“God Loves, Man Kills” was published in 1982, at the height of the Moral Majority’s power. Claremont and Anderson set out to comment on the rise of televangelism – the latter invoked Pat Robertson – and underline its hypocrisy. Christianity’s teachings are of love and forgiveness, but its loudest followers voice only hate. And boy, oh boy, does Stryker hate.

His forces, the Purifiers, are introduced by executing two mutant siblings. To eliminate any subtext, both the children (Mark and Jill) are Black, and Magneto discovers their corpses strung up like lynching victims. Why does Stryker hate mutants? His own son was one — so he killed the boy at birth and then his wife Marci too for creating an “abomination.” He proudly declared himself free of sin and that God intended him to wage war on the mortal spawn of Satan: mutants.

Of the X-Men, Stryker takes particular umbrage at Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, who resembles a blue-skinned demon (despite being a practicing Catholic). When Stryker asks, “You dare call that thing human?!” Kitty Pryde answers back, defending Kurt’s humanity.

Claremont and Anderson’s theological critique is almost as old as Christ himself. It’s been made by Martin Scorsese (“The Last Temptation of Christ”), Al Franken (“Supply-Side Jesus”), Philip Pullman (“His Dark Materials”), and far too many others to list.

What makes it stand out is that it transpires 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 go-to refuge of hateful zealots. Just look at ongoing attacks on the LGBTQ+ community right now.

The button that “God Loves, Man Kills” pressed was just too hot for “X2.”