Friday, February 14, 2014
Valentine’s day: Let’s make love, not war
“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2)
Valentine’s day puts us again in the love seat with couples professing love to one another, marriage vows being remembered, and cards and gifts being exchanged. In all the sound and clamour there are those who oppose this as not being part of Indian culture and that which is a marketing gimmick for commercial gain. Accept it or not, but you can’t ignore it.
What then can the church say about such a celebration which knows no bounds and has no limits? The story of the priest Valentine is inspiring. He goes against the edict of the emperor and marries off couples who are in love and want to spend the rest of their life together. After his prayer for a blind woman gives her sight he writes to her before he dies and signs off as ‘Your Valentine.’ The mythical nature of the story not with standing does it have a theological and church based insight that one cannot ignore?
What is wrong if we remind people of love in a country where we are taught to express our manliness and serve as heroes to people? Two mainline political parties are trying to make the coming elections as a fight between Iron Man and Spider Man. The first says that “You can take away my suits, you can take away my home, but there's one thing you can never take away from me: I am Iron Man” and the second says “With great power comes great responsibility.” There is a concerted effort to suggest that the problems in this country can only be solved by a man or one man, as both parties would have us believe. And both men in the frontline don’t openly have a woman in their life. They form the antithesis of the message of Valentine. They have both forgone having a partner to fight a great battle for the country.
But is this what the country stands for? Are we war mongers who have to fight macho battles on the war field to safe guard the interests of the nation? Or do we have to bring about a complete turn around in our thought process to understand that without love we are nothing. This is the love which should make us understand that “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Isn’t this the message which can come out loud and clear during celebrations like Valentine’s Day where everyone is reminded that this is not a one way ticket to maximum enjoyment and fun but a ticket to commitment, acceptance, belief and hope? Can’t this be a slogan for the country to think about rather than fundamentalist battle cries asking for the ban of any celebration which remotely talks about love? Shouldn’t this be a point of discussion in a society where violence instead of love is propagated through various forms?
The let’s make love can be misinterpreted as talking about sex which again is seen as taboo in Indian culture. Far from it, we do not need to see sex as the fundamental aspect of a relationship. This skewed notion has also lead to violence inside the house in the effort by the man to show that his sexual prowess is the mark of his relationship with his wife or partner. So making love can be given a much more mundane and grounded meaning of making and spreading love all over. In a society which thrives and lives on conflict and violence this love making could bring about a good healing process.
I understand that elders are concerned about whether couples really love each other and whether this celebration is being stretched too far. There may be instances of this. But by and large this may not be the case. It could be that many couples are trying their best to come to terms with what real love means for them. The simple exchange of a rose and the sending of a card or a gift could also be a way of saying that let love be the basis on which we do things.
The church can make use of such a celebration to ask couples to commit themselves to each other. It can be an opportunity of saying that love is patient and kind and not envious and boastful. Relationships which are being ruled by violence both domestic and other can be questioned and such relationships can be shown the path of love. Love can also be a pastoral tool in the hands of the priest. This is a tool of love which looks at the flock in church and society as those in relationship with the church. It is an understanding that the relationship of the priest with his immediate and extended congregation can only be on the basis of the love of Christ which is sacrificial, patient and kind. Such a relationship will bring about a platform for people to be in relationship with Christ just as they are with each other. Love therefore is not a taboo and a word which should be used in hushed tones. It is rather the foundation of the church and all religious institutions. Let this spirit of love bring us together.
(Picture courtesy mdevega.blogspot.com)