Last week I trundled across a 2002 article in, of all places, The Journal of Biblical Counseling that takes a good critical look at the evangelical blockbuster, The Five Love Languages. The article: Love speaks many languages fluently.
In sum, it argues that there is good merit to the metaphor of love language, but like too much of evangelical literature on relationality and community it assumes that with the right disciplines, therapies and understandings our marriages, relationships, families (etc) can become sites of intimate communion which fulfill our desires as human beings. And nothing could be further from the truth. This "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" is a market for self-interested, love starved individuals looking for the latest fill of the "love tank." It suggests: my desires are ok, you just need to learn how to meet them. But what about when my desires are manipulated or distorted (see especially Paul Williams on Capitalism, Social Justice and Desire)? What if the life goals, the love we crave and the way we organize our lives has gone awry? The Lenten call for penance speaks prophetically in the midst of this therapeutic celebration.
The fundamental problem is not that we are estranged from each other, but that we are estranged from God by whose estrangement all of our relationships and institutions are broken. And it is only by this kingdom renewal, in community, that we can come to know intimate relationships. The problem is not ultimately that our families do not know how we give and receive love, it is that we do not know God and that we are bitter and vengeful when we find our human relationships cannot fill the void of creations' wounds.
At Jubilee I talked about "Doing Public Life and (still) Believing Stuff." The print version is in the latest Comment. This is what I mean by rooted cosmpolitanism. This is what Henri Nouwen means when he writes that, "solitude is the very ground from which community grows" and this—I think—is what the Christ means when he tells us we can only love others, because we have been loved first.