There’s a campaign that has gone viral on YouTube recently called, “Love Has No Labels.” Chances are you have seen the video (at least 45 million have). The campaign attempts to encourage people to overcome their prejudices and to accept people for who they are because, “love is love.” I think most of us can agree that we want more love in the world and it is true, as the video asserts, that love has no gender, no age, no religion, no race, and no disability.
Last week, I saw this video shared all over my social media pages—with some people even stating how emotional they became from watching the video.
I watched it, and I don’t understand what the big deal is.
The overall message of overcoming prejudice and bias in favor of love is a positive message. But there’s a significant problem with the campaign—it doesn’t define love.
Ancient Greece understood that there are many different kinds of love. The Greeks distinguished between four different kinds of love: eros, philia, storge, and agape love. The highest form of love was agape—which means self-sacrificing love. Then, even within the definition of Agape, there are different forms, one of which is conjugal love—when two people become one. Conjugal love is marital love.
I usually try to stay out of the marriage debate. Too often, dialogue around the topic of marriage deteriorates into one big fight pitting Christianity against those who favor same-sex marriage and when the conversation deteriorates, both sides of the debate become guilty of losing sight of the dignity of the person that they are dialoguing with.
But is very important that when we speak of love, we understand that not all love is the same. We have to define it. And, if we are speaking of conjugal love (marriage) it certainly has labels. For example:
- We can all agree that a 60-year-old man should not marry and be romantic with a 10-year-old girl. This means conjugal love has a “label” when it comes to one’s age.
- We can all agree that a person can love their siblings, but they should not marry their brother or sister. This means, conjugal love has “label” when it comes to one’s family.
- We can hopefully all agree that a person can only be married to one person at a time. Therefore, conjugal love has “label” when it comes to the number of spouses.
If someone wishes to marrying several people at once, or to marry a sibling or someone who you consider be too young to marry, it does not mean that you “hate” this person. It just means you believe marriage to be something, and their idea of a marriage contradicts it.
So, does conjugal love have a “label” when it comes to one’s gender? Two people of the same sex can certainly love one another—even experiencing Agape. In other words, they can will the good of the other and make sacrifices for him or her, and this is something that no one has a right to take away from them.
However, in order to determine if conjugal love has a label when it comes to gender, we need to define conjugal love. It is a freely chosen, lifelong, and faithful union of two people into one, ordered towards the giving of life. When a husband and wife become one flesh, their act is designed to create a third person. They physically experience a communion of persons—just as God is a communion of persons, of life-giving love. It is because of this reality, that St. Paul refers to marriage as a great Mystery, reflecting Christ’s love for the Church.
Some people wonder: “If one of the essential parts of marriage is that it needs to be ordered towards procreation, why does the Church allow infertile couples to marry? Isn’t it hypocritical to deny marriage to same sex couples because they can’t conceive?” Click this article and this video for explanations as to why this is not a contradiction.
Spreading a message of love is admirable. But the “Love has No Labels,” campaign misses the mark and continues to murky the waters when it comes to understanding conjugal love. The more people misunderstand love and marriage, the more we will see a movement in the world to re-define marriage. We are already seeing a movement toward “polyamorous” unions—where the word “throuples” is becoming accepted. It won’t be long until we see all sorts of variations of marriage. When we lose an understanding of conjugal love, we lose the ability to practice it and our entire civilization suffers without it. Love has labels, and we should respect that some labels have the power to teach the world about love.
[For a non-religious explanation of the definition of marriage, click here].
Everett Fritz works in Catholic Youth Ministry and enjoys speaking on the topics of chastity, discipleship, and youth evangelization. He is the Content Development and Promotion Lead for YDisciple at the Augustine Institute where he also holds an MA in Theology. Everett resides in Denver with his wife Katrina and their three children. You can connect with him through Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catholiceverettfritz or Twitter: @everettfritz and http://everettfritz.com/