Long ago God formed a River of Love. It flowed from the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ, and ran with the clear water of life, a water so powerful that when it washed against those who bathed in it, it turned their rebellion and enmity against heaven into a love that reflected God’s own, and poured out from them to share the good news of forgiveness and healing to other people. As for those who drank of that water, they were enabled to live forever in the very presence of God.
Over the centuries the river grew to a torrent, and many millions of people benefited from it. But by others, its presence came to be taken for granted, and moreover they forgot that the core feature of its supernatural love was the reconciliation to God and neigbour of those already under his judgement, and that its ultimate destination was the Sea of Holiness. The tradition got about that comfort here and eternal life hereafter were entitlements of mankind, and their provision therefore an obligation on God.
Because the river did, incidentally, nourish the land and make it a pleasant place to live, fewer and fewer people actually bathed in it or drank its water, though they did use it for entertaining boating trips in the summer. Indeed, people began to teach their children that the water was unsafe for drinking or bathing, and they sent them off to the municipal swimming pool instead, where the water was scientifically chlorinated.
As larger and larger pleasure boats were built, some parts of the River of Love proved unnavigable for them. But it was argued that, since God is love, all love is equally indicative of God’s presence and blessing. So one by one, other watercourses such as the Stream of Human Family Affection, the River of Patriotism, and the Canal of State Provision were diverted into its upper reaches, making the water deeper, if somewhat more turbid.
This taste for water-engineering soon became an obsession, which resulted in more and more polluted waters being directed into the River of Love. And so, for example, the effluent that flowed from the Adultery Factory in the city, rebranded as “Authentic Relationship,” found its way in the river’s middle course, soon to be joined by the outflow from every unregulated manufactory in the land. The only regulation polluters had to meet was to find a way of labelling their waste as “love,” preferably with some hint that it represented the love at the foundation of all things. “God” seldom got a mention, since the emphasis was now on the supply of more water by those of “all faiths and none.”
There came a time when pretty much the entire drainage of the land – watercourses, storm drains and sewerage alike – flowed into the River of Love, of which the nation was so proud. And the result was tragic, but unsurprising. In the first place the river became a potent mix of toxins and filth that killed everything in it – it made the Thames “stink” of Victorian times resemble a mountain torrent by comparison. The very meaning of the name “Sea of Holiness” was forgotten.
And in the second place the massive influx of water was more than the river’s banks could cope with, and they began to overflow regularly, and particularly in bad weather (which in the old days had been when the power of the water of life in the river had been most evident). When all that corrupted human “love” soaked the land either suddenly, when the banks burst, or more gradually by seepage, the once productive land surrounding it became a swamp of filth and corruption resembling Passchendale in the First World War. Men and women sank choking into foul mud that swallowed them without trace, where once they had swum free in clear water, confessed their sins and discovered the unfathomable love of God for their lives.
I would like to say that, somewhere in the land, a hidden upstream bifurcation of the River of Love still flowed in secret paths from the foot of the cross to the sea of Holiness, and that those needy people disillusioned with the tawdry river steamers advertising their entertainments on “Humanity’s River of Love,” if they were determined enough, managed to find its waters, bathe in them, and drink their fill. But here, I guess, my fable breaks down, for how could such an unpolluted stream escape the attention of the entrepreneurs and shysters who had so exploited the main stream?
That would require a God of miraculous providence, wouldn’t it?