Turning God into a thug
During the three days that I was the Minster's Refresher course, I found myself thinking quite a lot about good and bad religion. One of our apeakers quoted a well known former Bishop has suggesting that the church "has turned God into a thug." It was one of those phrases that I couldn't get away from.
It is certainly not a new phenomenom for God to be seen as the author of bad happenings. I might see such assumptions as a sign of a sick variant of folk religion but it goes on happening. Some time ago, I blogged about Christian Voice, an eccentric UK "Christian" organisation seeing the flooding of New Orleans as a sign of God's judgement. Meanwhile, In the US, Pat Robertson announces that Ariel Sharon's stroke and even Yitzak Rabin's assassination were the consequence of Divine retribution for making compromises with the Palestinians. Of course, Robertson who leads the 700 Club in the US has form. Within days of the September 11th outrage, Robertson and Rev Jerrry Falwell were suggesting that God had withdrawn protection from America due to the toleration of homosexuals and abortionists . Were time to allow, I could raise many other such quotes by well known people suggesting that God has sanctioned some of the greatest disasters of our age.
Now, a God who would act in such a way would be a thug, nor more, no less. And I cannot believe the the God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ could be any such thing. And yet too often, we within the church have embraced the dogmas that result in thuggery and dared to do so in the name of God. I guess that a perfect example is the long history of anti Judaism. Thankfully most churches have repented of this odious outlook. For Christian anti semitism that created a poisonous attitude to Jews and their faith was as the Dabru Emet statement of Jewish scholars makes clear a factor without which the Holocaust could not have happened. That is why during my training at Wesley House, I was grateful to listen to Jewish scholar Ed Kessler on the importance of sensitivity in our treatment at some of the scriptures that have all too often been used against the older brother that is Judaism.
Increasingly, I am concerned that too much of what passes as Christianity is closer to the Imperial spirit of Constantine than to Jesus of Nazareth. I shudder when I hear Christianity used to defend war, torture, economic domination and harsh attitudes to vulnerable minority groups. I shudder when I hear Christians talk of a God who acts arbitrarily against people. I want to call for a Christianity that recognises that God is totally and absolutely immersed in love and can be no other than loving. I long for a Christianity that challenges dcotrines that speak of a cruel God or can be used to justify our cruelties. For surely, we need to heed the importance of how we portray God and reflect God.
In recent months, I have heard plenty from Christians about enemies of the Gospel. I have listened to hot air about "Jerry Springer; The Opera" and Richard Dawkins. In the case of Dawkins, there is certainly a debate that calls out to be joined. But, I think that Dawkins is of little threat compared to the toleration of dogmas and deeds that enable God to be portrayed as a thug.
God is far from a thug. God is the One who is the very source of love. How dare, we give to anyone the impression, that the Bishop with whom I began this article, referred to, that God can be portrayed as a thug. For to enable God to be so portrayed is the ultimate heresy!