Agape: I love you, let me control you

A while back I wrote a popular post about Love, where I talked about 1 Corinthians 13:13 (faith, hope and love). As much as I dislike Paul, it didn’t stop us from having 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 read at our wedding.

  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

I agree with Paul, as a member of society (and as a parent) I try to be patient, kind, etc. because makes for more pleasant interactions with my fellow humankind. I’m going to disagree about the notion that God (as described in the Bible) is Love, I don’t care what 1 John 4:16 says, God is not Love.

Biblical God is not patient, or kind. He is envious, boastful and proud. He dishonors others, he is very self-seeking, easily angered, and keeps a record of wrongs. He does not protect, trust, or preserve. Don’t believe me? Go read the Old Testament.

Old Testament God uses the “why do you make me so mad? you make me so crazy! look what you made me do!” excuse a lot, as well as the “if you love me, you will do all of these things OR ELSE” line.

Of course in the New Testament all is supposedly “forgiven” when God either sends himself in human form, or his son (depending on which version of Christian theology you’d like to believe) to be sacrificed. The New Testament God plays the “look what I did for you, I’ve given you everything, why don’t you love me?” argument, all of which of which are fairly common staples of abusive boyfriends. The New Testament writers want you to believe this is Such a Special Thing that they use the word “agape” to describe it. I’ve already talked about my views on the God/Jesus “abba” relationship, but Bible-God and the New Testament compilers take my levels of discomfort to a new level. According to wikipedia

  • In the New Testament, [agape] refers to the covenant love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term necessarily extends to the love of one’s fellow man.[2]

Bible God’s relationship with human kind is not loving. What Bible God does is pervert love into control.  God is getting back at man for slighting or ignoring or disobeying him, because those who love god will never do those things, and thus those who do those things don’t love god and are BAD PEOPLE. God blessing or smiling on a small number of people and then holding them to strict rules that are both arbitrary and vague, with the inherent penalty of losing his blessing if they break those rules, and God points to all that he has already done in the past, and demanding love and fealty in the present in repayment. Any time love is used to control another person, it becomes abuse.

Relationships that require ritual human sacrifice (which is called for throughout the Bible) are NOT loving. Relationships in which one party is trying so hard to meet the approval of the other but constantly falling short, are NOT loving. Relationships where one party feels threatened, or trapped are NOT loving. Relationships where one partner acts excessively jealous and possessive are NOT loving. Relationships where a partner threatens to hurt you, or threaten kill you are NOT loving. Relationships where you get hurt and your partner blames you for not trying hard are NOT loving. Religion like a bad lover.

I speak from experience on this one. I dated a jealous, possessive, controlling guy while I was in college. He was not a “Christian Scientist” but he was open to hearing about it, and reading Science and Health. Medical issues were a grey zone, that I mostly tried to avoid talking about. He was socially and politically conservative, which was fine, I had been brought up in a conservative setting (with heavy, but subtle, misogynistic undertones), at the time I found his attitude acceptable.

It was long-distance, which slightly lessened the controlling effects, there was plenty of emotional manipulation to make up for it. Although I was not a “good homeschooled girl” I had still been raised with the notion that I was supposed to be a certain way.

The short version of the story is this: he was the “worldly” guy and I was the sexually sheltered naive college girl. At first he was in awe that he’d found a “real virgin” and a “good girl” and then the novelty wore off, when I laid down the ground rules: no drinking around me (and preferably no drinking to excess), no sex (of any kind – I was at Principia and didn’t want to risk my education), and my education came first. These were non-negotiable points.

The novelty wore off pretty quickly: he accused me of lying about my virginity and accused me of “practicing kissing” behind his back. He sexually molested me under the guise of “lets make out” (“it won’t hurt, it’ll be fun” – he was wrong), and then accused me of being a lesbian when I didn’t want to “take things further.” He wanted nothing more than to move me across the country to be with him so he could further isolate me from my support system (some of whom were starting to get vocal about his behavior). I had to choose: who was I going to listen to? My family and friends, or him? Mixed messages abounded.

He regularly drank to excess, pressured me for sex (knowing full well that while I was at Principia and I that I had made it quite clear that I wasn’t going to “put out” – I’d signed the Pledge, read the Code of Conduct and had every intention of abiding by it). He’d pressure for me for “more” then he’d apologize, he’d cheat, then send flowers. He loved me, but he “missed me so much he had to drink.”

