Warning! Do not read this if you are easily shocked or offended.
Last Saturday morning I ended up babysitting my 3 year old grandson. I normally very much enjoy spending time with him as he is playful, bright and ever so energetic. But that day I was also trying to finish working on a very important project. One that potentially affected the lives and livliehoods of thousands of people.
I lovinginly explained the important project to my grandson and set up a bunch of toys so that he could play quietly in my den. He had all of his favorite toys, some of his favorite snacks, and his favorite movie was playing on the tv. He had everything he needed.
I rarely have to discipline him and even then nothing more then a stern word will usually get him to straighten up and fly right. I did not expect any trouble this morning. He knew how to behave.
After just a short time he threw a ball and it knocked over my coffee, spilling it on the keyboard. I chided him for being careless and cleaned up the mess. Not five minutes later he ran a toy truck into the surge protector and caused my PC to shut down. Again I sternly warned him to be careful. And further stated that any more nonsense would not be tolerated. He was ruining important things.
Fifteen minutes later, after I rewrote a whole section of my document from memory, he had an "accident". He had gotten involved in play and was certainly not going to interupt me again for any reason. So now I had to stop and find new clothes for him to put on, not to mention cleaning up a smelly, horrid mess. By this time I was angry. I reminded him that I didn't want to punish him like I had to do once with his older brother. I told him that all he had to do was play quietly for a half hour or so and not break any of the house rules then we could go outside and play.
Not 3 minutes later he spilled his juice all over my freshly cleaned carpet. That was it! He knew the rules, he knew there was a time limit and he knew the consequences of choosing to be careless and inconsiderate.
I had no choice but to punish him. Since he had been so overtly disobedient and since the time limit had run out my only real option was punishment. It was actually past time for it but I had been lenient in the hopes he would straighten up on his own. So I explained to him how much I loved him and to show it I now had to pour scalding hot water on him and then lock him in a totally dark room. I explained to him that he was no longer my grandson and no one would every respond to his cries.
Thats what truly loving grampas do. Justice and enforcement of the rules is so much more important then correction and mercy. If only he had made the correct decisions in a more timely manner!
Oh wait, thats not what happened, not what happened at all. That is just an ugly parable of what most have been taught as the Good News of the Gospel. That is exactly the message that most have heard all their lives. That is the despiciable lie we have been told about our loving Father.
Is God not more loving then us? Is He not more merciful then us? Is He not more forgiving then us? Is His justice nothing less than perfect and His purpose nothing less than the restoration of everybody and everything?
In Gods eyes are we not all toddlers, barely able to keep our diapers clean? In comparison to eternity just how much do we mature from age 4 to 84? We can only trust Him as much as we think He loves us. Many billions of people have never and will never come to any knowledge and understanding of His love. Certainly God has made provision for this sad circumstance.
To believe that the One who created us, the One who sustains us and the One who indwells us will allow us to be physically tortured for all eternity for being who He designed and created us to be is ridiculous at best and a damnable lie at worst.
From Richard Rohr -
Most people I know can eventually forgive and forget. But not our god! God does not forgive until he or she gets some appropriate penance, reparations, and repayment. (Actually reaffirmed in common sacramental practice). This is supposedly needed by one who has nothing better to do than keep accounts and do a self centered cost analysis on everything. Sort of like Santa Claus, “making a list and checking it twice, going to find out who’s naughty or nice.” The Lord of this beautiful and self renewing cosmos ends up looking instead like an anal retentive banker or a brooding maiden aunt. It just doesn’t match the cosmic evidence. And it particularly does not match the evidence for those who have prayed—or experienced divine forgiveness.
Most of my Jewish and Christian friends are very tolerant and accepting of different races, cultures, and religions. They are willing to see good wherever good is to be seen. But not our god. Our god only likes “born again” Americans, and preferably morally successful and “normal” people, who hopefully attend my denominational service on the proper day. (This is easily the quickest growing form of religion in most countries today!). Even stingy little Richard Rohr ends up being much more caring, patient, generous, and merciful than Yahweh Sabaoth! How did we get to such absurdity? Especially, after Jesus spends most of his ministry affirming those who are wounded, unworthy, not successful, normal, or properly affiliated?
I really understand that, but it is quite clear to me in the later years of my life, that God does not love me if I change, but God loves me so that I can change. That is an entirely different agenda. What makes the Good News good news is precisely that God loves and defends unworthy and non-innocent life! Otherwise, you and I have little hope.
What makes the Good News good news is precisely that God loves and defends unworthy and non-innocent life! Otherwise, you and I have little hope.
Jesus is the universalist par excellance, always making the outsider the heroes of his stories: the non-Jews appear as those with more faith and more compassion, the sinners become those who are saved, the women better than the men, and as he continually puts it, “the last will be first”— while the so-called elect and chosen are his constant opponents.
He does not begin with any preoccupation with human sinfulness or the weighing of worthiness or unworthiness (that is the preoccupation of the ego). In fact, he just assumes that we are all “sick and in need of a physician.” As he puts it, “I did not come to call the virtuous” (Mark 2:17). Jesus’ starting place is human suffering instead of human sinfulness. How else can you explain his fulltime ministry of healing, exorcism, affirmation of the excluded ones, and the alleviation of human distress and humiliation? He is not naïve about sin, but just recognizes that human sinfulness, “hardness of heart,” is much more a symptom than a cause. Sin largely reveals the problem and he uses it for diagnostic purposes not for condemnation or exclusion. Sin, for Jesus, is not a set of purity codes or debt codes—which he goes out of his way to flaunt— but inner attitudes which blind and bind us inside of ourselves, and away from communion and mercy.
It is not moral unworthiness that keeps people from God, but moral righteousness and self-sufficiency. It is that simple recognition, which is almost his constant message, that makes Jesus the ultimate, perennial, and radical reformer of religion. And why religious people oppose him.
If people do not go beyond first level metaphors, rituals, and comprehension, most religions seem to end up with a God who is often angry, petulant, needy, jealous, and who will love us only if we are “worthy” and belonging to the correct group. We end up with the impossible scenario of a God who is “small,” and often less loving than the best people we know! This supposedly divine love is quite measured and conditional, and yet ironically demands from us a perfect and unconditional love.
Such a salvation system will never work, unless we allow an utterly new dimension of love “to astonish us and stand us on our ears,” as Isaiah says above. Unless God is able and allowed to love us unconditionally, we will never know how to do the same.
Most people I know would never torture another human being under any conditions. Yet people
believe in a god who not only tortures, but tortures for all eternity. That is bitter vengeance by anyone’s definition. Why would anyone want to be alone with such a testy and temperamental god? Why would anyone go on the great mystical journey into divine intimacy with such an unsafe lover? Why would anyone trust such a god to know how to love those who really need it? I personally know many people who are much more generous and imaginative than this god is. We have ended up being ourselves more loving, or at least trying to be, than the god we profess to believe!
Such a religion is in deep trouble—at its core.