I’d like to draw my discussion of the book “Out of a Far Country” by drawing attention to a single statement that Christopher makes in the final (pre-epilogue) chapter. I feel this statement deserves a great deal of attention, not only because it says something about the conservative evangelical/fundamentalist Christian approach to homosexuality, but their approach to life, the divine, and spirituality in general. As Chistopher speaks of the overwhelming sense of welcome he felt as he returned home with his parents, he offers the following phrase:
I was unworthy of my parents love…
Christopher quickly slides past that statement and goes on about the great depths of love that his parents had for him despite his alleged unworthiness. But I want to pause and really think about that statement.
Christopher felt he was unworthy of his parents love.
Because a child doesn’t deserve the love of parents simply because zie exists. It’s something that either the child must earn — presumably through proper behavior — or through the magnanimous actions of parents who decides to love zem anyway. But either way you slice it, a child is not simply worthy of a parent’s love simply because, hey, children deserve to have parents who love them.
I don’t buy that line of reasoning. Quite frankly, if a parent ever told a child, “You know what, you don’t really deserve my love because [the reason doesn’t matter], but I’m going to love you anyway because that’s just the way I am,” I would not consider that parent loving. I would consider that parent cruel. I would suspect that such a parent was being manipulative or otherwise abusive. If I were in a position to do so, I would watch that parent very closely and see how else zie treats zir child. I might even have social services on speed dial.
Here’s the thing, many Christians like Christopher don’t just think that this unworthy child with a parent who deigns to love said child anyway as a dynamic between earthly children and their earthly parents. They see this as the appropriate dynamic between themselves and their heavenly parent. They see a God who loves not because people deserve love, but sees a bunch of unworthy people and decides to love them anyway because He feels like it.
My view of such a heavenly parent is no higher than my view of a similar earthly parent. I believe that the Divine loves me because the Divine can do nothing else when the Divine looks upon me. I believe that Divine love is based in my inherent worthiness to be loved. I don’t have to earn it. I don’t have to wait for the Divine to decide to love me anyway. I deserve to be loved.
That doesn’t mean that I’m perfect. That doesn’t mean that I don’t need to improve. The Divine calls on me to do these things because the Divine loves me, not in order to make me (more) lovable.
I feel a great deal of sadness for someone who considers themselves unworthy of love. In my book, that suggests to me that zie is in a dark place. And if zie is in that dark place because zir religion tells zem that’s the zie they should be in, well, I’ll make no apologies for finding that monstrous.