In CS we are constantly told if something is wrong it is *our* perception of the situation which is at fault, which is part of the reason why I stayed in the toxic relationship so much longer than I should have. He’d blame me – I refused to move out to be with him, have sex, etc. put my studies first, so OF COURSE he was getting wasted regularly and probably cheating, it was MY FAULT, combined with me CLEARLY needing to pray about it more because it was OBVIOUSLY my lack of spiritual whatever which was causing it.

In the midst of my frustrations I turned to the Chapter on Marriage in Science and Health, because when you’re at Principia, that’s where All Good Relationship Advice comes from. It was simultaneously the most helpful and unhelpful thing I read.

Something inside me snapped. I’d been approaching this all wrong, I thought dating was to get to know someone (sort of like ye olde courting rituals), he thought it was so we could have lots of sex (and a wife, and one day, babies… not so much). Ms. Eddy talks about the masculine and feminine elements, apparently

  • These different elements conjoin naturally with each other, and their true harmony is in spiritual oneness. Both sexes should be loving, pure, tender, and strong. (S&H p. 57)

Our elements were butting heads at every opportunity. He told me he loved me, I told him I loved him. I think we were working from different definitions of Love. His idea of love was to put me on a pedestal in a golden cage, to “protect me” (from what?!), to buy me stuff that I didn’t want (or need), to move me across the country (again, not wanted). My idea of love included finishing my degree without worrying about jeopardizing all my hard work over sex (yeah, I probably should’ve picked a different school).

We were not married (this was a very liberating idea). I could walk away and cut all ties at any time.

I was in the middle of my college career and had no intentions of getting married at any point before I walked across the stage at Cox Auditorium in my cap and gown to get my BA. Ms. Eddy is quite clear through out that sensuality is frowned upon (she lumps it with evil and mortality in her definition of angels), and the only reason to have sex is to form mortals and that’s only because we have not yet transcended this experience. I was in college, a college that kicked people out for premarital sex, I didn’t want to be responsible for any mortals, and my boyfriend had made it quite clear if -more likely when knowing his controlling ideas- I got pregnant he’d support me and the child 100%. This was not how my life was going to turn out.

When I finally dumped him, he broke down sobbing and apologized that he had “ruined” me forever. Christian Science combined with the not-so-subtle conservative views on relationships that I’d been brought up with and that had been talked about in Sunday School (they were big on the committing adultery commandment – no one wants chewed gum or a licked cupcake) really fucked things up, and for a while I really *did* feel ashamed, dirty and broken. I was raised with the notion that you “don’t talk about those sorts of things” so I kept quiet for far too long (both during the relationship and after it ended).

The only people who seriously questioned me about the relationship ending were my mother and my RC. I put on a brave face and told them “the relationship was no longer good for me” and that was it. It was true, the relationship was causing me to wake up in the middle of the night, panicked, drenched in sweat, gasping for breath and terrified that someone one was smothering me. I felt trapped, controlled, and coerced. I was done.

It was not the salvation of an all-loving God (as one Principian put it “God loves me no matter what!!!”) that got me through the trying months that followed, it was my friends. It was the realization that I was free, and that the only person whose opinions mattered about what I had done were my own. My friends were glad I had gotten out of the relationship, the guy who would one day end up as my husband but we didn’t know it at the time didn’t have any issues (although he had been quite worried about my poor choice of boyfriend), the only issues I had were my own.

I ended the toxic relationship with my ex, and I have ended my toxic relationship with the God of the Bible, and the One True religion of Christian Science. I don’t need to read the book and pray better, I’m not going to radically rely on prayer, I will not feel guilt if/when a healing fails to happen, and I will not expose my children to the toxic thought patterns that are perpetuated in Christian Science.1474417_630771156965284_829835295_n

A God who truly loves people won’t send blasting and mildew, a loving god would use peaceful parenting techniques – not human sacrifice (not even just the foreskin). Yes, there would be consequences for actions, but the near-total annihilation of all humankind?  That wouldn’t even be put out there as a threat – of course God then sent the rainbow to say it’d be all better, but can you really trust someone/thing who nearly KILLED ALL LIFE ON THE PLANET?! My ex used to send flowers after he’d cheated, or seriously messed up, that didn’t make it OK, it just meant I got a lot of flowers. Earth gets lots of rainbows.

A relationship should not leave either person feeling ashamed, dirty, broken or lacking. If someone loves you they’ll do their best to build you up, not tear you down, manipulate and control. Paul’s musings on love are beautiful, however, they are not an accurate reflection of Biblical God, upon which the Big Three world religions (and their off-shoots, Christian Science included) are based.