For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
My mother was one of the most devout and well-versed Christians I’ve ever known. Every page of her Bible was marked with underlined verses and praises of glory, e.g. “Amen!” or “Hallelujah!” Probably her favorite chapter and verse was John 3:16. She repeated it to me over and over as a child, to the point that it was nearly inscribed on my heart. Even after I came to disbelieve, my sentiments were shared with her in this personal email:
…during my childhood, I was instilled with a belief system by which to interpret the world: Christianity. The Bible. We’d stay up until the wee hours of the night, and you’d read to me from an illustrated Children’s Bible. Yes, I still remember that and cherish those memories always.
And, indeed, I still cherish those memories.
I shared the scene above from the film Angels & Demons, because that part of the movie always moves me to tears. I love its inherent symbolism–the Camerlengo chooses to sacrifice himself for the sake of everyone in St. Peter’s Square, a sign of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Despite my nonbelief, I think there is something to be said for the New Testament’s message of self-sacrificial love. Prominent figures among the New Atheist movement such as Christopher Hitchens denounce it, but I see no reason to follow suit. I very much appreciate the value of that message, and it needn’t be denied by the secular world. It is beautiful and profound, regardless of one’s personal beliefs.
My mother passed away five years ago in a car accident in Alabama. My older brother, sister-in-law, and niece thankfully survived. It can never be known with certainty, but there is speculation that she removed her seat belt in those final moments in order to protect my precious niece, Gracie–only two years old at the time. And, if so, my mother so loved Gracie that she gave herself for her one and only grandchild, that she should not perish but have ongoing life. She transcended the title, Christian; she was absolutely Christlike.
I will always cherish her memory. And the message of self-sacrificial love.