Please excuse this exception to my normal programming, but I had something of a revelation today.
It is about the nature of God, religion, good versus evil, and the Bible. And, on the face of it, what I say here will probably brand me to most churchgoers/Christians as a nonbeliever, a blasphemer, and a sinner.
I have been trying to reconcile my upbringing and belief in a God who is caring, loving, just, and kind with the God the Bible speaks of: a god that is vengeful, wrathful, and can be brutal enough to try to wipe the entire human race off the face of the planet in a giant flood.
This has been troubling me recently, because I believe that Jesus was a real person, and He did real good in the world. In fact, He continues to do so whenever people do good in His name; yet what He preached and taught is at odds with what some of Christianity espouses today.
Although many Christians say we must all follow the Bible explicitly, we also know that there are some really horrifying ideals preached in the Old Testament (marrying your sister-in-law? Stoning your children to death?!).
Is a literal belief, in this case, in any of our best interests?
We know the Bible to be a document that is flawed, because history has shown that it has has been edited down to contain only those chapters of which the powers-that-be approved. It is also not, I repeat, not the literal word of God, simply by virtue of the fact that He didn’t write it.
The Bible is the story of God, as recorded by the hand of man. Man, who in his flawed understanding and reasoning, wrote down what they understood to be the truth about God. It continues, today, to be taught, through its many and likely flawed interpretations from language to language, by people who are themselves equally, and sometimes horribly, flawed.
Flawed? Yes. Think of the preachers and “men of God” who have committed heinous acts against children and families and you will understand my meaning.
This apparent mis-understanding of the Bible as the literal “word of God” is the only way I can reconcile a vengeful, angry, destructive God who is to be “feared” by His people with the lovingkindness that is His son, Jesus Christ.
If God wanted to, He could have removed our free will, but He didn’t. If He wanted to, He could have destroyed the planet at any time, including now when we have so many evil, selfish, unethical, and immoral people on our planet.
But He hasn’t.
If He wanted, He could have saved “His only begotten son”, and done so at our expense. We, His children, were so wayward that we periodically called down upon ourselves our own destruction, and yet he allowed His son to be sacrificed to save our souls.
But, no. Instead, He gave us Jesus; Jesus, the champion of the “dregs”of society. You know them: lepers, women, children, people of a different faith, or of a different culture, like the horrible Samaritans (remember “the Good Samaritan”?). Even people who had already died, like Lazarus, were loved, and saved, by Jesus. He took care of them all. And he loved them all, unconditionally.
So who is all that wrath really directed toward? If God isn’t that angry with all of us, then who is He actually angry with?
Today, I found out about a Facebook page whose sole purpose is to glory in the deaths of people who have suffered from cancer. I probably shouldn’t have, but I went to look at the page, thinking that there was no way that anybody – other than the Westboro Baptist church – could be that vile.
We’ve all heard about people who espouse hatred, like Westboro; we hear about mass murderers, abusers, and people who hurt children. But they are few and far between enough that I have never, until today, encountered them in my day-to-day life.
I was horrified to find that not only did they exist, but they do, in fact, laugh that people suffer and die from cancer!
In hindsight, I should not have done it. However, I went ahead and, in my innocence, posted what would have, on any other website, been considered a reasonable, reasoned comment. And I was attacked. Brutally, swiftly, viciously, with no intent other than to be as hateful and hurtful as humanly–or inhumanly–possible.
The reaction was so extreme that I literally felt it as a physical blow to the chest. I was subjected to a vicious, nasty diatribe by a bunch of questionable people who can only be described as psychopaths. They attacked me by swearing, wishing my family ill, and making nasty, horrifying comments…often misspelled.
They mocked my gentle remonstration; they belittled my belief that someday, someone they loved would fall ill and the whole world would change horribly and swiftly.
It was as if I had been thrown into a pit of pirahnas; the feeding frenzy of hatred was that intense.
I could only take 10 minutes, before I not only deleted the post, but I also changed my name on Facebook and Twitter in an attempt to make sure they couldn’t follow me.
It was that bad.
I guess it’s the Pollyanna in me that I couldn’t imagine that anybody could live a life this mean. This vicious. This truly evil. But anybody who would wish cancer on another, as was done to me today, who thinks that cancer is funny because people die, is truly sick.
I am shocked that any website or agency, anywhere, could tolerate the existence of a page such as this. Unfortunately, this group is allowed to exist solely because they hide behind a label: “Controversial Humor”.
However, let me be very clear: there is no humor here, and they all know that. This webpage is an excuse to be as evil and vicious and twisted and sick as they can be, and yet they can not be taken down or sued by either the provider, or the federal government.
Interestingly, most people have aliases on this page. Very few–save a few late teens/early 20s “lowlifes”–shared their real names. I wonder what their parents, their grandparents, their siblings, their children, their spouses, their bosses, their friends, and their coworkers would think if they knew that this is how twisted they truly were.
(Note: I apologize for the term “lowlife”, but if you saw the photos, you would understand my meaning through the drugged looks, the failure to take care of themselves, and the total disdain in the half-lidded sneers on their faces.)
After I shut down the computer, I stopped for a moment and thought about how evil any one person could be, whether in thought or deed.
My next thought was a usual one for me, which was “these people can’t possibly have very happy lives.” I wondered what might have made them so shrunken and black and twisted inside that they could live like this.
And then, it hit me. This is it: this level of nastiness and evil is what truly defines “sin”.
I don’t believe God would condemn to hell any child that was not baptized. I do not believe God would condemn to hell any person who had an unkind thought about another. I don’t believe God would condemn to hell anyone who did not honor their father or mother…because, if that were the case, we would all be damned from our teenage years!
God loved us enough to send His son to save our souls, and He loves us enough to understand us.
That said, there has to be a raison d’être for hell. There has to be someone who truly fits the label, “sinner”. There has to be someone toward whom all that wrath, anger, and destruction can be, or was meant to be, directed.
I interacted with those people today on Facebook for all of ten minutes. And I have no doubt that, if they are not already suffering in hell on Earth, that they will definitely find it in the afterlife.
As for the rest of us? We need to remember that God’s word isn’t what was written by a bunch of (mostly) men a thousand years ago; nor is it what is preached in church or on television (or in politics) today. The true Word of God if what’s in our hearts and minds when we are being loving, kind, faithful, just, compassionate, tolerant, forgiving, truthful, helpful and, most of all, understanding.
That light in our souls is God. That light from within that helps us to be more than we thought we could be is God. That belief in our fellow man and woman and child, whatever their beliefs, age, religion, ethnicity, gender, life experiences, and yes, even sexual orientation…
Wallowing in, and taking pleasure from, evil, anger, hatred, and intolerance–that is sin. That is wrong. And that is the behavior that I do truly believe God will punish through spiritual death.
If He hasn’t done so already.