Monday, April 26, 2010

Fear and God I: Love Equals Punishment

Katherine Mansfield
The more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your actions will be.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 
I John 4:18

Growing up, I heard this verse countless times. It was for me a measure of my holiness, although I couldn't say whether that was the interpretation preached or simply how I heard it.  Being a child tortured by fears (of the dark; of being alone, of people; of monsters, snakes, dogs, rodents; death, dying, pain, hell, God; separation, annihilation, extermination; ...), I obviously was not anything like "perfect in love".

Within the evangelical, fundamentalist paradigm of God as Judge of Sin, I had absolutely no understanding of Love.  In my world, God's love was what had condemned me.  If he didn't love me, he wouldn't care enough to punish me for the sin I had been born with. God is love. God is punishment. Punishment is fear. But fear cannot be love. A = B. A = C. C = D. But D does not equal B? Yet another place where science and mathematics are proved wrong by the Bible!

It took a baccalaureate in psychology and sociology before I realized how perverted and schizophrenic that juxtaposition of love and punishment was. (Well, that and leaving the fundagelical world where the inerrant trumps science.) I still struggle twenty-plus years later to separate love from punishment in my own head.

But at least, I finally began to value my own mystical experiences of the Divine over the interpretations of the bible I had grown up with.  When I was able to redefine both God and Love according to my divine experience rather than the bible, suddenly the inverse relationship between Love and Fear was not only understandable in theory but also in practice.  When my experience of spiritual reality and secular description of physical reality were both allowed to trump literal, inerrant biblical interpretation, all things did become possible.

I am now so past fundamentalist literal interpretation of the bible.  I wish I were over it. 

1 comment:

  1. I am reading "The Myth of a Christian Religion" by Greg Boyd with the family in the evening. We just started last night, and I thought of your post here.

    He puts it so plainly: the kingdom of God is anything that looks and acts like Jesus.

    No institution can produce that, ironically and certainly NOT even Christianity the religion.

    The kingdom of God is where the Holy Spirit reigns, and it can't be defined easily (a la John 3) but you'll know it when you experience it. =)

    Sound familiar?