Agape: I love you, let me control you

Originally published Dec. 1, 2013 being re-published now, as a follow-up piece to the one run on Valentine’s Day


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.

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What is Love?

Originally published on Oct. 17, 2015, and cross-posted today on ExChristianScience.com. Re-published today, in honor of Valentine’s Day. 


While Buddhists focus on the Rights of the Noble Eightfold Path, Christian Scientists focus on things like “the right hand soap,” the “right Sunday School teacher” and the “right” dictionary.

Yes, the right dictionary.

You might think all dictionaries are the same, but you’d be wrong. If you’re a good Christian Scientist you spend a good deal of time “with the books” and to understand them better you spend even more time looking at words and trying to diving their deeper spiritual interpretation.

Now, I’m no expert on “which dictionary is right” but I have been involved in marathon discussions of what words “really mean” and how they “apply” to me. While this can be an interesting philosophical exercise and a fun way to spend a lunch hour, it is usually a waste of time.

I happen to have a few spare moments this morning so I decided to compare definitions with the help of a quick google search for “definition of charity.” 40,000,000 results in 0.34 seconds later I decided to pick the top five or so well-known dictionaries to compare.

Why “charity?” In 1 Corinthians 13:13 Paul reminds us of the importance of “faith, hope and —” and the greatest of these is “—.” The the translations* all agree on “faith” and “hope” but the last, and most important thing is either translated as “love” or “charity” which might seem like a little thing, but with words and their meanings being important such an alternative interpertations or inconsistency should be exhaustively studied.

Google defines charity as:

char·i·ty/ˈCHaritē/ Noun:

The voluntary giving of help, typically money, to those in need.

Help or money given in this way.

Synonyms: alms – mercy – beneficence – benevolence – philanthropy

Merriam-Webster

char·i·ty noun \ˈcher-ə-tē, ˈcha-rə-\  plural char·i·ties

: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity
a : generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also : aid given to those in need b : an institution engaged in relief of the poor c : public provision for the relief of the needy
a : a gift for public benevolent purposes b : an institution (as a hospital) founded by such a gift
4: lenient judgment of others

char·i·ty (chr-tn. pl. char·i·ties

1. Provision of help or relief to the poor; almsgiving.
2. Something given to help the needy; alms.
3. An institution, organization, or fund established to help the needy.
4. Benevolence or generosity toward others or toward humanity.
5. Indulgence or forbearance in judging others. See Synonyms at mercy.
6. often Charity Christianity The theological virtue defined as love directed first toward God but also toward oneself and one’s neighbors as objects of God’s love.

Dictionary.Reference.Com

char·i·ty  [char-i-tee]  noun, plural char·i·ties.

1.generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless: to devote one’s life to charity.
2.something given to a person or persons in need; alms: She asked for work, not charity.
3. a charitable act or work.
4. a charitable fund, foundation, or institution: He left his estate to a charity.
5. benevolent feeling, especially toward those in need or in disfavor: She looked so poor that we fed her out of charity.

Oxford Dictionaries

Definition of charity noun (plural charities)

  • 1an organization set up to provide help and raise money for those in need:the charity provides practical help for homeless people
  • [mass noun] the body of organizations viewed collectively as the object of fundraising or of donations:the proceeds of the sale will go to charity
  • 2 [mass noun] the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need:the care of the poor must not be left to private charity
  • help or money given to those in need:an unemployed teacher living on charity
  • 3 [mass noun] kindness and tolerance in judging others:she found it hard to look on her mother with much charity
  • archaic love of humankind, typically in a Christian context:faith, hope, and charity

Websters is the only dictionary that lists “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity” as a definition. Dictionary.com comes close, with “benevolent feeling” but it is predominantly aimed at “those in need or in disfavor.” Both the Oxford and Free Dictionaries list a “Christian” context/definition, but don’t seem to be able to agree on quite what that is.

This brings up the BIG QUESTION of what did Paul really mean? Are we supposed take what he says at face value and be nice to all of humanity, or give money to the poor?

This is quite a conundrum. Is there perhaps some deeper meaning? I don’t really want to associate with the poor or give money to the needy. I know! I’ll put aside those moral issues and “dig deeper” in the text. I’ll probably also decide that I like “love” more than “charity” even though Ms. Eddy used the King James translation which says “charity.”

After all, God is Love and love is also more nebulous of a concept. God will provide for the needy. What is love anyway? Does Love with a capital “L” mean something different than “love” with a lowercase “l”? Time to get out the dictionary again.

*This also brings up the debate over which translation of the Bible is the best. While the general consensus seems to be that the KJV is the “best” because that’s what Ms. Eddy used, there are some groups who think the New International Version should be used as well for the “more approachable” language (it is also what is used in most of Principia’s religion courses which require a Bible). I also had a professor at college who would the Bible in their original Hebrew and Greek when she wanted to delve in.

Kung fu fighting, Dancing queen Tribal spaceman and all that’s in between

68bfd84ec9a37a8d0502862dc4ad280eFrom elementary school through college one of my closest friends was a boy named William (1). We met through our local Christian Science Church — we both regularly attended Sunday School, and, for a time our younger sisters were Best Friends. One summer while William was visiting extended family, he had a nasty bicycle accident — head first into a brick wall. William wasn’t wearing a helmet.

I was never told the details of the accident, except that William had been taken to a hospital, and he was in a coma for a while. The lasting effects were a scar — hardly visible under a thick head of hair, and occasional seizures for which he may or may not have regularly taken medication (his father was not a Christian Scientist).

