Love Has Labels

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].
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Everett-Fritz-headshot3-840x1024Everett 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/

18 Comments

  1. Thank you! I’ve been waiting for a good Catholic response to this video and you didn’t disappoint. Great thoughts

    By Anonymous | 1 year ago Reply
  2. I think that the point of including sem sex unions in the definition of marriage does not contradict any part of the actual definition if infertile couples are included in it.

    By Brian | 1 year ago Reply
    • Thank you for your comment. I prefer not to judge a person’s desires or attractions, but rather to provide a context for understanding the purpose of marriage. I think it would be better to say that marriage is about more than the love between two people. It communicates a divine reality – imaging the love between Christ and His Church. This image is especially visible within the physical union of a man and woman – and it cannot be made visible between two people of the same sex. We lose something profound when we change the definition of “conjugal love.” We lose our understanding of the imagery of Divine Love – and this is why marriage has to be reserved for one man and one woman – because we lose a profound understanding of divine love when we say that “all love is the same.”

      By Everett | 1 year ago Reply
    • At first glance, it seems that way, but infertile couples are still capable of performing the procreative act (even if it they are unable to actually conceive) whereas same sex couples are unable to perform an act (without an outside party, in some way shape or form) which could ever result in a child. It isn’t limited just to same sex couples either…the Church doesn’t recognize marriages between heterosexuals who are physically unable to perform the procreative act.

      By Nathan | 1 year ago Reply
      • Also, though a couple may be medically infertile…there is ALWAYS the possibility that God will allow them to conceive and the fact that they are open to procreation deeply within their heart speaks mountains.
        God bless.

        By Denise | 1 year ago Reply
  3. Those are some great points, thanks for explaining it!

    By Paola | 1 year ago Reply
  4. I wondered as you did, what the big deal was. And agree with all you say. Since as a Christian I love everyone, it seemed the whole thing was redundant. I agree with all your points about the true nature of marriage. Sadly, we are once again using semantics not to call something what it is. Make up a new name people and call your relationship what it is, not marriage. This is not spoken unlovingly, just logically. Then get the law to include your new word in the laws!

    By Mary Jo | 1 year ago Reply
  5. I have a question about one thing you say: I don´t see how it´s necessary to define love, how can you justify that necessity? I think it’s a cultural necessity, not a metaphysical one. If the Ancient Greece thought that of love, it’s ok for them, but we are not in the Ancient Greece and a lot of things have changed…

    By Nicolás Díaz | 1 year ago Reply
    • What Ancient Greece did was not make up new definitions of love – they simply identified the existing types of love, which still exist today. English speakers are quick to say “I love you” to their dog, their child, their spouse, and their god/God. The Ancient Greeks used different words for each. If we used their words, our phrase “I love you” would suddenly change and become more specific. We would say (loosely) “I philia you” to our dog, “I storge you” to our child, “I eros/agape you” to our spouse, and “I agape you” to our god/God (perhaps more importantly, God would say “I agape you” to us.)

      So despite the assertion that “a lot of things have changed…” the fact of love and its various meanings remain, even in our unspecific language. You should also note that having one way to say “I love you” is not common in most languages, even Western ones. For example, in German one says “Ich habe dich Liebe” (literally “I have you love” or “I have love for you”) to one’s friends and “Ich liebe dich” (“I love you”) to a lover. I believe this is also true in Spanish and French, at the very least. Even fellow Westerners have a better grasp on the different kinds of love than English speakers.

      If you want to learn more about that actual meaning behind the Greek words (which would do you very well if you are genuinely interested in the question of what marriage is), I heartily recommend C.S. Lewis’ book “The Four Loves.” He describes each love and its application in the Western world so that we English speakers get a better grasp on the beautifully complex idea of what love is. After all, if the “Love has no labels” argument wants credibility, we MUST be on the same page when it comes to what love actually is.

      By Elizabeth | 1 year ago Reply
  6. Thank you for the informative and loving explanation.

    By Martha | 1 year ago Reply
  7. Love is transcendental, relationships are not. The trouble is most people equate love with relationships. The two are not the same. Love knows no bounds, goes beyond age, gender, race etc. But relationships have boundaries. You can love your dog. But you can’t marry your dog.

    By James | 1 year ago Reply
  8. I agree with your clear position on marriage; I just would like to send a support message about the explanation for what is currently happening in culture worldwide: we all need to know that Masons’ project, devil’s project, is to control human minds and behaviour to create a confused society, absolutely unable to live a moral and safe life as Jesus wants for us. that’s the point, but I realize that it is maybe too difficult to talk about and I trust God the Almighty to give you and us the strenght to explain to people the concept.

    By maria cristina | 1 year ago Reply
  9. A.M.D.G.
    God reward you for all you do for His greater glory and honor! +Amen.

    Excellent and informative article. Thank you for touching base on this and for using words that I too can take from here and help others to understand.

    By Denise | 1 year ago Reply
  10. According to this logic, as a 51 yo menopausal never married woman, I can forget getting married in the church…because I’m not capable of “real love”. Thanks for informing me.

    By Susan | 1 year ago Reply
    • Thank you for your comment. That’s not really what I was getting at. The body speaks a language and my argument is that we should respect what each definition of love represents. Conjugal love is a type of love which is specific to the physical and spiritual union of a man and woman. Two people of the same sex cannot fully experience conjugal love because their bodies do not have the capacity to unite fully together. Conjugal love speaks of a union and the capacity within the body to create a third person. It’s simply silly to say that conjugal love, expressed by a man and woman, can be the same if expressed by two men or two women. There is a difference, and we need to acknowledge that. Furthermore, if you are interested in Christian theology, we would say that God loves his people with a conjugal love. To lose our understanding of this particular definition and to throw the understanding of “love” as all the same and all equal,is to lose the capacity to love. Also, to speak to your original comment, there is a big difference between infertility and impotence. So, keep hope… you can still get married in the Church. 🙂

      By Everett | 1 year ago Reply
  11. I’m involved in the Catholic church, but I have a problem with it acting like it knows the only definition of marriage. Marriage existed well before Jesus and the world has never solely defined it by His terms. If in the secular world marriages are conducted for same-sex couples, why does the church have a problem with it? It’s not up to the church to define marriage for secularists.

    By Peter | 1 year ago Reply
    • My argument would be that the institution of marriage was originally created for the purpose of communicating conjugal love. Furthermore, the institution of marriage is not originally a state institution. It isn’t until the past couple of centuries that nations gave legal status to marriage. Marriage has long been a religious practice (and you are right that it pre-dates Christianity). It is foolish to think, however, that religion shouldn’t have a say in the marriage debate and its definition, since it was religion that instituted marriage in the first place.

      By Everett | 1 year ago Reply
  12. This is a half response at best. I’m glad you brought up what conjugal love isn’t, and what we believe it is, but without fruitfully expanding on the nature of what loves can and should take their place when marital love doesn’t fit. Feels like you just left it hanging. Thanks for putting this out there, though. There’s nothing wrong with getting a conversation started.

    By HN | 1 year ago Reply

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