"Love wins" – but does it always?
Are there situations when "love" might even cause people to "lose"?
Will the Supreme Court become the grand arbiter of what love is even as it became the definer of what a human life is and when it begins? As the Supremes deliberate on the nature of marriage, will they be the new Moses descending the mountain with freshly chiseled tablets of revised law to be universal in defining marriage?
Pastor-author Rob Bell and Senator Rob Portman have recently shifted their beliefs about same-sex marriage, and now support it. Both said "love" was the ultimate authority compelling their new position.
One appreciates these men seeking to frame their views in the context of biblical revelation. Neither has completely abandoned the Bible, as have some vocal proponents of same-sex marriage. Both Robs try to reconcile their new positions with biblical truth. They stand in the tradition of committed Christians across history who have sought to understand culture from the worldview of the Bible.
Much ink has been given to Bell and Portman because their positions go to the heart of the matter – authority. Is there authority that is transcendent, absolute, revealed, and propositional to which everyone must align? Or is authority immanent, relative, evolved, and negotiable?
On these questions hang civilization itself.
Frank Boykin might not have agreed with the two Robs about same-sex marriage, but the old Alabama congressman would have loved the notion that "love wins" – at least by his understanding of the term. Boykin was in Congress from 1935 to 1963, and was the stereotypical flamboyant southern Democrat. Boisterous, a lavish party-giver on his south Alabama estate, a passionate hunter, and a master of deal-making, Boykin was the caboose of a whole generation of politicians of his type.
"Everything is made for love" was Boykin's theme. He spoke it, sang it, festooned it on cards and billboards, and on the gates to his plantation-like home and thousands of acres in Washington County, Alabama.
Well, maybe not "everything."
Once I toured Boykin's estate with a group from the University of Mobile, where I was then on staff. Boykin led us to a large loft where beds were spread everywhere, a giant fraternity dorm where, it was alleged, woozy partiers could sleep it off after carousing in the big halls below. Scarlet O'Hara and Rhett Butler couldn't have thrown a better bash than Congressman Boykin.
One nasty bit of folklore about Boykin's hunting parties was that deer were sometime chained to the big pine trees covering his plantation so they would be easier for bleary-eyed shooters to kill. Maybe it was a legend. But if not, the deer on Frank Boykin's plantation would definitely not agree that "everything is made for love."
"What is this kind of 'love' that 'everything, including me, is made for?" a deer wincing under the chafe of the chain might reasonably wonder. The trapped animal would have every reason to question whether Frank Boykin was adequate authority for laying down a universal definition for "love."
The only love that can be authoritative is that given by absolute authority. The founders understood that, and declared there are rights that are absolute because they are given directly by the absolute Creator. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are "unalienable" because they come from unalienable authority, the Creator. Take away absolute authority, and defining these rights is up for grabs.
There can be no greater proof of that than Roe vs. Wade, in which the "right to life" was denied a certain class of humanity because the 1973 Supreme Court, in the spirit of the age, assumed for itself the right to decide what is human life, and what is not, just as the 1857 Supreme Court declared Dred Scott, a slave, as not having "unalienable rights" when it came to seeking justice.
"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are unalienable, but there has to be restraint on the means and methods by which these are actualized. The right to life infers the right of self-defense, but not that of killing a person who may inconvenience me. The right of liberty is unalienable, but not the liberty of one through the oppression of others (Kim Jong-Un likely has more "liberty" than anyone in North Korea). The right to pursue happiness is unalienable, but not the right to pursue a personal happiness requiring the sacrifice of others or society.
Absolute authority provides the restraint that keeps a nation from falling into the chaos of "every person doing whatever is right in his (or her) own eyes." (Judges 17:6, et al.)
It's not a coincidence that Moses brings the Law "down" from the mountain. Absolute authority is transcendent, above us and beyond us. That was the broad founding consensus in the United States. Thomas Jefferson, conflicted slaveholder, understood the nature of transcendent authority. "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever," Jefferson said, contemplating slavery.
Preambles to important documents summarize their underlying authoritative worldview. The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence provided the foundation for our essential rights, given by God. So the preamble to the Law Moses brought down from the mountain was: "I am the Lord Thy God…"
Nothing is more absolute than that.
If love's authenticity is set in the context of relationship, then the first relationship therefore must be that of loving God. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself," said Jesus.
God created us free, and thus I support the right of people to choose whatever style of relationship suits their desires, within the bounds of law. But each individual's choices must not be viewed as universal absolutes.
Neither the United States Supreme Court, nor Senator Rob Portman's love for his son, nor Rob Bell's concept of the "love that wins" is high enough up the mountain to be in transcendent authority universally above all the rest of us, for all time.