“God Loves, Man Kills” was published in 1982, at the height of the power of the Moral Majority. Claremont and Anderson set out to comment on the rise of televangelism – the latter invoking Pat Robertson – and underscore its hypocrisy. Christianity’s teachings are of love and forgiveness, but its loudest followers only express hate. And boy oh boy does Stryker hate it.
His forces, the Purifiers, are introduced by executing two mutant brothers. To remove any subtext, both children (Mark and Jill) are black, and Magneto discovers their corpses strung up as lynch mob victims. Why does Stryker hate mutants? His own child was one, so he killed the child at birth and then his wife Marci as well for creating an “abomination”. He proudly declared himself free from sin and that God intended for him to wage war against Satan’s deadly spawn: mutants.
Of the X-Men, Stryker takes particular offense to Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, who looks like a blue-skinned demon (despite being a practicing Catholic). When Stryker asks, “You dare call that thing human?” Kitty Pryde responds, defending Kurt’s humanity.
Claremont and Anderson’s theological critique is almost as old as Christ himself. It has been done by Martin Scorsese (“The Last Temptation of Christ”), Al Franken (“Supply-Side Jesus”), Philip Pullman (“His Dark Materials”), and too many others to list.
What makes it stand out is that it takes place in a Marvel superhero comic. The X-Men had lived in a world that “hates and fears them” for a while, but “God Loves, Man Kills” makes it feel more real because, in real life, extremist religious groups are the refuge they go to. the hateful come fans. Just look at the ongoing attacks against the LGBTQ+ community right now.
The button that pressed “God Loves, Man Kills” was too hot for “X2”.