(Content Note for talk of hell, spiritual abuse, etc.)
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plants and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” ~ I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in god, and God lives in them…Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he first loved us.” ~ I John 4:16, 18-19
Growing up, fear and love were inseparable concepts. Because my parents “loved me,” they would punish me and my siblings physically instilling fear anytime I remotely thought I might be doing something wrong.
Because God “loved me,” and didn’t want me to die and go to hell, God supposedly killed his son, Jesus on a Roman cross because of my sins. Unsure what “sins” a 6 year old can commit exactly other than maybe being a kid and not always listening well to my parents, but I do know I believed all of that. And “got saved” at that age–which is fundamentalist/evangelical speak for I confessed my sins to God and “accepted” that Jesus died to take the punishment for my sins.
Love and fear might as well have been the same thing. And all the other kids I grew up with most certainly didn’t want to go to hell either. To the point that we were told we had to evangelize our classmates in elementary school so they wouldn’t go to hell.
Love also included never questioning anything the adults or pastor said and inevitably meant never questioning anything. Which is pretty damn hard for an inquisitive kid. As it turns out, the reason I often don’t ask questions today is because I’m afraid. I am afraid that asking questions will mean getting into trouble with authority figures, or friends, or even sometimes my partner. As it turns out, I’m also afraid to ask for what I want or need. Better to sit in silence and never speak out than to suffer consequences.
It turns out that’s how cults work but not how the real world is supposed to work.
“Such love has no fear,” the Apostle John wrote of God’s love. And yet my mother sends me emails often about how much God loves me while also implying I should forgive my abusive father. The word forgive here meaning still interact with regardless of past abuses.
“Such love has no fear…” Love and fear do not coexist. Where love truly is…fear cannot come. Fear is not welcome here. And love is not manipulative. It is not saying “I love you” a hundred times over like a faucet dripping constantly. It is not shouting “I LOVE YOU” while disregarding boundaries. It is not bible verses sent with an ulterior motive. It is not telling your gay kid they need to repent because they’re embarrassing you in front of your church friends. It is NOT gossiping about people’s “lifestyles” behind their backs.
“Such love has no fear…” Love and fear do not coexist. To be truly loved is to be safe and cared for and accepted as you are.
Love is not a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. You’re just making a racket and giving everyone a headache.
If you speak of a God of love, justice, and compassion, a God who saves. And then you tell me that God’s love, justice, and compassion are conditional for someone like me, you are a noisy gong and clanging cymbal. If you say you love LGBTQ folks and are “concerned for our souls and eternal destiny” but aren’t concerned that we’re being murdered and committing suicide because of your beliefs…YOU ARE A NOISY GONG AND A CLANGING CYMBAL.
And while I’m at it, and still pissed off at The Gospel Coalition and the “religious liberty task force”:
You speak of morality and religious liberty. You speak of ethics. What is unethical and immoral is denying part of who people are. Denying them access to healthcare, public restrooms, jobs.
My identity is in Christ… as an LGBTQ individual created in the image of a God who not only created human beings as male and female, straight and cisgender but ALSO everywhere in between. Intersex, non binary, bisexual, gay.
Let me put it this way:
The universe is vast and wonderfully beautiful and complex. It is beyond binaries that we have created to understand it and the humans that exist in it. Human beings exist outside of predetermined categories. God created us to express our differences including sexuality and gender identity. How else could you get a world that not only has millions of ice cream flavors, billions of stars, and queer people.
Broaden your horizons, dear ones, because your god seems small and full of contradictions if you think everything is binary. We don’t even know half of what’s in the ocean. A God that can exist outside of the gender binary is not bound by narrow hermeneutics.
That is a God of Ethiopian eunuchs and Apostle Paul
Of Mary Magdalene and Simon Peter
Of the woman at the well and Nicodemus
That is a God who walked 33 years in our shoes and loves all of us as we are.
“Such love has no fear…”