Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Peterson made some good points in response to my recent post on love. I'm quoting what he said here for the benefit of those who might not regularly check the comment sections of each post...

Here's a little equation I've been working on--

Perfect Love casts out Fear

Therefore the opposite of love is not hate, but fear.

When I espoused the beliefs that gays and other "heretics" went to hell for their sins, I did so out of fear. The God of love did not compel me to picket abortion clinics, preach hell fire and brimstone on street corners (while handing out Chick tracts) and to practically destroy myself through impossible ex-gay transformation.

What motivated me was fear--fear that if we don't eradicate evil, society will unravel and we will all go to hell in a handbasket. "Tough Love" shielded me from a world that terrified me and threatened my beliefs and challenged my hidden desires.

Tough Love does [not] save; it contains and that only for a time and at great cost.

But in spite of all the walls I set up, the weapons I hurled at family and friends, Love found me and helped me to stop the war within. "Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away."

To that I would add: whether or not fear is the opposite of love (I think there's also a case to be made for indifference/apathy), it's definitely an opposite of love.

It wasn't until I began to understand the true breadth and depth of God's unconditional love for me that I found the confidence to seriously examine the issue of homosexuality in depth. I'd read plenty of ex-gay/religious right literature on the subject, of course, but fear of God's condemnation drove me to turn a blind eye to the contradictions, inconsistencies and gaping holes that riddled those books and articles.

But God's love is far larger than the human parody of love that tempts us to drive away anyone who doesn't believe exactly as we do and behave precisely the way we think they ought to. I'm not a universalist in my theology, but at the same time I don't believe that there will be nearly as many people in hell as most Christians seem to expect (sometimes all too gleefully). If a loving human parent won't easily give up on even the most rebellious child, how much more would a loving God strive to reconcile with every one of his children (even *gasp* the gay ones)? Indeed, God often has to undo the 'work' of his church before he can reach those of his children that need him the most.

And, yes, there are those parents who react to the revelation that their child is gay with anger, words of shame, threats, ostracism and even physical violence, but ultimately it's fear - not love - that motivates them to act so horribly. Although most of these parents truly love their children, fear for their child's eternal soul drives them to push their child away just when they have an ideal opportunity to speak directly and positively into their child's life.

But if God's love is perfect and perfect love casts out fear, then fear of damnation can never be a godly motivation. And yet it's precisely that fear that corrals us toward legalism and away from a dynamic relationship with the One who loves us more than we could possibly comprehend.

1 comment:

CrackerLilo said...

I often think that people who advocate "tough love" forget about the second word.