Thursday, June 03, 2010

God's will, my ass

To feel the truth in Christianity, I have to go back, back, deep into its quiet beginning, because the insane corruptions of it that I keep running into enrage me.

I'm talking about its earliest days when no one had any motive to make up the things they claimed --- not even the motive of being gathered 'round and listened to in awe and called "Wise One" or "leader." No liturgy, no "ology".

In that early dawn light, a handful of people walked through the world saying that they had met someone extraordinary, had been befriended and taught and embraced by God Himself, God willing to incarnate as a man and willing to feel every joy and misery it brings. It redefined joy for them, and they said it was for anyone who wants it, not just them for being So Special, which they weren't, particularly.

Stories of the disciples depict them often as dolts who had little understanding when Jesus tried to teach them things, who said, "Huh? Whuh?" a lot and, even wimped out and denied Him when things got nerve-wracking. If they were all, like, into themselves, they sure seem to have dismissed the golden opportunity to retcon their reputations, or else we'd instead have all kinds of boring stories of how Calm and Wise and "We totally got it!" they were when they hung around with Jesus.

That's why, no matter how mutated the faith has become with its bizarre later thousand-page theology textbooks, the beginning....the very very early beginning rings true to me.

And why bastardizations of it infuriate me. They hurt the most vulnerable. Not wanting it is one thing. Wanting it but being driven away from it by some twisting of its tenets is another.

So lately I keep running into personal stories by Christians who are undergoing horrific pain and suffering -- illness, accidents-- and are saying "This was ordained by God," and my blood pressure threatens to blow the top of my head clean off.

I don't want to explode at them. I admire them. They're a beautiful affirmation of not rejecting God, of being sustained by God through pain. Why they need to believe not only that He allowed their pain, but that He ordained it, I even kind of understand.

I've heard too many abuse victims say of their abuser: "He had a good reason." Making God the Ultimate Abuser, whose abuse we must not only accept as "reasonable" but celebrate --"His hurting me to glorify Himself is a privilege!"-- is similarly twisted thinking. Who could blame anybody for rejecting such a religion?

If God is a sociopath, send me south.

Each one who's written a "God ordained this" essay has hauled out the Bible verses about how God's wisdom is not our wisdom and God's ways are not our ways, and I'm on board with that. If I'm to believe in God at all, I have to believe that His essence is way beyond human understanding, and agree with Paul that on this earth we see only "as through a glass, darkly."

We want explanations. We want to believe that when we hurt there's some reason, some way it's making good triumph over evil.

It does and it can, but that God can transform us and overpower evil does not require that God use us as bait. Why would He need to? To use suffering that evil visits on us, for turning the Adversary's own deeds against him, is plenty -- for God to instigate suffering would be nonsensical, and superfluous.

The whole basis of the Biblical God -- call it literal, call it metaphor -- but the basis is that God wants unblemished joy for His children and that we, humanity, let evil into the world. And that, even in getting us through this now-painful life, God does not cause the pain.

The many wrongs that we do to one another are the biggest source of our pain, and we may eventually get beyond them, whether there's a God going "Finally the dimwits get it!" or not. Others, the random things, may, because we can't stop them, be The Devil's best weapon, but the message is and always was that evil is not God's doing.

Take that lovely Book of Job ("Please!" Haha, I understand). Does God perform the acts of torturing a follower for the revelation of His Glory?

Does He even come up with the idea?

NO. It is Satan's will, not God's. God is certainly depicted as Sovereign, and could refuse to allow it, but does not, according to the book.

In the opinions of many, that makes Him a useless, if not a non-existent, God.

Understandable. But no matter how you feel about the God idea, there's a clear difference between allowing hurt to come down on us, and instigating it, hiring the Adversary as hit man for the dirty work. A big honking difference.

So kick my blog to the Christian curb, but I'm not OK with the idea that God would ever create suffering for His people "for His Glory, hallelujah!" That appalls me beyond words, though I obviously can come up with a few.

For some people the agony of life seems almost all-encompassing. But through the relatively light problems of my past and present, and through whatever may come, the one thing that must stand, that must be there for me when there's nothing else, has to be the belief that God would never never raise His hand against me.

I weep for my faith, and I long for its cool dawn of simple belief that something holy had happened.


Catherine said...

"...the one thing that must stand, that must be there for me when there's nothing else, has to be the belief that God would never never raise His hand against me."

Amen and Amen.


Ronnie said...

Do I hear someone say, "Tell it, sister!" Thank you, Ruth. You are right on the button. That is it. Now and forever.

Mike Peterson said...

The second question in the Baltimore Catechism, after "Who made you?", was "Why did God make you?" The answer was "To show His goodness and to make me happy with him in heaven."

I always thought the third question should have been, "To show WHO His goodness?" or maybe, "Is God really that insecure?"

It's one thing to ascribe a big white beard to the Prime Mover. That's harmless enough, if admittedly sexist. But when you start ascribing human motivations to God, you really get out onto some theological thin ice.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Thanks to all of you - one of these days i really will offend the heck out people but apparently not today!

It's hard to have a real take on the why of suffering, since i think it's largely unknowable. I think that these Big Theological Questions come in 2 kinds: one is the kind where the answer is about what choices i make and how i live my life. The other is a kind of academic issue, the "how many angels on the head of a pin?" kind of thing that really doesn't pertain much to what i'm supposed to do -

Or, to put it better, it's a question the answer to which does not change what i'm supposed to do in my life. This seems to me like one of those. Whatever suffering's purpose is, i really think one of the main purposes of life is to fight suffering and send it back to the hell it came from, and that works no matter what the answer to the "why" question is.