It happens every so often. You’re driving or walking along and you spy a bumper sticker, or a shirt, or a lapel pin sporting the (ostensibly) encouraging words “Jesus Loves You”. Sometimes this proclamation is prefaced by “Smile!”, or punctuated with an actual smiley face. My father in law had one of those stickers on his mini van for years. He replaced it with a “Jesus is the answer” sticker. That one was swapped out for a “Trump” sticker. That one didn’t last on account of him discovering Trump’s affinity for whores and “pussy-grabbing” braggadocio. Now I think he just sports the slightly jaded yet never truly out of style “Jesus saves”. Yes, even my father-in-law finally came to see that for all of Trump’s virtues, avoiding fleshy hedonism isn’t one of them. Of course if you think this means that he won’t be voting for the Donald again in 2020, you’ve got another thing coming. Yet before we cry hypocrite, let’s remember that the left side of the political spectrum, which declares itself the true home of feminism, has never sufficiently condemned Bill Clinton for using the power of the Presidency to secure oral sex from a White House intern. Clearly on both sides of the aisle there is a certain subjectivity we accept with respect to the moral character of our politicians. I actually think it’s rather hypocritical to call Christians hypocrites for supporting Trump. For Christians to shelve virtue in the interest of seeing their particular political aspirations realized in government doesn’t make them any more inconsistent than other constituency. Christians, like everyone else, realize that you can’t always have your morality cake and eat it, too, when it comes to the fetid witches brew that is American politics. All of us understand on some level (unless we are insane or idiotic) that government IS vice, pretty much by necessity, and this axiom isn’t lost on Christians, and rightly so.
So no, my devout orthodox Christian father-in-law sporting a Trump sticker on his mini van does not offend me. The mini van might, but not the sticker.
“Jesus loves you” is a statement I will not accept from a stranger on the street. In that context, I find such a claim fatuous, vapid, and presumptuous…at best.
First of all, how do you know Jesus loves me? You don’t even know me. I mean, the presumption and fake sentimentality is so odious and so gushing that one almost chokes on it. You don’t know anything about me. Maybe I’m lovable. But maybe I’m intolerable. Maybe I’m a miserable prick (true); a misanthrope who would push you into the Grand Canyon just to see the face you’d make as you went over. Maybe I cheat on my wife or girlfriend, or steal from work, or lie to get my way. Without knowing anything about me or the company I keep or if I even believe in God at all, you claim that I provide value to the Almighty as a function of literally nothing more than the fact that I exist, because that is ALL you actually know about me. Further, you insinuate me into a relationship that I might not want and might not have asked for, and even more egregiously you do the same thing to Christ.
I already know how you will defend your position. And I know you think it is rational and encouraging, but it is truly not these things at all, and is likely even worse than you can imagine. The fact that “Jesus loves you” is purely meaningless bromide when absent any frame of reference is the least of its problems.
You’re going to say that Jesus loves all of his children, both his loyal followers and his wandering strays alike, and that there is nothing about me, my life, my choices, or my actions that his love does not (as opposed to “cannot”…and this is very important) overlook. “Jesus LOVES you” you say. It is not that he will or would love me IF if I happened to repent of my wicked ways and embrace a new moral compass, with a commitment to his specific brand of religious ethics. It’s that it DOESN’T MATTER, you see. He loves me…now. Right now. He loves me not IF I repent of my evil and rebellious ways and embrace his version of righteous living, but IN SPITE of those evil and rebellious ways…meaning his love utterly ignores them.
Jesus might like to see me repent, in the interest of a broader morality and a desire for peace and harmony amongst humanity, as an expression of his recognition of the general value of humanity at large, but this is not the same thing as loving me, specifically, for nothing. In other words, Jesus may want the asshole to repent in order to make life for the non-assholes better. But this does not imply love for the asshole. It implies mercy on him, perhaps, from a general recognition of the worth of human life, but not love.
The context-less claim that “Jesus loves you” implies that there is no cost to love…no value which must be provided in exchange for it. Love is free; it costs one nothing at all; comes with no expectations of any kind; asks no committement to change, not even an attempt. It implies that the love of God, and thus by extension love in general, is VALUELESS; and being valueless, is IRRELEVANT. And being irrelevant, isn’t love, or anything else for that matter.
