Love, Black Mirror, and More -- Thomas Jay Oord View in browser


    I've been thinking about love more than usual lately.

    As a scholar of love research, the issues of love are often at the fore of mind. And with Valentine Day approaching, I have another reason to ponder love, including its various forms.

     But I've also been writing an essay for an upcoming conference on love and machines. Scott Midson at Lincoln Theological Institute of the University of Manchester is hosting this February event, and I'm among 8-10 scholars presenting research. 

Black Mirror

     To get a feel for what others think about love and machines, I've been reading widely. One subject that comes up often is sex with machines, what is called "mechanophilia." In my previous work, I've distinguished between love and sex/romance, saying that love promotes well-being. Sex/romance may or may not promote well-being, and therefore may or may not be loving.

     One provocative source in the popular culture reflection on love and machines is the TV series, Black Mirror. The underlying question explored in many episodes is whether machines, technology, or computers make our lives better. In my language, do they promote overall well-being.

     Many Black Mirror narratives begin with society or experts recommending some machine as a helpful tool. But they end with the same machine bringing heartache and ruin.

Do Machines Know Better?

     I have decided to begin my conference paper with this provocative quote from Black Mirror co-creator Charlie Brooker:

     “It looks like we're going to have to rethink our position in the world over the next four decades or so, as we begin to cede more and more control to automation and computers. We've got to work out what our purpose is. And if we've got [a machine] that thinks it knows better than us what we should be doing, maybe we should start listening to it.”

     I don't share Brooker's view that machines can know better than us what we should be doing. But I do think machines play a key role in the work to evaluate what we should be doing. Machines can help us discern the common good. Machines can help us decide what love requires.

     What I like most about Brooker's provocative post is his statement, "We've got to work out what our purpose is." I agree. As I see it, our purpose is love. And love promotes overall well-being.

Love and Well-Being      

     I define love as acting intentionally, in response to God and others, to promote overall well-being. I explain this definition in many of my publications, including my book titled, Defining Love (Brazos 2010)

     Theologians and philosophers use various synonyms for “well-being.” They speak of blessedness, flourishing, abundant life, wholeness, genuine happiness, shalom, or the good life.

     Love sometimes involves promoting good in physical, mental, social, environmental, and spiritual dimensions of life. But also it sometimes involves promoting good in romantic and sexual dimensions. To promote overall well-being is act with the greater good in mind, not just individual pleasures.

Valentine Day

     Perhaps with this view of love, we can also make sense of love on Valentine Day. Love can take the form of romance or sex, but romance and sex are loving only insofar as our intent is to promote well-being. 

     Here's to hoping you express love this February, in whatever form you choose!




My Visiting Lectures for the Next Six Months

Feb. 23-24 "Loving Machines" Conference – Manchester, United Kingdom. Scott Midson is my host. Link

Mar. 1 "The Uncontrolling Love of God" – Oxford University, England. Shaun Henson is my host.

Mar 3 "Holiness and Identity" – Amsterdam, Netherlands. My host is Erik Groeneveld.

Mar 4 "Moment by Moment Love and Holiness" – Dordrecht, Netherlands. My host and translator is Hans Deventer.

Mar 5 Love Lectures at Nazarene Theological College – Manchester, England

Mar 8 "Why a Loving God Can’t Prevent Evil: Putting Love First” – University of Leeds, England. Mark Wynn is my host.

Mar 8 "When I Pray, What is God Doing?" – Leeds, England. I’m joining Simon Hall for this event in Ceilo, York Place in the center of Leeds, UK.

Mar 10 "Photography and Spirituality" – Leeds, England. Helen Reid is my hostess for this Leeds Church Institute public event. The lecture is at 2p. Link

Mar 12 "Evil and the God of Love" – University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Sarah Ritchie is my hostess.

Mar 13 "Uncontrolling Love of God" – United Theological Seminary, Minneapolis. I’m doing a Skype lecture for Demian Wheeler’s class.

Mar 14 "Models of Providence" – University of Edinburgh, Scotland. David Grummett is my host.

Mar 15 "Love and Psychology" – Lincoln University, England. Roger Bretherton is my host.

Mar 16 "The Psychology of Love and the Problem of Evil" – Manchester, England. The British Association of Christians in Psychology  2-day event. Roger Bretherton is my host.

Mar 21 "Photography and God in Lent" – Boise, Idaho. Cathedral of the Rockies at 6pm. Jenny Willison is my hostess.

Apr 17 "The Immanence of God’s Power, the Transcendence of God’s Love" – Lyon, France

May 19 "Five Beliefs to Solve the Problem of Evil" – Nampa, Idaho. Lectures to leaders in the Presbyterian Churches of the northwest US.

Jun 4-8 "Varieties of Open and Relational Theologies" – Claremont, California. A full-week course, with classes meeting each morning at Claremont School of Theology. My hosts are Andrew Schwartz and Monica Coleman. The course can be take for undergraduate, credits, graduate credits, or no credits at all. Consider attending! Link

Jun 6 "Patio Theology" – Placentia, California

Aug 2-4 "Arguments for a Personal God – Innsbruck, Austria. In this three-day class, I’ll argue that we have good reasons to think God is personal. I’m teaching at University of Innsbruck. Link

Aug 6 "Love and a Personal God" – Innsbruck, Austria. I’m giving a paper at the Innsbruck University during this three-day analytic theology conference. Link



Free Science of Love E-Book 

February is what many call the love month, thanks to the Valentines Day celebration mid-way through. To join the celebration, I thought I'd offer a free download ebook of The Science of Love.

Just click the tab below or this Link.

I wrote The Science of Love several years ago as an introduction to what science and religion research might look like if love is central to it. The chapters are written for a broad audience.

I hope you enjoy it!


Discounted Uncontrolling Love Print Book 

Not everyone prefers e-books and e-readers. So those who want print books should know that the Uncontrolling Love book has been reduced from $24.95 to $11.95 for the love month!

Click that tab below or this Link,

This book offers 80+ essays exploring ideas in my previous book, The Uncontrolling Love of God. Writers address a wide variety of issues, and the collection of essays is outstanding. I write introductions to the book's sections.

Please consider getting a copy of Uncontrolling Love at this deeply discounted, love month price!


Love's Essential Aspects and Diverse Forms - Video
Why You Actually Believe God Must Love Us (even though you may say otherwise)
Download E-Book: The Science of Love
Uncontrolling Love Discounted to $11.95
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Thomas Jay Oord  --  @thomasjayoord  --