Thursday, December 01, 2022

God Is Not Love

Instead, God is love on a framework of objective reality and logic.

I have to admit, I absolutely hate those homilies whose message is "God is love." It's just all so much squishiness and maudlin sentimentality. Life is inherently tragic. You can see that in the hospice process. I find myself missing my parents lately. I looked back on the photos I had of them from their last days. Ghastly, every one of them. Ghastly and real. Death happens. Tragedy happens. It's the nature of life.

"I can't believe in a God who would allow (pain, evil, sending people to hell, that ridiculous no-call on the clear pass interference penalty against the Saints in the playoffs, fill-in-the-blank-with-something-bad)." Why not? If He exists, then He made a world where some insects lay eggs inside of other animals and their larvae eat their way out when they hatch. Lions don't dispatch their prey humanely. Life has strongly tragic elements.

That's one reason why the "God is love" rubbish drives me bonkers. A marshmallow world is a fantasy and telling people it exists doesn't prepare them for reality. Additionally, in the absence of tragedy, how do you measure love? Is it love if your spouse is always attentive, kind and warm to you? Or is it love when you serve them even when they're beastly? Sign me up for the latter definition of love.

To my mind, the "God is love" trash is an act of submission to the secular world. These days, any amount of judgmentalism is too much. God is love is what you say as you lay down, presenting your tummy to the secular world, writhing around on the ground, showing them you're harmless. See? We don't judge! We're all about love and acceptance!

It's an effort to appeal to the popular culture. Who wants to be the stone drag at the party? If we're super-inclusive, people will like us! 

Good luck with that.

The "God is love" sentiment is self-negating. If God is love, then there can be no hell. How can you reconcile hell and unconditional acceptance? You can't. If there is no hell, then what's the point of Jesus? He died on the cross for our ... err ... sins. And if He hadn't? No difference. You weren't going to pay for your sins, even if such things existed. After all, God is love.

It doesn't work. If He exists, if He made a world with nasty bugs and uncaring predators and hospice care for dying parents, then He has some hard edges. He has some expectations. He told you what you needed to do to stay safe. If you choose to slam your hand in a car door, don't blame Him when it hurts. Don't say, "I can't believe in a God that would make it hurt when I closed the car door on a body part!"

That's just stupid.

When my kids were young, we made up a goofy hymn:
Our God is an angry God!
And He'll smite! Smite! Smite!
'Til the sun goes down!
Oh yes, He'll smite! Smite! Smite!
'Til the sun goes down!

No, we don't actually believe that. We do believe in a tragic reality, however.

1 comment:

tim eisele said...

You make a good point, and this leads up to what I think is a major misconception about one of the reasons why people leave the Church.

It isn't people saying, "I can't believe in a God who would allow (pain, evil, etc.)", and so they claim not to believe because it makes them feel better[1].

It is the priests saying "God is Love!!!" and the layman saying, "whoa, that can't be right", because of the very reasons that you say. At which point the layman decides that if the priest can be so clearly and obviously wrong on such a basic point, why should he believe that the priest has any special knowledge about God at all?

[1] People obviously have no problem believing in gods who are not loving. Arguably, most of the gods that people have believed in over the centuries have been at best indifferent to human welfare (although often susceptible to bribes and flattery). And at worst, they have believed in gods that were actively malevolent, and needed to be distracted or appeased. The main lesson I have taken away from the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths was that coming to the attention of the gods was almost invariably bad news, and so it was best to keep your head down and try to avoid their notice.