Saturday, February 16, 2013

What's Wrong with this World is the Idea that God Loves Everybody?

Westboro Baptist Church spokes-hater Steven Drain says "that mainline Christianity is chiefly to blame for legitimizing" same-sex marriage in part by "erroneously preaching that God loves everybody."

I think he might be right, except for the "erroneously" part.  Christianity, like the Judaism from which it sprang, has had two streams.  One stream says God is primarily holy or sovereign or some other such characteristic that separates God from humanity.  God loves only the particular group that is likewise pure, whether said purity is moral, doctrinal, or simply by God's elective fiat.

The other stream says that God's primary characteristic is love.  God loves everyone and exemplifies that love via the particularities of the Jewish and Christian peoples.

These two streams have been in conversation with one another and indeed have struggled against one another.  I believe that Jesus took sides in this conflict and chose love.  He didn't say the most important commandments in his tradition had anything to do with staying pure or believing the right things but simply loving God and loving one's neighbor.

If God expects me to love my neighbor, as The Christian Left reminds us, it means to love my homeless neighbor, my Muslim neighbor, my black neighbor, my gay neighbor, my immigrant neighbor, my Jewish neighbor, my Christian neighbor, my atheist neighbor, my disabled neighbor, and my addicted neighbor.  If I am to love all these neighbors, surely God loves them more.  And that makes all the difference in the world in how we treat each other.

WBC says we love our neighbors by telling them God hates them.  I think we love our neighbors in part by telling them God loves them and by treating them as I would want to be treated myself.


Anonymous said...

It seems like you and Mr. Drain are both falling into the same mode of thought. God is either holy or loving. Isn't it possible that God is holy and also loving? God calls us to holiness while also loving us all along the way toward the goal.

David Miller said...

Hi, John,

Thanks for commenting.

I absolutely believe in holiness. I certainly don't mean to say that holiness and love exclude one another.

I think when holiness is understood apart from love, it is exclusive and leans toward hatred, such as that of the Westboro Baptist Church, to which I was writing in response.

I am a United Methodist clergyperson, and holiness is an essential part of our tradition. Holiness, though, in the Methodist tradition, means becoming perfected in love. That leaves no room for hatred whatsoever. I see that you are from the same tradition and surely know what I mean.

Holiness is defined by love, not the other way around. Love isn't defined by God's holiness. Our holiness is defined by God's love.

I'm not saying God is not holy or sovereign. I'm saying that when we prioritize that above God's love, we are not following the way of Christ.