I came across another Belief It or Not video about Christian love. I could only make it through the first few minutes of it. The video contained a bunch of views on what Christian love was and what it was supposed to be like. Such messages are still familiar to me, though I haven’t been around them in a while. They brought back all the confusion and mutually exclusive ideas I was taught, as well as the recognition that I still have problems wrapping my mind around it.
Take unconditional love, for example.
I got told a lot what unconditional love was supposed to be. It was supposed to be selfless and self-evident. The most common example? Jesus dying on a Roman torture device a couple thousand years before I was born.
Except, it never was without terms and conditions. To benefit from this payment in advance, I had to love Jesus back. I had to let the holy spirit change me. I had to live according to the code commanded in the Protestant Bible.
I can understand now why I felt confused. If the love was without condition, why was there anything I had to do to benefit from it? For the longest time, I convinced myself there was some sort of thing I had to be missing. Accepting this demigod as a savior wasn’t really a condition; it was the least thing I could do.
Mental gymnastics don’t end there.
Ask different Christians what love means, and there will be different answers. Some couch it in terms of divine forbearance or in showing love through one’s actions. Loving someone can mean being compassionate, or it can mean giving people ultimatums for their sin. When a person gets confused, that person is supposed to go find an answer in a holy book.
However, this doesn’t end the conflict. It passes the buck of meeting and agreeing on what certain basic definitions are. What this does is leave people inside the faith without any ability to decide once and for all what anything means.
This makes it hard to have conversations about these ideas. There’s no end to people telling me I’m wrong about faith, but there’s no beginning to an actual yardstick to measure the world by. How is anyone to undo the damage of their faith if they can’t find the bedrock it rests upon?
Thinking about this is fatiguing.