As the years passed, we never really talked about the accident, or the seizures. We were two carefree teens, we argued about politics — we were both incredibly politically conservative, we talked about movies — he was a huge Star Wars fan, we discussed school — we both had an interest in computers, we talked about travel — he desperately wanted to tour Europe and I’d already been there. We talked about the future, did we have one together? Probably not, but if no one else was interested, what about a back-up-plan at 30?

We dated for a few months, we liked each other, but never really made the “romantic” part work. We were friends, we cared deeply about each other, he was like a brother, and you don’t go around kissing your brother. He jokingly proposed marriage, I turned him down, I was fourteen, not ready for that kind of commitment.

Part way through high school William had a seizure. A friend told me he’d started shaking and had to be wheeled out on a stretcher. It seemed pretty serious.

We didn’t really talk about it. It was a chink in his armor, the armor of God, like the scaly hide of a crocodile — we learned about that in Sunday School. William carried on, to him it was just a flesh wound (2). Some other friends joined our group, we were the Grand Triumvirate, the Gruesome Threesome, until one of us had  a car we hung out at Wendy’s, the park. Later, it was the local bookstore and $1 Cinema.

Towards the end of high school William had a second seizure. His moods changed a bit, they got darker, he got a bit meaner towards several mutual friends.

William and I didn’t really talk about it. He graduated, lived at home, working and attending community college. We talked about Harry Potter instead. We discussed the new Lord of the Rings movie that had just come out. We debated the finer points of the Matrix. We went to my senior prom. He jokingly proposed marriage again, I turned him down, telling him to be careful what he wished for.

During this time I started dating “Philip,” he also happened to be one of Williams’ co-workers (it was a small suburb, there was a lot of overlap in social circles). Philip started complaining to William that I was “no fun” because I “refused to put out.” William told me about this and my relationship with Philip was short-lived. William dated a series of petite girls with curly/frizzy blond hair and similar sounding names. We didn’t date again, although he did nickname me “Kat the Great, Goddess of the Universe” and on at least one occasion worshiped me — for context this was after we’d been stopped by some well meaning Mormon Missionaries and they very quickly let us continue on our way.

A year later, I graduated high school and went on to Principia College. He turned 21 and started experimenting with the very forbidden alcohol. I wasn’t thrilled by his occasional drinking, but I saw the appeal — something that was so forbidden by our religion was now “legal” because of an arbitrary age change. I was at Principia, and only home on breaks. He started dating someone, I started dating someone, and we kept in touch, seeing each other when I was home from college — usually at church. Work kept him busy, he was climbing the ladder of success at a major grocery store chain, attending school nearly full time, and taking martial arts.

The last time I saw him, was Winter Break my sophomore year. He was transferring to the local university, he had so many ideas about what he wanted to do, and he wanted to share them with me. We made plans for Spring Break, I’d be home for two weeks with not much else going on. We exchanged a very awkward hug — our parents were watching — and promised to keep in touch.

It was a Sunday morning in February when I got the phone call from my sister, she was in tears. “William is dead.” I didn’t believe it. “He had a seizure and suffocated in his pillow. Do you have our Sunday School Teacher’s phone number? His sister wants to talk to her.” I found the phone number in question, rather incredulous that my mother didn’t have it on one of her many phone lists.

When I got off the phone with my sister, I called our mutual best friend “Marie” to share the news. Marie was in shock, she too was away at college and hadn’t seen William in months. I also called “Beth” — a friend with whom William had a falling out after his second seizure — who was the only one of us who managed to make it to the memorial service. When I got home for Spring Break the three of us wept together over our shared loss. Marie and I visited his small grave marker and left yellow roses, then went to Wendy’s and the local park where we all used to hangout.

Attending the local Christian Science church became nearly unbearable. His mother did her best to carry on as if nothing had happened, but something had, you could see it written across the faces of his younger siblings. It was open knowledge that William and I had been friends (and in a relationship, although the congregation had speculated it was more than it had been, in the end we were friends), one member of the congregation took it upon himself to “inform” me in the most casual way:  “did you hear that William passed on?” accompanied by flushing and giggling.

I met up with my then-boyfriend (3) over that Spring Break as well, as he drove around looking for places to make out he pulled up at the park William and I had often visited. I was too emotionally wrecked to make out in the same place William and I had picnicked and competed to see who could swing higher, so I dissolved into tears. My boyfriend was quite confused and asked what was wrong, out poured the story of my relationship with William, his death, how it never worked out, how he was still one of my best and closest friends.

My boyfriend then asked if William was still alive, would I leave him for William. I really should’ve seen this as a sign and dumped him on the spot, but our relationship held on for nearly a year. The following Summer Break Marie and I visited Williams’ grave again. As we were walking back to her car, it hit me, William treated me better than my boyfriend ever had, and we were friends. William never had to write memos (joking or not) to himself to be nice to me, he just was. Even after his seizures which clearly altered his moods, he was still nice to me. As soon as we got back to Marie’s house I called my boyfriend and dumped him.

I miss William and think about him often. I make sure my husband and children always wear their bike helmets. I randomly tear up when I hear Spice Girls songs, and have to watch Star Wars with a box of kleenx near by. I keep in touch with Beth. Marie and I had a nasty falling out (yes, Christian Science played a role). Williams’ mother remains “in Science” but his siblings have left.

I often wonder what would’ve been different if he hadn’t been in Christian Science, if he hadn’t died so young. He had so much potential.


  1. Names have been changed
  2. This was also a favorite T-shirt of his, he loved Monty Python
  3. This boyfriend https://kindism.org/2013/12/01/agape/
  4. http://youtu.be/9wfpXI5PKlw – Spice up your Life

Images via Facebook

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.

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