Love in Christianity

I am not Christian. I read the Bible (typically the Revised Standard Edition, although I often compare with other translations) as an exercise in understanding the perspective and motivations of the most common religion in my culture, and there are some parts of it I genuinely enjoy. Whether I like reading it or not, however, it is inevitable that I will hear it quoted at me.

So sometimes I quote it back.

To build an extended case here in favor of Biblical approval of same-sex marriage, I submit the following.

1 John 4:7-21 establishes the premise that God is love, that loving is equivalent to godliness and that disdaining love is the very opposite. Point in fact, it states that anyone who claims to know God while disdaining love is a liar.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 explains the nature of love, which I quote here for emphasis: patience, kindness, never jealous or boastful, nor arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong, only right. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things — and it is everlasting, whereas everything else, even scripture, is doomed to decay. Notice some of these qualifiers: it does not insist on its own way, it endures all things, believes all things, bears all things. If God is love incarnate, then how can these not apply to God as well?

The word “rejoice” invokes Romans 12:9-21, specifically verse 15 where it says to rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. This calls back to Mark 12:31 and Matthew 22:39 which invoke the law we have collectively come to term the Golden Rule.

Jesus commands love for each other in John 13:34-35 and states that the love of his followers will make them recognizable to others, evoking Matthew 7:15-20‘s “knowing them by their fruits” and then describing that the bad fruit is indeed evil. This love is commanded to be universal as both Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 10:25-37 assure us.

All the law is summarized in Romans 13:8-10, and it is summarized as “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and further clarified, “Love does no harm to a neighbor.” If you should happen to be a person who thumps the Bible and invokes Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 and say you do this out of love, and your neighbor tells you that your love is causing harm, then it cannot be love — and with that bookend, those who do not love, do not know God.

As for the nature of sin, Paul described it in Romans 14:13-23 as, to invoke Martin Luther King Jr., an inescapable network of mutuality. Those who love without reservation are closest to God regardless of their orientation, and if the sight of those lovers brings you such a crisis of faith… well, I won’t quote any of the three passages regarding what Jesus would rather you do to your eyes than stumble. We can be quiet in our love, but if you demand that our love cease or be hidden away so as to make us quieter still, then the time has come to lose the part of yourself that is so intent on violating the law.

In this case, I recommend it be the part of your faith that has demanded you invoke the final item in Proverbs 6:16-19, but ultimately, it rests with you.

Originally published in Kimberly Knight’s blog, Coming Out Christian, with slight modifications.


Eulogy for Fred Phelps

We have learned today via his son, Nate Phelps, that Fred Phelps is in hospice and is expected to pass soon. His family, keeping to their hatred, have prevented any family member who spurned the Westboro Baptist Church’s hateful theology from saying their goodbyes.

I am not one who usually turns to the Bible for comfort, but a verse comes to mind which I wish to share.

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

In the face of such a petty evil as one who knew only contempt for others and preyed upon them in their weakest moments, a call to love Fred Phelps would seem ridiculous. I do not ask for passion. Indeed, I am unable to summon any such thing. I wish I could offer something to ease the many justifiable feelings of those who think of this man and his legacy, but the imminence of his passing leaves me with a hollow feeling and little else. I am not angry or glad, I am tired. I hope that regardless where he goes, a lesson will be learned that this is our eventual fate, each of us, and if love is forgotten more quickly when those who have felt it pass beyond remembrance, we need only remember that hatred endures but is never praised. Better to fade into the long night than to be remembered, nor for our character, but for horrible deeds and incalculable harm.

And so I ask this instead: Do no harm. If we cannot feel joy for his life, then seek no joy in his death. That is love enough. It is perhaps a vain hope, an unfair hope, but hope is what I have.

I hope Fred Phelps steps upon the plains of Paradise and finds himself alone save for those who can educate him. I hope he learns the error of his ways, not as a punitive device, but so that he will know well and truly why his name will live on solely in infamy. I hope that he swiftly learns to regret that, not by ceaseless torture, but by the dawning of newly discovered empathy in his heart. Whether he returns to Earth in some form of reincarnation or remains in Paradise to join others as his enlightenment allows, I hope he turns his efforts to the antithesis of the life he lived on Earth and becomes a blessing upon whatever world in which he lives.

In short, I hope the same thing for Fred Phelps as I do for all evil people – to become good, to reverse course and seek amends, and I hope–have chosen to believe–there is never a point when this is impossible.