Reading Time: 11 minutes

While reviewing that awful Christian marriage-advice book, If Only He Knew, I began noticing something. The more I read of it, the more I noticed that something. Then, I began noticing that same thing everywhere in the religion. Call it a sterling example of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon if you like, and to be sure it definitely was that! But it was also a sign of one of the biggest failures in Christianity itself–out of a multitude of failures. I’m talking here about the broken promise of love. It’s also the biggest broken promise Christians make. Yep, you (probably) guessed it! We’re examining “Christian love” today.

that's my pew. vacate it NOW.
(Tomas Robertson.) Not shown: the meals for poor people all this fancy stuff would have paid for. Also not shown: the snarling old lady demanding you GTFO of her pew.

(Cuz really: Why not plunge right into the big kahuna of ’em all?)

The Promise.

As an ideology, Christianity should, theoretically, be all about love.

Its source book, the Bible, contains endless, constant assurances that its god is all about love.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

Actually, much of 1 John 4 covers this simple reality for Christians. If they can’t show love or feel love, particularly toward their “brothers” in the religion, then they simply are doing Christianity wrong.

The Bible also contains copious details about what love looks like in the wild. 1 Corinthians 13 contains many of those details. After all, Christians call it “the Love Chapter” for a reason. (They often feature recitations of it in their weddings and then forget it exists.) You’ve probably heard it. Actually, make that “you definitely have” if you’ve ever been a Christian yourself:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Though Jesus himself comes out looking like a right bleedin’ git in much of the Gospels, the religion itself has stressed one thing above all: it is all about love, and a Christian whose life is not marked by Love Chapter-style demonstrations of love is Jesus-ing all wrong.

In fact, even their god embodies this quality. He himself is love, and once he fills his followers with his own essence (quit snerking; they’re serious here), then they should be overflowing with it. Love should be pouring out of their fingertips constantly. It should be the overwhelming and obvious mark and sign of their faith. Their god is love, and he inhabits them. Thus they themselves should be love.

(Okay, fine, let us commence with the snerkage! It is pretty silly-sounding, innit?)

A Monopoly on Love.

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the Unequally Yoked Club centers on this love, in fact.

Many times, while writing that series, I encountered Christians sanctimoniously declaring that once Christians deconvert, they stop understanding love or even being capable of showing love toward their still-Christian spouses. Thankfully, I see many fewer of those sorts of glibly nasty claims nowadays–a testament to how well even the most fundagelical of Christians are adjusting to their new normal of both deconversions aplenty and mixed-faith marriages.

But facts are, Christians still believe stuff like that in their heart of hearts: non-Christians aren’t actually quite human. To them, being Christian means, in effect, to possess the human capacity for love. Never accepting Christianity means, necessarily, never gaining that capacity in the first place. Rejecting once-held Christianity means losing that capacity entirely, forever.

Thus, to them at least, whatever non-Christians (or in particular ex-Christians) mean when we talk about love isn’t really the exalted, superior version of the emotion that TRUE CHRISTIANS™ may–alone out of all humans–lay claim to. Only TRUE CHRISTIANS™ really understand love, according to those TRUE CHRISTIANS™ themselves.

And they are happy to tell that imagined fact to other people, right to their faces, cuz that’s what their version of love is all about.

The Word, Redefined.

Alas, all they’ve done is radically redefine the word love to accommodate the sheer, choking nastiness they want to heap on the heads of their ideological enemies.

Recently, I revealed one-half of the origin story of this blog. The other half centers on Christians dogpiling an ex-Christian friend of mine to be as cruel toward him as they wished they could be to all ex-Christians. The crowning moment of their evildoing was telling him repeatedly that he might as well rape his wife as give her flowers, because the second he quit believing in their religion’s claims, he also instantly lost all capacity for love.

When called on their hatefulness, they insisted that they were being very loving toward him; he’d just lost the ability to appreciate TRUE CHRISTIAN LOVE™ anymore, so naturally he didn’t perceive their behavior as loving (and neither did any of the rest of us non-Christians who’d filtered into their commbox).

It was an absolutely devastating and disgusting display of cruelty and nastiness. In fact, the experience royally screwed me up for a while. I couldn’t understand how anybody, even Christians, could possibly behave like that. 

The Vow, Broken.

I guess I had this delusion going on that Christians simply didn’t realize how hateful and hurtful they were being. But in that engagement, we flat-out told them that that was the case. In response, they tried to gaslight us to make us accept their redefinition of love as the real article.

The engagement wasn’t simply wasted time, though. Very little is. As I stumbled through that experience, I gained a new determination to examine, unveil, and unmask the breathtaking hypocrisy behind that dogpiling–and a resolve that has not broken in six years solid and counting.

Furthermore, now, looking back, I appreciate the sheer irony of that hateful dogpile having occurred on a Christian’s blathering, sanctimonious, fallacy-riddled blog post about what evidence non-Christians would require in order to believe in the Christian god.

