To be a Christian is to assume that “God is love.”
But as easy as it is to say the words “God is love,” it’s even easier to think that God is a jerk. Even Christians who claim that God is all about love tend to paint quite an … let’s say “imperfect” … picture of perfect divine love.
Some Christians think that you don’t do or believe the right things, God will send you into eternal conscious torture when you die. Some Christians think that God hates us so much that He (and God is a male for these people) had to pulverize His only Son before He could play nice with humans. And as some popular atheists are quick to remind us, Christians have cited the “will of God” to justify genocide and colonialism and sexism and slavery and -and -and ….. You get the picture.
But what happens if we say that God is love and actually mean it? What might that God care about?
At the very least, a truly good God would care about our struggles. We see this connection made in the Bible over and over: God wanted the Israelites to be free from slavery in Egypt, God wanted the poor and oppressed to be sheltered by the more fortunate members of society, God wanted the homesick exiles to return to their land, God wanted to free everyone from sin, God wanted to restore all people to wholeness.
But the stories don’t stop there. African slaves in North America claimed, often through coded spirituals, that God would deliver them from their unjust chains. In the past century, South Americans struggling beneath extreme poverty and political oppression (and the Catholic priests who ministered to them) claimed that God stood against the crushing circumstances they lived in.
More recently, women across the globe have risen up to protest the way that Christian leaders have long presented God. Despite claiming that God is beyond human understanding, the dudes in control of the Church describe God almost exclusively with male imagery.
When we associate God, the object of Christian worship, exclusively with male imagery, we reinforce the tragic notion that men are more like God and should therefore reign over women. But even the Bible, immersed as it is in ancient patriarchy, frequently likens God to a woman: a mother in childbirth; a poor woman finding a lost coin; even “Sophia,” a female personification of Wisdom (AKA “the Word”).
The claim that “God is love” rings hollow if, once we get to the details of the divine, our God turns out to be a jerk. If God is really good, God must be more like a mom who stands up against anyone who demeans her kids or deprives them of what they need, regardless of their race, nation of origin, or gender. If God is not at least that good, it’s a false advertising to call Her “perfect love.”
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