Unconditional love is unconditional precisely because it is completely meaningless. It can afford to be unconditional because there is no practical difference between being granted it and NOT being granted it. The outcome is the same. That which requires NOTHING of me does not and cannot affect me. It is categorically pointless. Christians think that love is a cause, rather than an effect. That is, once granted, it generates a character worthy of it. They never seem to realize that if it is given away for free then there is no reason for the recipient to bother altering his character in the first place. You don’t give money to someone out of the blue and then wait around for him to come back later, having conjured up something you want. Why would he? You’ve asked zero responsibility of him.
It doesn’t work that way. You find the value you want FIRST, or you ask someone to manufacture it, or retrieve it, and THEN you give them your resources. Love is not a magic potion…it is a currency that is given for something you want that the other party ALREADY POSSESSES and is a position to trade. It is not unconditional. Like any currency it is UTTERLY conditional upon the person with whom you are exchanging goods ALREADY POSSESSING or BEING ABLE TO POSSESS that which you find valuable.
Do you have any idea how evil and destructive this notion of unconditional love is? Do you not understand the implied DEATH which haunts it? To give love to those who need not earn it is a recipe for human annihilation. If it is implied that love must be given unconditionally then what is to prevent it from being DEMANDED by the selfish and violent and manipulative among us? And what is to prevent them from defining it in whatever way they choose? Unconditional love is love that is at root valueless, and thus it is in essence meaningless, which means it can be defined in whatever way the oppressor decides is most efficacious to his wicked scheme…your money, time, property, or your life. To consider it a moral imperative (because “GOD does it”) to give love to he who need not earn it is to concede that he thus has a right to demand your plenary sacrifice. Mark my words, this philosophy enslaves humanity, and underwrites the logical defense of ALL manner of carnality, calumny, oppression, exploitation, and murder.
I submit that in addition to my father-in-law and other well-meaning Christians, there is someone else who desires that the random stranger on the street know “Jesus loves him”.
8 thoughts on “Why “Jesus Loves You” Might be the Most Offensive Statement of All Time: The rational failure of unconditional love”
Oh dear, I thought I was the only one with this rant. I rarely share it because the responses are such a bore. Yes, yes, I get the illustrations given we “love” our children no matter what they do., as an example. But that’s part of the problem. People allow their horrible adult children to ruin their lives because of “unconditional love”. I have seen it. The child Who was raised with every opportunity becomes an adult addict. Now everyone in the family lives are turned upside down over this “unconditional love” that just makes the problem worse. They misunderstand “Love”.
Everything you wrote is why I think Pelagius was onto something from what little of his writings we can still get a hold of. But more importantly because of what his detractors like Augustine wrote about him.
There is a reason Jesus’ first teaching was, “metanoia” and believe. Yep, we had to change.
I agree, Lydia. And worse than addicts, the children who grow up under the auspices of “unconditional love” become narcissists. And I mean clinically.
It’s the “Jesus was a doormat” doctrine. So we must be, too. Something else that plays into this is the false teaching on forgiveness. Jesus wasn’t telling the Jews to go around slapping one another and they were obliged to forgive each time with no restitution and not even admitting they were wrong. Why would he be encouraging juice to do harm to each other? He wasn’t.
Jesus was talking to Jews who were occupied by pagan Romans and hated their guts.
I interpret the “turn the other cheek” exhortation as less of an appeal to humility and more of a recognition of the practical reality of authority-submission power structures. There is no need to consider ANY demarcation between one’s life and property and that of he who enslaves him. If you are forced to endure violence, then you might as well give both cheeks. If you are forced to give up your cloak, might as well hand over your tunic. If you are compelled to go one mile, go two. Do not allow the oppressor to entertain any notion that his tyranny is not absolute. The oppressor decieves himself and his chattel by pretending there is can beca balance between freedom and slavery.
Argo, your last point made me look up the definitions in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turning_the_other_cheek
You are exactly right. I was focused on how most Christians interpret what Jesus would be teaching Jews on how they should treat each other. He wasn’t. Everybody leaves out the context of the times.
Hi Jason, nice to hear from you again!
Yes they do, Lydia. But try telling them that just maybe a Jewish monk speaking from a cultural context 2000 years removed from our own might not mean what they instinctively think he means…you’ll be drummed out of the church.