I’ve never met anyone who has not formed some idea about God. If it’s barely formed or if it comes from a bad experience, their God-story is never favorable. If it is formed in a religious structure, then often our God-story is favorable. Either way, this story shapes what we do next in our faith.
Would it surprise you to learn that the God story given to most people is that God is angry, harsh, or exacting? Most atheists are presented with this God prior to them dismissing God altogether. Nearly all religions in all human history stem from our need to appease such a God.
We are told the Bible is a great way to get to know God, but just a few books into the Old Testament and it’s easy to see that the depiction of God is not a God modern people desire to follow.
- God rescues Lot from Sodom because he was righteous. This man who is “right with God” offers his two daughters to the groping molesters at the door in order to appease them. (Gen 19:8)
- When Lot escapes to the mountains, he copulates (supposedly unknowingly) with his daughters and brings forth the Moabites and the Ammonites. (Gen 19:30-39)
- God tells Abraham to kill his son, but stops him at the last second. (Gen 22:1-19)
We aren’t even through the first book of the bible yet and we can all see the trend line. Or can we?
When someone concludes that God is a specific way because of the words in scripture they are applying a LITERAL interpretation of the bible. The irony here is that atheists so precisely what fundamental bible teachers do with the literal translation. The only difference is that atheists reject such a mean God while fundamentalist have embraced him (it’s always a “him” for literalists)
Scripture teaches that the Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10, Prov 1:7, 9:10, 15:33) I used to believe that meant “piss your pants” fear. Hundreds of verses depict how humanity kindles the anger of God. What happens to awe? Why is fear always translated fear? Especially when every time God or an angel appears in scripture we are told, “Do not fear.”
But does God really get angry, or is this an anthropomorphism? Is it really conditional? Is God moody and ill tempered that we must be on good behavior or else? Or are we making God into our image?
If we start as Jonathon Edwards says as “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”, then the trajectory never gets off to a positive start. Sadly this is the God we are given.
An angry God only creates religions of appeasement. Are you in one? Appeasement requires atonement and the only one offered is substitutional atonement. Yet even within this perfect appeasement story, most religious leaders continue to teach us that God is still mad or at least easily upset by us.
Fear is the lowest form of motivation, but it is highly effective. People groups that employ fear of a Sniper God, haven’t grown up enough to read between the lines of scripture. Fear is a convenient lever pulled by those in power.
God’s justice is not retribution. It’s restoration. I was privileged to supplement Richard Rohr’s scripture library on this very topic by supplying him with 133 verses throughout the corpus of Old and New testaments that prove this reality. In other words, the outpouring love of God to all people, to and in all things, is not only the place that the bible begins to tells us about God, but is the place scripture returns to over and over, and is the trajectory of all things.
“His anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5
If you are a part of a faith system that has convinced you that God is or could easily become mad at you, then you need to know that you are a part of a fear based sub-culture and that fear has been installed to keep you in the system. Such words are likely to be criticized and even grounds for heresy because the herd in power must vilify the stray.
I hope you know that the love that God has for each and every one of us is not dependent upon us. It doesn’t come and go based on our behavior, but based on God. God is not a dysfunctional super-parent with a stink-eye. I am here for all of you who find this Good News a little too hard to believe.
If you find yourself asking about sin, or the willful, the unrepentant, or the God-haters? If it angers you that a person who is not as devout as you would receive the same reward as you, then I want you to tune in next week. If you think the distinctions we create will last forever, then you will hate the Kingdom of God.