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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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
  4. – Spice up your Life

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Virgin, Whore, Christian Scientist


Many mainstream Christian religions teach the idea that you should be pure (a virgin) until you are married and then you should be able to preform in the bedroom – after all, if the man cheats it is your fault for not keeping him satisfied. The virgin/whore dichotomy, the Madonna/whore complex, the dutiful housewife raising children by day the sex goddess by night.

Christian Science is big on purity as well: purity of thought, purity of motive, purity of action. Avoid the appearance of evil. Don’t commit adultery – no one wants a muddy glass of water, a chewed piece of gum or a licked cupcake! Abstain from alcohol and drugs, they alter one’s perception and interfere with knowing one’s True Spiritual Identity.

In Christian Science, sensuality is something to be counteracted as well. Sensuality draws your focus on “the unreal and material,” it interferes with your relationship with God, and that in turn leaves you open to more false ideas from mortal mind, error, sickness, sin, disease and death. From a very early age little Christian Scientists are introduced to the idea that there is “no sensation in matter” and every Sunday School closes with the Scientific Statement of Being as found on p. 486 of Science and Health:

  • There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual.

This material body? It isn’t real. It is part of the Adam dream, and one day we will awake and know God and our true selves. Sensuality must be counteracted by God’s Angel messages passing to man (along with evil), because it distracts from man aspiring to his higher nature.

In Mary Baker Eddy’s view, marriage is something that that must be tolerated until the Apocalypse and hopefully that happens soon because I’m not sure how much more Ms. Eddy could take of things like propagating mortals and the “problem” of husbands. I get the impression MBE feels we would all be better off unmarried, except that it seems like she feels we are not complete on our own:

  • Union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness. The masculine mind reaches a higher tone through certain elements of the feminine, while the feminine mind gains courage and strength through masculine qualities. (S&H p. 57)

On p. 60 she continues:

  • Marriage should improve the human species, becoming a barrier against vice, a protection to woman, strength to man, and a centre for the affections.

If you’re going to have “affections” and raise children, then yes, you should be married. “Chastity is the cement of civilization and progress” and all that good stuff.

Ms. Eddy reticently accepts the notion of hetero-normative intercourse within the confines of marriage as a necessary to continue to the human race, however, she would most likely prefer if people held off on anything sexy all together. In MBE-Land, “affections” are one thing, and intercourse is quite another. On pages 19-20 of Notes on Metaphysical Obstetrics used to teach Class of 1900 (1), Ms. Eddy has a few choice things to say about the act of procreation, attempting to bring a unique “spiritual” perspective to what sounds like an unhappy bedroom situation (2).

  • We have belief of connection with nerves instead of with God. Belief of material bodies attracting material bodies untrue. Only one attraction – God.
  • No sexual desire or genital sense. It is founded on matter; no age, no climactic period and supposed change of function, no beginning or ending, no tomb, no gloom, no doom.
  • Sensuality and intercourse in belief, wiped out by reflection, as explained in Science & Health, 301 (3). The capacity to reflect the eternal intercourse. That is Love. Knowledge of this will leaven the whole lump. God’s thoughts passing to man, man’s to God, is intercourse.

In Christian Science there is no room for the unreality of sensuality (it is mortal mind/error trying to “distract” us), much less “Victoria Secret dancing” in the bedroom (or on your own), we need to be constantly listening for God’s Angel Messages, not what our unreal material bodies are saying. Sometimes our material bodies say sensuality is fun, so how do we reconcile that with what Christian Science says about them not being real and sensuality getting in the way of our relationship with God?

I’ve sat through talks where Good Christian Scientists have attempted to justify physical intimacy within a marriage, they talk about “doing it” for “the right reasons” the “natural expression of love” and “not with lustful thoughts.” As long as everyone is having fun and it is mutually consented to, does it really matter why you’re having sex within the confines of marriage? Marriage aside, if you mention the idea of physical intimacy (or recreational sex) outside a marriage, you get slammed with sensuality is evil, and adultery is wrong (4).

