God is Love. Full Stop.

Over the summer I've re-read two of George MacDonald's novels. I haven't read a George MacDonald novel since college when they had such a transformative effect upon me.

I know a lot of George MacDonald fans, but not many of them express my degree of enthusiasm for his novels. Most MacDonald fans love Unspoken Sermons, his fairy stories or his children's stories. There aren't very many people who adore MacDonald's novels. Admittedly, they aren't all that good. But I love them, and they had a huge impact upon me.

Why?

During High School I had reached the conviction that the deepest confession I could make about God is that God is love. Simple enough, but at that time I still lacked the courage to make that confession unconditional. I lacked the courage to confess that "God is love" full stop.

Everything I had been exposed to within Christianity pushed me to qualify the confession. "God is love, but..." God is love, but most of humanity would suffer eternal conscious torment. God is love, but God demands a blood sacrifice to be appeased. God is love, but it really is okay to kill your enemies.

Yes, God is love...but.

George MacDonald was the person who gave me the courage to drop the qualifications. God is love, full stop. No ifs, ands, or buts.

And it really does take a bit of courage to unconditionally confess that God is love. So few Christians actually believe this. The vast majority of Christians qualify any confession that God is love. God is love, but what about God's holiness, justice, violence, and wrath? Consequently, to confess God's love unconditionally makes you feel like a bit of a crazy person. That's the way I felt as a young adult when I tried to share my convictions. And it's what a lot of people feel when the share the same convictions in their own congregations. 

All this came to mind recently thinking about The Gospel of Peace and the Peace of the Gospel conference this November in Santa Fe.

What makes the conference unique is that every speaker--keynote and breakout--is dedicated to a non-violent and non-sacrificial vision of God and Christianity. I can't imagine a more important and timely subject for American Christianity given what is happening to our politics and our faith, on both the right and the left.

Many of the speakers at The Gospel of Peace and the Peace of the Gospel conference will be working from a Girardian perspective, explicating how a sacrificial vision of God is at work in the scapegoating dynamics we see on both the Right and the Left, religiously and politically. For my part, I'll be elucidating the purity psychologies at work among conservatives and progressives, and how that psychology functions to mask the scapegoating mechanisms, allowing it to keep rolling on. Emotions--fear, contempt, disgust--continue to fuel the myth of redemptive violence, how violence is okay if we, the righteous ones, use it for good, kingdom of God purposes.

If you don't know the work of Rene Girard, the conference will be a great education. But while Girard is really helpful and insightful, I think the core issue facing Christianity is very simply stated.

Is God love?

And if God is love--full stop--what does that mean for how we read the Bible, think about the atonement, eschatology, political action, social activism, and the church?

At The Gospel of Peace and the Peace of the Gospel conference I'm looking forward to being with people who have the courage George MacDonald gave me many years ago.

Christians who confess that our God is love.

Full stop.

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