Sunday, September 12, 2010

Our Images of God Must Match Reality

The way we picture God has to match reality. I find that parental images of God do not. Or at least parental images of God combined with child images of ourselves do not. God as parent with ourselves as adult sons or daughters - perhaps. God then becomes more of a mentor.

The problem with imaging God as parent - as all-loving Father (or Mother) watching over his or her children (us) - is that this image simply does not correspond to reality. Look at our world, the people in it, and the events that happen. Do you see God behaving as all-loving parent? I do not.

If I were a parent and loved my children, I would NEVER behave as God does. I would NEVER, for example, allow one of my children to hurt another. If I saw my older and stronger child beating up my younger child, I would put an IMMEDIATE stop to it. God does not do this.

God allows the weaker to suffer at the hands of the stronger. Hitler and his henchmen tortured, starved, and killed millions of Europeans for no other reason than that these Europeans were not pure Aryans. Far too many human parents beat, punch, kick, and burn their own children for no other reason that that the parents are in a "bad mood." Far too many men rape women for other reason than that they can. Far too many corporations lay off their workers and send families into financial disaster and even homelessness for no other reason than to give themselves higher and higher profits.

God does not lift a finger to stop the abuse and end the suffering. This is not the behavior of an all-loving parent.

Perhaps there is a final reckoning where the bad will be punished and the good rewarded - but this punishment/reward idea is not good parental policy. In fact, I suspect that our images of heaven and hell represent human attempts to "explain" God's failure to step in and prevent some of God's children from hurting others. God does not step in on earth, so there "must be" a final reckoning.

Well, if I were a parent, I certainly would not find a reward/punishment system to be ideal. I guess I could punish my older child for beating up my younger child and comfort my younger child with a treat. But is it not far more important for me to look beyond the surface behavior to the deeper cause of what happened? If I find that my older child is beating up my younger child to exert power or perhaps to get my attention, then whoa, something is quite wrong and needs to be corrected. As parent, I would be responsible for correcting the deeper problem, not just punishing the surface behavior.

SO, bottom line, if we look at the reality of our world, we find that God does not prevent the suffering of God's children - whether the suffering comes through natural circumstances or at the hands of others - as I certainly believe that an all-loving parent would do. True, a good parent does not hover over his or her children and anxiously remove every possible cause of suffering, preventing the children from engaging with life on their own. But neither would a good parent allow excruciating suffering if he or she could step in to prevent it.

This image of God as all-loving parent causes people to turn away from God when undeserved suffering enters their lives. They are furious at God for not behaving as they believe a cosmic parent would. My uncle is a case in point. My uncle's only son died at age six of a childhood illness. My uncle felt absolutely betrayed by God. If God is an all-loving parent, how could God possibly allow this? My uncle turned away from God for years.

To my mind, the idea that God is an all-loving parent and we are God's children does not match reality. Let us not expect God to behave like our cosmic parent. God does not do this.

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