March 29, 2013

The Condition of Unconditional Love

Oh so grand a thought isn't it? To love unconditionally, to hold someone dear to you because they are loved by you. We believe we can love them without condition, without restriction, and maybe, for just a moment we do. That first moment of falling in love, whether it's our baby, our first boyfriend or girlfriend, that moment when you look in someone's eyes and you see held beyond the soft lens the universe beyond in the depths of the soul.

Unfortunately, unconditional love is often placed upon our lovers, with, well conditions. Sometimes we don't intend those conditions to creep in, we hold them at bay, but as life trudges on, as it moves us spinning on our blue globe, we fall into condition. I think we don't mean to, I think deep down, because of who we are in our own dark corners we don't want conditions. We as beings are nothing if not creative. We hold in our little 3+ pounds of grey matter between our ears the possibility of imagining the endless, of knowing eternity in the stars. Yet I think we're afraid. We're afraid to delve into the depths of our own potential endless, and there, when we love, our fear wraps our hearts in its veil, and the desire to love unconditionally shrinks, pulls away and our conditional love seeps in.

Our desire to know this unconditional love, to not be afraid has allowed us to imagine the greatness of beings who are creators. We have created for ourselves gods, the divine. We imagine that these beings, in most faith traditions, and certainly in the world's mono-theistic traditions, as beings of fountains of endless love, at least we say that. The theists of these systems of believe proclaim so loudly, God loves you without condition!

But there are conditions - at least to his/her expression of divine love. In the Christian faith, the faith that I am most familiar in, certainly has applied restrictions to God's love. He loves you, but you can't know his love if you're gay, divorces, don't proclaim him, aren't baptized in water by his spirit, if you don't eat of his flesh and drink of his blood. If you don't proclaim Allah's holy name you shall not know his endless love, you shall be left out. In the Torah, if you fail to follow his holy rules you have lost God's favor, God's love abandons you. The conditions of a condition-less lover like God are without end. But why, don't we want to love without condition ourselves?

This week we heard arguments for why same sex couples should and should not be allowed to marry. The argument that it will betray the institution of marriage as a pillar of society is so weak most don't listen to that argument. After-all, nearly half of all traditional marriages end in divorce, often many people are married multiple times. The value of the pillar is weak. The argument that remains in most instances is that same sex marriage is a value not held by most Americans because it a violation of God's law - God's unconditional love does not include the inclusion of same sex, he has applied a condition there.
It's the veil of fear. It's the not knowing that makes us afraid. Remember in our history we didn't leave our own shores of Europe to explore for centuries because we were afraid - we might fall off the face of the earth, we might sail into eternity, we might get lost, we might die. Yet now, all these centuries later, we are trying to get off this rock, Earth, to explore the boundaries of our own solar system and beyond. When I was a priest I was afraid people wouldn't accept me because I was gay. When I left the priesthood and proclaimed my homosexuality, I was afraid people wouldn't love me because I'm an atheist. I have torn those veils off. I am exposed. Guess what - I'm still loved. I'm actually loved even more, better, because I have stopped allowing others conditions of love apply to me. As more and more people meet gay people in their world, the less they are afraid. Increasingly support for same sex marriage is coming from groups and parties and individuals opposed to it, but after knowing a gay person, or especially have a gay child, they realize the fear of same sex marriage is only a condition that they have applied, and that condition has restricted their own ability to see into the depths of eternity.

I've lost a few friends along the way. But those lost friends loved me with so many conditions that it wasn't love. My fear, my desire to be loved allowed me to cling to people who didn't love me for me, for my gayness, for my atheism, for my crooked smile. Hell, they didn't really love my black hair, my six foot frame, my passion for music, my love of art, my heart felt connection to the animal world of nature. They didn't love all those superficial parts of me that make me. Why? Because their condition of love, their restriction to accept my love, my life, my heart's beckoning to laugh, cry and love with another man veiled them, restricted them, and that conditional love wasn't love at all.

