Operation Caffeination

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And can it be

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Dear God,

I made coffee this morning. It was lovely, and in the old days I would have thanked you for it. But then my son almost scalded himself with the hot coffee while playing wall ball with his big beach ball in the kitchen, when I’ve told him a million times to keep his toys out of there. His skin is only intact right now because I intervened. This got me thinking: I am all for allowing kids to experience natural consequences, but I do run a rapid cost-benefit analysis in my head before I decide to let Darren take a fall. And if the cost is too high, I step in, without fail, sometimes only in the nick of time. I will do anything for that kid, and you’d better believe that if he needs me I am there for him, because I love him. This goes without saying, for all parents.

But you…I was told that you loved me, all through my childhood and adolescence.  I accepted that and believed it wholeheartedly, and wanted nothing more than to be with you and to be like you. I don’t want those things right now. To be honest, there are a lot of things about you that really bother me. Like the idea that you would rather let me and my children burn in hell than intervene to give me concrete proof that you are who you say you are, that you exist and you’re trustworthy and that I am not just a pawn in the hand of a cosmic megalomaniac. Because you know what, God? I don’t care if you’re omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. If I am a better parent than you are, I’m not going worship you, I’m going to feel sorry for you. Maybe give you the number of a fantastic therapist I know. But there is nothing awe-inspiring to me about the image of an authoritative, disciplinarian father, sitting alone in a fabulous nursing home in the sky while his kids throw themselves into the pits of hell to get away from his constant criticism, judgment and outbursts of anger.

I’ve been reading a book called “The Trouble With Islam” by Irshad Manji for the last few days. Irshad is writing about politics, not religion, but it’s caused me thinking about you more. She theorizes that you are working your way into human history in a cyclical sort of way. You reveal yourself to a people group, and they follow a predictable pattern of adoration which fades into complacency which leads to idolatry which rapidly devolves into violence, jealousy, self-righteousness and the like. As Irshad sees things, though, you don’t stop there: when your people hit that lowest of low points, they begin to open their eyes to new ideas, like the value of human lives and the wonder of nature, and they gradually become open, accepting, loving and genuine. Irshad is describing on a major scale what pastors call the process of sanctification on a personal level, and Irshad believes that the Jews, Christians and Muslims are all at different points in this process, which will ultimately lead to the same central, loving, wise God -you. And she loves you for it.

I have a problem with this idea, though, God, and it has to do with that lowest of low points. To be honest, when I think about the destruction of  the entire Philistine culture, the Crusades, the witch hunts, Taliban domination, homophobia, well…these things seem like a pretty crappy plan A to me. I’ve really tried to find a way to give you some room on this point. For example, I tried denying the existence of hell; that leaves me with a benevolent creator God who is tenderly guiding an unruly race to sanctification and harmony. I like that. However, I can’t just deny the existence of the Holy Wars, so what do I do with that? If I chalk it up to free will, I am left with a nice deity who wants us to live in harmony, but may or may not ever be able to make that happen. I’d like to be friends with this version of you, but I can’t worship a god who so closely resembles John Lennon. And if I acknowledge the possibility that you sanctioned or predestined the horrors wrought in your name, I get nostalgic for idea of hell and having an option outside of spending eternity with you.

Frankly, at this point it is much easier for me to ignore the possibility that you may exist, and I don’t think it’s hard to understand why. You can throw a “my ways are higher than your ways” at me if you want to, but we both know that’s not going to cut it. My religious friends fear for my soul, and I hate to worry them, but I think their fears are unfounded. A good and loving god wouldn’t punish me for following the biblical injunction to test everything and cling to what is good. And do you know what I’ve found out in that process? All the good things in life can be enjoyed in a single afternoon on the beach with your kids, and according to the Bible we won’t have kids or even an ocean in heaven. That really bothers me. But there’s something else that bothers me even more, that emboldens me to reclaim control over my life and remove myself from your circle of influence.

There are 823,156 words in the King James Version of the Bible, and they are all supposed to be perfectly inerrant. I know for a fact that they aren’t, though, because if the Bible were perfect it would contain 823,159 words instead. Do you know what the three missing words are?

“I love you.”

You never said it directly, not in so many words. You want me to accept that that goes without saying?

I could take anything else on faith, but not that.

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Written by GRSeim

September 24, 2011 at 1:59 am

2 Responses

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  1. Thank you for sharing this. I’m not a believer in the biblical (omni-everything) God. Of everything I have read in the Bible, the thing that sticks with me regarding the nature of God is that “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” I am content with that, because I have love, and give love, and experience love, and if that makes me one with a force greater than myself that others call God, that is all right.

    jaqbuncad

    September 25, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    • I’ve struggled with religion quite a bit over the last five years in particular. I was raised in a excessively conservative Christian environment, and it really let me down once I reached adulthood. I feel like I need to get my thoughts into writing at some point as part of the sorting-out process, but I am so burnt out on religion right now that it’s hard to gather the motivation to start. From browsing around on your blog, it seems like you and yours have hit a very healthy, hopeful balance in your home as far as spiritual beliefs go. That is a wonderful thing to see. 🙂

      Grace

      September 29, 2011 at 10:25 pm


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