Summary

If you’re going to name the good things a good name, well . . . it’s only fair to go whole hog on the anthropomorphism.

Mis mejores malos. 15/El reverendo Harry Powell. (La noche del cazador …

“God is love.”

Yes, I know that the phrase is biblical. The words appear in 1 John 4:8, to be precise.

I had those three words underlined in a pocket New Testament (plus Psalms) I carried everywhere as a kid. Leather cover.

I also know the rest of the verse:

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (KJV)

I also know the context. Chapter 4 of 1 John starts like this:

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (4:1–4, KJV)

Yes, God is love. Taken out of context, 1 John presents a rosy picture. Taken in context, however, a very different picture emerges. God is love, yes, but “that spirit of antichrist” is also in the world. The enemy.

God is love. Antichrist is hate. It’s a balanced picture.

When I began to question the fundamentalist Christianity of my youth, one of the first things I noticed was that the more liberal forms of Christianity had, as it were, removed the opposition. In other words, if God is love, who is hate?

The fact that liberal Christianity would do that struck me at the time as hopelessly bougie. Middle class. My (working class) social prejudice was showing. I had a big problem with what I saw as middle class isolation from the sad and unpleasant.

It seemed blatantly dismissive to me then and it continues to feel odd to me: Why ignore the unpleasant side of reality, which, after all, makes up at least 50% of what happens on our planet?

The author of 1 John is offering sound advice: God is love, so start seeing the love people . . . in order to root out the others:

“this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

To be fair, what to call the un-leash-er of evil on the planet has long troubled theologians. Somewhere around 750 BCE the author of Amos asked,

“Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6, KJV)

Predators gotta eat, after all. And floods gotta flood. Who was it made all those carnivores hungry?

If you’re going to name the good things a good name, well . . . it’s only fair to go whole hog on the anthropomorphism.

Or, join me in Humanism. Where the world is merely the world, for good and ill. Naturally.

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