Do you see it as well?

In the Gospels, Jesus told his followers that “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

And he was right.

That’s exactly how we know who the TRUE CHRISTIANS™ are.

Only the TRUEST™ of all TRUE CHRISTIANS™ could possibly show so much hatred and yet be convinced that it’s love.

A Religion of Love That Needs Detailed Instructions About Love.

So (returning to the present day), as I was reading If Only He Knew, I got this surreal jolting feeling when I read its second chapter. Gary Smalley, the author, titled it “Where Have All the Feelings Gone?” As you might expect, it’s about how TRUE CHRISTIAN™ husbands can show their wives that they love them. It begins with Sandi telling her husband Jim that she is leaving him. Why, we’re told, her statement of intent “shocked” Jim so much that he even looked up from his ball game!

However, Gary Smalley assures us quickly that Jim won Sandi back. Jim accomplished that daunting task by learning how to show Sandi “genuine love.” Gary disingenuously asks,

Just what did Jim learn about love during a year of separation from Sandi?

And I suddenly wondered:

Why did Jim even need to LEARN how to show love to his wife?

The Facade Crumbles.

My wondering didn’t stop there, either.

Doesn’t Jim’s religion base itself on having a monopoly on true love, on being about little else but the showing of love to others, about its god magically creating lovingkindness in its followers’ hearts just through his presence there? Doesn’t a god of love possess them? Does love not pour out of Christians all the time, unending, unquenchable, tirelessly?

So why does Jim need a crash-course from a total stranger in how to show Sandi enough love to make her want to remain in their marriage?

Could it be that Christians themselves are not actually very good at all in showing the one emotion that supposedly powers and animates their entire religion? Could it be that they need checklists, long educational treatises, chastisement, admonition, and exhortation to manage to show enough love on a consistent enough basis that their spouses want to stick around?

Is it possible that Christianity itself does not place love in its followers’ hearts? That its ideology doesn’t at least teach them the grand necessity of showing love toward others? That they fail to show this love even to those they’re supposed to love the most?

And did Gary Smalley just accidentally admit all of these shortcomings in his out-loud voice?

Why yes, yes he did.

Why People Joke About “Christian Love.”

We keep joking about “Christian love” when we hear about Christians behaving in supremely nasty, hateful, cruel ways toward others.

We talk like that because “Christian love” is actually a joke. The modifier neutralizes and diminishes its object.

It’s not love. Not really.

Instead, it’s just “Christian love.”

“Christian love” functions as a pale and backwards reflection of genuine love. I can’t even call it an imitation. So little of it imitates what I’ve learned of actual, real love since I deconverted. It’s not even a play-acted reflection done by very young schoolchildren, who are so young they simply can’t understand the complex emotions and needs that go into masterworks like Romeo and Juliet or Les Mis or (dare I say, cuz really, who’s making little kids put this one on?) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

No, we’re talking more about a sort-of-halfway, surface-level, transactional understanding here, like those little kids who insist that “love” means “kissing all the time” or “when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.”

Combine that mindset with Calvinball’s post-hoc, self-serving rationalizations, and we at last glimpse the level that TRUE CHRISTIANS™ operate on.

Except in this downright Bizarro World version of love, love means telling an ex-Christian man that he might as well rape his beloved wife as give her a bouquet of roses for her birthday. Or it means telling two gay men that the lifelong love they’ve found together is totally not real love.

I doubt we’d find those assertions on many “kids say” humor pages. For that, we must hie ourselves to Christian blogs.

The Revelation.

(We’re robot-dancing back in time briefly.) Long, long ago, I got into Zen Buddhism. One day during that time, I stood in an aisle at the most-excellent Phoenix & Dragon, looking at Zen Buddhism books. The bookstore offered so many! But as I looked at them, I suddenly had this thought:

If enlightenment is truly found within myself, I really shouldn’t need to buy all these books to tell me how to find it. It’s already there. I just need to get in touch with it for myself. Nobody can tell me how to do that. Only I can do that.

And I set back the two or three books I’d been considering. Instead, I bought a pretty silver necklace set with moonstones and amethysts. Over the years since, I can safely assure you that I’ve gotten way more out of that go-to necklace than I would have from the books. At the same time, I felt, immediately, like I’d lucked into some great cosmic truth. I can mark a great settling-out in my emotions, a sort of dearly-needed centering effect, from that very day.

Christians still need to figure out that same truth about their religion:

IF their god is real, AND IF he really inhabits them, then love inhabits them already and they shouldn’t even need books and instruction manuals and video courses to show them how to display it effectively.

Required Reading: A Partial List of Books, Instruction Manuals, Sermons, and Video Courses About Love.

I am stunned routinely at how much instruction Christians require in how to show love toward others. You’d think it would come naturally. Animals and babies show love without being taught how. But apparently love represents some grand mystery for adult Christians.

