I have been listening to the most recent episode of the Prairie Home Companion (6 Sept 2008) where Garrison Keillor sings a gospel song that was sung by Helen Schneyer, who was ‘not a believer’ (Keillor’s words). Then he said, ‘She didn’t believe in Jesus, but she loved him.’ I’m not sure what do with with that. I don’t know what that is supposed to signify. Perhaps he was trying to explain why someone would sing gospel songs, even though that person was not a Christian.
I don’t doubt that one can admire Jesus for what he preached and for his concern for those outside on the margins (assuming that they at least believe he existed and that there is some factual information in the gospels). But why use ‘love’? Or is love used of other great leaders (e.g., Ghandi, ML King, Jr.)? I haven’t heard anyone say they ‘love’ them. Or does is it meant as one does of rock bands? Beyond the rock bands, ‘love’ affirms some type of commitment that Christianity demands (perhaps with the caveat, ‘as I have learned it’).
Faith, rather than love, is the expression more commonly used of our relationship with Jesus – at least in the New Testament. This moves beyond intellectual assent, but describes a relationship of trust, which inevitably is intertwined with love. Which leads back to my original question: how can one love and not believe? Does it mean anything?
For me, it could be a valid description of someone on the journey, but not really the desired end point (that’s a bad way of putting it). This is sometimes where I have got into debates over ‘boundaries’ and ‘belonging’ with some of my friends.