This is the full version of what the Mail printed in butchered form on 9 June 2018
Before I switched on ‘Love Island’ I was ready to say it was part of our throw-away society where relationship is consumed and chucked away like the plastic choking our oceans. But what I saw were anxious, vulnerable people speaking candidly to camera about respect, not yet being ready for a passionate kiss, negotiating relationship. ‘We’re just ordinary down-to-earth people,’ said one woman. Even though the situation is artificial, the emotions they feel seem nevertheless real.
My biggest question arose when the producers threw two new girls into the arena. This made the women aggressively territorial and the men more predatory. Indicating his willingness to change partner, one of the men opined, ‘We’re on Love island, not on ****ing Loyalty Island.’
Precisely, it’s Love Island. And that forces the question what love is. Is it just putting it around? Actually, it’s a foundational word for Christianity which claims that the essence of God is love.
When I speak at weddings, usually to a slightly sceptical congregation unused to being in church, I emphasise three aspects of love: eros, that driven sexual love which the marriage service celebrates rather than says Thou shallt not; friendship, which is the quality of relationship that keeps you going through thick and thin; and a different kind of love which the Christian religion calls agape (pronounced agapay) or self-giving love. St Paul talks about it when he says, in I Corinthians 13, that love is patient, kind and not envious, boastful, arrogant or rude. It doesn’t insist on its own way. Most of all love is exemplified in the way Jesus lived his life and died his self-sacrificial death. As St John puts it, ‘Greater love has no one than this.’
Self-giving love has a lot to do with seeing things from the other person’s point of view, being inclusive, and trying to empathise – a quality I apply not only to personal relationship, but to corporate and political relationships where mutuality and inclusivity, it seems to me, is better than protectionism and fear of the other.
Despite the fact they agreed to appear in the programme, I found something sinister in the manipulation of the participants, but was encouraged by signs of moral resilience, even moral rebellion, seeping through in their self-analysis. This meaning-of-life kind of tension must be what entices the viewer as they see their own struggle with relationship reflected in this aesthetically displeasing experiment. I’d love to talk to them about their real values.