Understanding Radical Love


Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM), works with higher education institutions that trains future clergy and researchers interested in the intersections of religion, gender, race, disability and sexuality. The following post is written by Sarah Lane*, a master’s in theology student in Gender, Health and Religion at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. In this season of Passover Sarah, a person of non-faith, reflects on participating in faith spaces and the idea of “radical love”.

My understanding of radical love as a part of the Christian tradition leans more toward the ‘magical mystery tour’ than the ‘pure and life affirming enlightenment’ type that you hear devout Christians attesting to. I married into the Catholic church and regularly endure the awkward ritual of sitting alone in my pew or of standing nearby and having a ‘blessing’ laid on me in lieu of partaking of the Eucharist – because I am not a “proper” Catholic. This is serious business – a family friend went so far as to abandon his church, where he was a long standing and senior member, following a prolonged disagreement about his (as yet unconfirmed) children being allowed to participate in the Eucharist on a Sunday.

The ‘radical’ aspect of this love seems to be radical in the same way the sun has free radical rays – you hear about it but you can’t see or feel it. A comparison has been drawn between the Queer movement and God’s radical love based on the principle of openness and broad acceptance. It’s safe to say that that concept did not resonate with me, however you looked at it.

A workshop session with IAM and a cohort of Masters students recently enabled me to understand the full meaning of radical love and its embodied manifestation. The premise of our discussion was the Eucharist and baptism as embodied examples of radical love. I was skeptical.

Four of us discussed and workshopped the idea. Two of the four are currently involved in full time ministry and I challenged them to help me understand this oxymoron of “nonsense” we’d been given. As it turns out it’s not complicated, and the ministers outdid themselves – I got it in one go

Radical love and its friends unconditional grace, love and acceptance are the lived expression of radical love because everybody – and importantly – ANYBODY – can take part in both baptism and the eucharist – unconditionally. Confirmed or not, transgender or not, disabled or not. Baptism is an ‘open ended invitation to the church’ and the eucharist is ‘your business with God.’ A private, intimate moment just for you and your God. It’s unconditional acceptance and communion with your personal God who you know and you feel walks with you, open to you at any stage of your life.

The parallels and with queer love fall into place – you get to be you, without the church policing your right to be baptised or your qualifications to participate in the Eucharist. Choosing to be there and be a part of the ceremony is both your right and qualification. For want of a better word – bearing in mind that this wasn’t the outcome I’d anticipated or hoped for – the concept of ‘radical love’ suddenly seemed to be a real possibility. You get to be you, and it’s not our job to police or judge whoever that is.

*pseudonym