations.

When some people oppose health care for millions through the Affordable Care Act, without offering any viable alternative or even defending the status quo, they have left love out of the equation. When they support widening economic inequality and deep cuts to programs that aid the poor, they have left love out. When they oppose environmental protections aimed at preventing the destruction of our planet, they have eliminated love from their reckoning altogether.

Love is at the very center of our progress as a people, raising the quality of life for all, committing ourselves to the common good. If we overlook love, we harm ourselves and others.

Love won a big victory June 1. We took another step forward. The journey ahead is long, but as an old CTA ad put it, in the long run, the long run is all that matters.

The length of our journey shouldn't discourage us — not if we keep one notion firmly fixed in our minds and our hearts:

Love really does conquer all.

Email: ktrainor@wjinc.com

Reader Comments

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Anthony Puccetti from Oak Park  

Posted: July 22nd, 2014 5:46 PM

And Christian evangelization is not forcing beliefs down people's throats. It is giving witness to the gospel so as to save people,as Jesus commanded his apostles to do.

Anthony Puccetti from Oak Park   

Posted: July 22nd, 2014 5:39 PM

(continued from previous post) The existence of the universe and the order and life in the world makes evident an omnipotent creator. Our moral sense makes evident a moral code that is written into us,and the reality of sin. There is no equivalence of truth between atheist and homosexual opinions and Christian doctrine,so it is not unfair for Christians to complain about atheist and homosexual agendas or to evangelize and insist on morality.

Anthony Puccetti from Oak Park  

Posted: July 22nd, 2014 5:27 PM

@Charlotte, Belief in the Creator and natural law and the reality of sin is not mythical. Myths are culture -bound stories that are made up by people. And myths involve false pagan gods that are said to have been created and are thus not the creators of the universe. Belief in God,moral law and sin is founded upon divine revelation and reason.

Charlotte from Oak Park  

Posted: July 22nd, 2014 4:48 PM

@Anthony, so for those of us who do not believe in your mythical sky god or sin, then what? I find it laughable that you xtians are always complaining about the "homosexual agenda" Yet, it is YOU who go around shoving your religious beliefs down everybody's throats. I can't recall gay people going door to door preaching to people to join their cult. Or preaching from pulpits about how vile heterosexuals are and that they should be put to death. You're the ones with the agenda.Look in the mirror

Anthony from Oak park  

Posted: July 22nd, 2014 4:00 PM

Natural Law is not vague and subjective. It is the moral code that God has implanted in our consciences at our creation. It is common to all humanity but obscured by original sin and personal sins. It is moral common sense. The word "natural" does mean socially normal or socially acceptable. It refers to human nature as God created it.

Ken Trainor  

Posted: June 28th, 2014 5:08 PM

Thanks, Eric. Nice to hear a thoughtful comment for a change. Good and interesting distinction. But, of course, that's grist for a whole other column. Why do we marry at all instead of just loving one another?


Posted: June 28th, 2014 8:26 AM

(2/2) But why must we spend so much energy on the definition of marriage, instead of just loving each other (our neighbors as ourselves, as you quoted Jesus saying) and society's marginalized? That would a real victory for love. I think even the very Catholic Pope Francis would agree.


Posted: June 28th, 2014 8:26 AM

(1/2) Yes, sorry. My point: I don't agree that there is a deeper assumption that love is only possible between a man and a woman, if we really think about it. If we take as love the seeking of the other party's best interests above one's own, then of course it's possible between any people. But love & marriage are not the same thing. Love who you will, I say, and may the person you love be better because you love him/her.

Ken Trainor  

Posted: June 27th, 2014 8:05 PM

Eric, I'm coming from a Catholic background (C.S. Lewis, too, I believe). Most of Catholic theology is based on natural law, including marriage. But it's a very vague notion, just as you put it, "basic standards ... received by humans" which might be valid if we all "received" the same but we don't. Legalizing same-sex marriage means society generally now regards it as "natural." But some don't agree, like you perhaps. Are you getting around to making a point?


Posted: June 26th, 2014 6:13 PM

Ken, respectfully, I don't think such was implied. I've never heard of natural law having anything to do with marriage. Natural law, according to, e.g., CS Lewis, relates to the inherent sense all humans have about basic standards of conduct, fairness, etc., that are detailed by each individual culture. The point being, natural law doesn't have its source in human reasoning - it is something received by humans. Could you elaborate how natural law relates to either side of the argument?

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: June 25th, 2014 3:44 PM

Ken, out of curiousity, do you support polygamy? I can't see how one can support gay marriage but also be against polygamy. If society has to accept gay marriage, then logically polygamy should not be illegal either. if all that matters in marriage is consenting adults, then why is it limited to two and not three, four, or five or whatever number loving people want? What about cousins or siblings?

Ken Trainor  

Posted: June 25th, 2014 3:40 PM

Eric, I think it's implied. The (flawed) theology is based on a very subjective notion called "natural law," which states that if it isn't "natural" in God's "eyes" (as divined by humans), then it can't be "true" or "real." Pretty flimsy reasoning that society finally seems to be rejecting.


Posted: June 25th, 2014 2:44 PM

Ken: Not sure I accept your premise that there is a deeper assumption that love is only legitimate between a man and a woman. Could you elaborate/source that? (I think you may need to more specifically define "love," a word that is quite broad in English compared to, e.g., Greek).

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