Ms. Eddy is quite clear on the issue of sex and dating: there is no chapter on “Dating and Relationships” either you are married or you are not. In conversations with my Christian Science friends over the years most dating debacles come down to two points:

  1. the “it feels good, but it feels wrong” / “it feels really good, but it feels like too much” / “I love you but I don’t want to do more” discussion, which is often countered the “if you love me than you’ll do such-and-such”
  2. “I love them and I want to do more but we’re not married”

No one should do more than they feel comfortable with, and no one should feel pressured or coerced into doing more than they feel comfortable with. Only you can make the decisions about whether or not you want to have sex. What you choose to do is up to you, how you feel about it is also your decision. Intimacy should be based on mutual consent, and an enthusiastic “yes” as opposed to “not saying no.” It is okay to say no, stop or I’ve had enough (even within the confines of marriage), it is also okay to say YES!! These feelings are valid on their own, and do not need to be dictated by Ms. Eddy’s über-Puritan standards.

It can be very hard to reconcile the “feels good” with the underlying misogynistic, slut-shaming conservative Christian analogies of the licked cupcake, chewed gum, and “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” Combine this with Ms. Eddy’s clear views on sensuality being evil, and that giving power to the material undermines our spiritual nature opening us up to aggressive mental suggestions – for example, a young woman’s sensuality is undoubtedly the cause of her debilitating menstrual cramps, once she re-aligns her thoughts with God things will flow smoothly.

My overly cynical take on the second problem is then get married, or visit Planned Parenthood and get some condoms, although that does not help the devout Christian Scientist in their struggle with the mind over matter. There is more to marriage than physical intimacy, and being married will NOT automatically make the sex amazing — and if you’ve got all of the CS-induced right reason, sensuality is evil, and no pleasure in matter baggage, I’ll point you in the direction of Our Bodies Ourselves.

In Christian Science there is no need for a Madonna/whore complex, the only choice is to be Madonna and if you can manage an immaculate conception (within the confines of marriage) that’s even better. To give in to anything other than Ms. Eddy’s God-ideals of purity, chastity and virginity, triumphing over evil and sensuality, until the apocalypse (at which point it all becomes moot anyway), is to set yourself up for a lifetime of self-induced misery.

  1. This link seems to be broken, I need to go back and fix it
  2. p. 17 of Notes on Metaphysical Obstetrics used to teach Class of 1900 – Ms. Eddy views husbands as “Husband, obstructing thought. Jesus healed the Samaritan woman of five husbands (five personal senses). Afterward she gave birth to a spiritual child – that is she saw herself as Jesus did, as a child of God (Luke 26:28-31, Galatians 4:27, Matthew 22:30, 24:19-38).
  3. S&H p. 301  Spirit is God, Soul; therefore Soul is not in matter. If Spirit were in matter, God would have no representative, and matter would be identical with God. The theory that soul, spirit, intelligence, inhabits matter is taught by the schools. This theory is unscientific. The universe reflects and expresses the divine substance or Mind; therefore God is seen only in the spiritual universe and spiritual man, as the sun is seen in the ray of light which goes out from it. God is revealed only in that which reflects Life, Truth, Love, — yea, which manifests God’s attributes and power, even as the human likeness thrown upon the mirror, repeats the color, form, and action of the person in front of the mirror.    Few persons comprehend what Christian Science means by the word reflection. To himself, mortal and material man seems to be substance, but his sense of substance involves error and therefore is material, temporal.    On the other hand, the immortal, spiritual man is really substantial, and reflects the eternal substance, or Spirit, which mortals hope for. He reflects the divine, which constitutes the only real and eternal entity. This reflection seems to mortal sense transcendental, because the spiritual man’s substantiality transcends mortal vision and is revealed only through divine Science.
  4. Adultery in this case seems to refer to any sort of premarital or extra-marital relationships

Further reading – links in full:

Further reading 2 – interesting commentary

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