YouTube video

Go ahead. Try to get through this video without happy tears coming to your eyes. I made it to the two lions.

But in Christianity, believers need:

You might note that some of these materials contradict others. Don’t worry! (The Christians producing this dreck sure don’t.) That’s another quality that represents a feature in the religion, not a bug.

And WTF! It All Fails!

Despite having access to many libraries’ worth of books about how to show and cultivate love, despite having more videos to watch on the topic than the average person has time to devote to watching them, Christians fail miserably at being loving people. The bare minimum required of them, they cannot do. The most basic command their god gave, they cannot obey.

This is exactly why Christians can’t even run a small church group without it turning into a sleaze pit of scandal, hypocrisy, drama, and backfighting. Most Christians can’t even pretend to be decent, welcoming, kind people for a single church service. They can’t put themselves into the shoes of “the least of us” without being shamed into it. Even then, any positive changes that occur will likely be temporary.

This failure explains why a little old lady I met once who’d been Christian her entire life (and the mother of a pastor!) could still be the most savage, vicious li’l racist I’d ever encountered. It also explains exactly why divorce rates climb according to exactly how fervent and culture-warrior-like a Christian couple is–and according to just how much TRUE CHRISTIANS™ dominate a local community. This failure leads to Christian-dominated communities being hellholes of privation, injustice, cruelty, violence, and dysfunction.

When Christians band together to make communes, like those poor sorry bastards still trying to enact The Benedict Option, they quickly discover how awful their ideology really is in lived reality!

Nothing about Christianity produces loving people. If a Christian isn’t naturally simply a decent, loving person already, the religion sure won’t make them so. And when a loving person leaves Christianity, then the love in them remains no matter where they land.

It’s almost as if Christianity itself has nothing whatsoever to do with love.

But Oh Christians Sure Do Have No End of Excuses.

As you can imagine, yes, the excuses flow at full force from their filthy spigot. Yet the truth remains: Christians are not, by sheer dint of their faith, more loving than non-Christians are. In fact, they seem to be far less loving, as a group, than non-Christians are.

I’ve heard all of their excuses by now, I reckon. At least, it’s been a while since a Christian found one that actually surprised me with its novelty! And I can safely reply this to all of them:

They don’t get it both ways.

Christians do not get to have a god of love who inhabits them and informs their behavior, and also not show any discernible sign of that god or his infilling–especially none of the outward signs that their source book unequivocally assures us that they should be showing.

So yes, it’s like miracles, and other forms of PROOF YES PROOF that apologists offer up about their god. If this god exists, and he meddles in this world and in the lives of his followers, then of necessity he will leave behind himself tangible, discernible signs of that existence and meddling. If we perceive no such signs, then all facts point to him not actually existing and/or meddling in things.

An Essential Disconnect.

Maybe the problem Christians have with love comes from love’s definition as caring for other people and beings. Or perhaps the essential disconnect comes from the way love takes our focus off of ourselves. Or maybe it comes from the vulnerability that love brings out in us–the same vulnerability that makes us cry at animal videos. Maybe it’s the way that love makes us want mutuality, like the way it inspires us to write checks for disaster relief.

As we’ve seen lately, Christianity itself represents a way for people to consume resources for themselves. People don’t join Christianity to offer up their own resources. Rather, they join to meet their own perceived needs. Similarly, people join Christianity because they have focused on themselves. They do not join because they focus so much on others.

When Christian leaders bait-and-switch them by insisting that they expend resources on behalf of others, or even focus too much on others rather than themselves, that’s when the biggest dramas erupt in churches.

A Coming End to Unearned Power.

What’s hilarious to me is that the more Christians bristle and handwave, and the more they reveal their essential hypocrisy, the faster they alienate potential new recruits.

Perhaps, they haven’t made that connection yet. Or else perhaps they have, but they care more about keeping things where they are more than they care about their religion surviving as a relevant–not dominant, oh no, we are so far past that point now, thus, just relevant–force in the Western world. I don’t know which option amuses me more.

One thing’s for sure. When the only strategies in their playbook consists of changing the game’s rules so that their losing becomes winning and getting mad at people who won’t let them redefine words to their sole satisfaction, things have really gotten dire.

What, you don’t think Christians are ever going to seriously examine themselves and discover that their hatred doesn’t equal love no matter how much of it they pile on, do you?

Please tell me you don’t think that.

That serious of a change might well require a real live miracle. And alas for Christians, for the last couple millennia their god’s been on the universe’s longest potty break.

NEXT UP: Another Christian failure, this one relating to their leadership decisions. Yep, we’ll be taking a look at that recent Southern Baptist report on that topic. But the failure touches almost all flavors of the religion to some extent. We’ll look at what the failure is, why it hits evangelicals more than other Christians, what it says about Christianity itself, and how Christians are reacting to the most recent exposure of that failure. See you soon!

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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