If we allow ourselves to start to unconditionally love we actually might find something that will surprise us. We might find ourselves on that other shore. We might discover our beauty in the stars. We might know unconditional love in return. The human folly of creating gods who restrict how or why we are loved is in my mind the greatest evil mankind has committed against himself and against humanity. The folly of theologically applying our fear to a notion of divinity is dangerous, it not only restricts humanity's own true self, it restricts our ability to grow. This conditional love of god created by theology has put shackles on mankind's discovery of the depths of the universe. In my limited, short, and small world of love, in my limited, short and marvelous discovery of surrounding myself with people who love me unconditionally, I have see beyond the limits of the universe and have touched the stars.

I would challenge you to challenge your own notions of conditional love. Now I am speaking of love that is held between adults who are consenting. I am speaking of that thrill, that moment when you first fall in love with your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, and there in that moment of love that is unconditional we can rest. We have all of us, known true love. Love of a parent, love of a spouse, love of a pet, love of the sun on our faces. We each have our passion, that thing that drives us, inspires us, sets us free. Why don't we pursue those moments more? Because we are afraid. We fear that the social and theological applications of conditional love will fall away and we won't be loved any more. But the conditions of love that are applied there, well they aren't love.

I have rejected theology and the divine for lots of reasons, but not least among them is the idea that the universal being who set into motion our existence created us to not be allowed to love. That's right, in most theological systems I'm told I cannot love because I am gay. Most theology's - if not in their sacred texts but at least in their practices and dogmas - tell their faithful that my love is an abomination. In their doctrine my love is less than, not equal to, not allowed. These faithful proclaim that a divine lover, God, is unconditional, except when it comes to my love, then there are conditions. I can be gay, I just can't love. I have a solution to dealing with these faithful in my everyday life who apply restrictions, I exclude them. Now we live all together in this very small box called earth, and we've not yet figured a way off the rock. So I want to work with my brothers and sisters that I share the planet with who want to apply conditions to my love. My solution, don't be afraid. Take away your veil of fear. I don't want those theologically driven individuals to stop being theological. I don't want them to stop loving their god, even though I believe that god isn't real. In fact, I want them to pursue in their life's journey that knowledge of god, maybe it will lead them to discover something marvelous in themselves that is beautiful, that will set them free from fear. But I ask them, don't apply your conditional love to my life, to my heart, to my love. Your theology is yours, not mine, and it's not Just in the sense of justice; it is a wrong for you to expect me to follow your path. It's like asking me to wear a size 7 shoe, I wear 10s - your shoes don't fit.

Love is grand. I'm still trying to figure out loving more fully, more unconditionally. Sometimes in the dark of the human experience I am afraid. But I dip my toe in that darkness and suddenly the dark isn't so dark anymore, in fact it's illuminated by discovery. I don't need everyone to love me. I don't need everyone to like me. I do expect though my human brothers and sisters to allow me to love. I expect them to allow me to express my love in a fashion in society that holds the same legal rights as the majority. I expect to be able to kiss my husband in public and not fear for my life. I expect to be allowed to hold his hand in the park and encounter only smiles, not venomous insults or slings. I expect to be able to visit my husband in the hospital when he's ill. I expect to be able to say goodbye to him when he passes away. Right now none of those things are allowed because society has placed its conditions for love illegally against us. I don't have the legal right to any of those things because society says my love is restricted.


Lift your veil of fear. Let us love, let us laugh, sing, cry, be born, raise a family and finally let us die together. It's our right. It's your obligation as a human to know that love doesn't really have a condition, it is in its very nature unconditional. Take a minute, remember that thrill, that moment you first fell in love. Do you remember the first kiss, the first dance, the first moment of intimacy? Do you remember the first steps of your child, his graduation, his marriage? Do remember when you had to say goodbye to a lover? Do you remember when someone you loved died? Will you have the courage to let me fall in love, have a first kiss, a first dance, a moment of intimacy, see the first steps of my child, his graduation, his marriage? Will let me say goodbye to my lover? Will you let me remember them when they die? Please, lift your conditions on my love. I lift them for you.

Had I known love was so sweet
I would have sought it long ago.
Having tasted it upon my lips,
There it is I want to go.
Yet now in its parting
Love so fair,
I would never have allowed my heart
to pursue it there.

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