Monday, September 04, 2006
The nature of belief
I spent most of the day with my family today. I love my family, but we disagree on matters of faith. Not so much on matters of morality, but faith. Here's a secret most people don't seem to know: You can be pagan and believe in Jesus. You can be pagan and attempt to live your life by Jesus' teaching. We let you do that, it's cool. You cannot, however, be a 'Christian' and embrace parts of paganism. (Which is really funny, considering how much Christianity 'borrowed' from paganism.) So, I, personally, really like Jesus. He had some really great ideas and they got him killed, which is often the case with enlightened beings. I don't even have a problem with claims of Jesus' divinity -- I believe we are all part of God, all born with a spark of divinity inside us. Some of us are just better at developing and honoring that divinity than others. Some of us never develop or honor it at all, but that doesn't mean it's not there. So, Jesus and me? We're cool. It's the idiots who've come along and twisted his very simple teachings into...whatever the hell is passing for Christianity these days that I have a problem with. And I ran smack into an example of that today at lunch.
First, a little more background. My brother is a youth minister, my uncle is a preacher, my father is a deacon and my mother is a Sunday School teacher, all Southern Baptist. Okay. So, my brother is talking to my uncle about this woman at his church. Apparently, she's one of these controlling type of people, you know, the sort that always needs to be in charge, that doesn't like any idea unless it's hers, that sort of thing. Well, she's been causing problems at their church. He didn't say what exactly, just that she was insisting on being in charge a lot, trash talking church programs in public -- if she wasn't allowed to be in charge. Which isn't cool, but still....So, my brother and one of the other church leaders was going to go talk with her about it, because it had become a serious problem. Except, the day before they were going to talk to her about it -- she had a stroke. Now, to me, this seems like a horrible thing, but it hasn't got anything to do with God. The woman had a stroke. She was an older woman and well, people have strokes all the time. She's in the hospital, going through rehab and will be out of commission for quite awhile. Which means she won't be able to be really involved in church leadership for quite some time. Which is sad for her, but again, what does that have to do with God? Ah, well, according to my brother, "God took care of it for us."
Yes, that's right. My brother and uncle and, apparently, my mother believe that God caused this woman to have a stroke, because she was being controlling. Their God is apparently a bully, who smites down people who get in His way. (Although, was she really in his way? Maybe She was right and my brother was wrong. Maybe she wasn't struck by God, but by Satan!!)
There's a little bit of conversation about problem people in the church and more comments about how "God will take care of them." And them my uncle, who had always seemed rather reasonable to me, said "I wouldn't mind conducting a few more funerals for them."
He basically said he wouldn't mind if God KILLED the people in his church who give him grief.
Holy. Fucking. Shit. What???
I just kind of looked at him and shook my head. And they wonder why I won't go back to church? (My mother did try to get me to go to church THREE times today. THREE times in maybe six hours!)
See, this is what I mean. My family is on the people-are-basically-nasty side of the fence. They see people as inherently sinful and broken, intentionally trying to do bad and cause trouble. Or, they see people as victims of Satan, used to thwart God's will. And so, those people, God can remove from this world and well, that's just what happens, see?
I always want to ask them, what if you're wrong? What if it's you that is thwarting the will of God? They're so certain they're not, but how do they know? No one goes around (not anyone with a true belief in God, anyway) actively thinking "Hey, I'm gonna fuck up God's will today!" Everyone just assumes that what they're doing is the right, good thing to do. But if they are right, and other people are doing things differently, then those people must be wrong. And if they're wrong? Well, God can just kill them.
See, this pisses me off. It does a disservice to humanity and to God. How can you possibly love your fellow man if you believe, in any way, that it's okay for him to be killed at random? How can you possibly love God if you believe he/she is the sort of diety what would do that? You cannot love someone you fear and you'd have to fear a god you believed not only capable of such action, but one who has no reservation about doing so. That belief reduces God to an ordinary abusive parent.
And really, if a behavior is wrong in a human -- no parent would get away with killing their child just because they did something that displeased them. We throw those people in jail. -- how can a behavior be acceptable in a Diety? Isn't God better than humans? Doesn't he/she adhere to a higher standard?
I think part of the reason they believe this is because they believe they, themselves, are capable of vile deeds. After all, they believe they were born flawed and evil, unworthy of love or acceptance. (This is literally what I was taught as a child in my parents Southern Baptist Church.) And, if man is made in the image of God and they are capable of such horror, then it stands to reason that God too is capable of such things. The problem is, they got it backwards. (In my, not terribly humble opinion.) God/dess is capable of much, much better things than most of us can imagine. And, because we are all born with Her spark inside us, so are we. Because we are born good and decent, we are capable of love and compassion and empathy and connection. I think Diety grieves when we forget that -- but she's not about to strike us dead because of it.