At this time every year, Americans celebrate our freedom from tyranny and oppression. What irony. We decry others’ extremist behaviors; but we can’t see how, in our individual interactions, we are also tyrants and oppressors.

We wonder how those whom we’ve labeled “terrorists” can claim that their actions honor God. But aren’t we doing the same? At every opportunity—at least once weekly, sometimes daily on Facebook or Twitter—we oppress and terrorize others, typically in forceful, angry and condescending tones. We are “saved” from God’s wrath, and they are not. They must do, say and believe what we want them to believe. Or else.

Terrorism, tyranny and religion thrive on threats of extreme punishment (satanic torture that lasts for an eternity) and extreme reward (eternal bliss with vestal virgins). Both rely on the premise that God solves problems through punishments that exceed any human crime: He sadistically hurts or destroys all or part of His creation through genocidal floods, filicide (feel free to consult an online dictionary), torture, natural disasters, plagues and curses. Fascinating stuff. It gives new definition to the word “divine.”

We kid ourselves when we claim to love a God who not only lacks compassion, but is extremely brutal to others in our human family. How do we react to such a sadistic God? Actually, our options are limited. We can:

  1. Emulate this brutal behavior and call it “holy;”
  2. Spread panic by warning everyone within earshot that God is going to heinously brutalize them forever unless they believe that He has heinously brutalized others;

In the case of those who call themselves Christians, there are other options: We can realize that God is not bi-polar. Love is not vengeful or inhumane. If God is Love, God does not do things that Love does not do.

We also can carefully read the accounts of ancient scribes. Retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong says that anyone who believes that everything in the Bible is true, simply hasn’t read it. Most quote the text that proves their point and discard text that contradicts it:

  • God could be in only one place at a time—in or out of the Garden of Eden—meaning that God is not omnipresent;
  • God didn’t know where Adam and Eve were when He returned to the Garden—meaning that God is not omniscient;
  • God gave some of His power to Satan—meaning that God is not omnipotent;
  • The number of animals who entered the ark, the number of days it rained, and the length of the stay on the ark constantly changed, sometimes in the same verse;
  • Jesus was born in a barn and in his parents’ home;
  • God is everywhere, but there’s only one path to get there—and other inconsistencies.

Let’s declare our independence from oppression and oppressing. Let’s unshackle ourselves from beliefs that denigrate God as an angry, vengeful and sadistic tyrant. Let’s celebrate our freedom to relax in the embrace of a God who loves us unconditionally—no matter what we believe.

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9 Responses to Declaring Freedom, Choosing Oppression

  1. Brother Ben says:

    I wonder how many Christians actually believe God to be sadistic?

    Sure, they may begrudgingly confess the more nasty stories to be true, or at least the authors’ interpretations of true events. But, no Christian (a generalization with notable exceptions) actively constructs his life around the ‘Sadism of God.’

    I’m not arguing about the portrayal of God in the Bible, only that the god that Christians buy into is not the Sadistic one that you or I might see.

    Although, your two ‘options’ are options I do see people take. 1) Justify their anger and hate as Holy AND 2) Use fear to ellicit a complacent attitude toward a greater idealogy.

    While I care more about the anthropological aspects of your post, I will note that any Biblical ‘contradictions’ can be rectifyied through alternate interpretations and interpretations of interpretations.

    What was really happening in Shakespeare’s works? There are volumes and volumes of contentious material written by literay critics. Contradictions themselves don’t remove the merit of a work’s meaning or its literary value.

    • Brother Ben:

      Thanks for your feedback. To clarify, I don’t believe that Christians consider God to be sadistic. However, the acts that they believe God committed are, in fact, sadistic. And that is my point: We don’t connect the dots. We don’t realize the implications of what we believe–and how our beliefs disparage God.

      I totally agree that the Bible has tremendous literary value. You remind me that during my college years, I tried every quarter to enroll in a course called, “The Bible as Literature.” It seemed to fill up first. I obviously wasn’t the only one who wanted to know more about the literary value of the text and understand more about the scribes, whose text reflected their limited knowledge about life, geography, astronomy, history, biology, geology, meteorology, God, and more.

      I’ve never seen anyone try to ram Shakespeare’s works down someone’s throat and insist that it was true. When we confuse literature with actual history, when we model our behavior after that of the characters in Bible stories, we can become comical, saintly, oppressive or potentially sociopathic, depending upon the story. Consequently, I don’t think there’s a need to reconcile the discrepancies in the Bible, as long as we understand that it’s literature–a compilation of disparate books from individuals with disparate perceptions and dreams about what God is, what God does. It reflects their attempt to understand adversity and natural disasters.

      All was well until the religious leaders at the Council of Nicea declared that this literature–their selections from a vast collection of books–was the “Word of God.” Today we know that the ancient scribes’ text is not completely factual. And neither, I believe, was their portrayal of God as a wrath-filled, sadistic and vengeful brute.

  2. Brother Ben says:

    Cool; I suppose it dissolves into two issues.

    1) How should we determine the original context and purpose of the writings; in what ways then does this apply to us today.

    2) In what manner was the compilation of these books guided by an external influence (ie God), if any?

    Both questions have been answered in varied and interesting manners in comtemporary society.

    I think your post dealt mostly with the first and in a way I agree with. We must be very considerate of who and why these things were written.

    If agreeing, mostly, on the first, the answer to the second becomes more subjective.

    Whether or not God ordered or breathed into existence the books of the Bible can easily be subsumed into our view of the Bible as a highly complex piece of literature.

    But, belief in God-breathed scripture is not imperative. It is the individual who (hopefully) makes that determination.

    And this eludes to another form of oppression, which you may or not have had in mind when writing.

    Children are indoctrinated in the culture of their parents. These children should, in my opinion, also be encouraged to challange and explore what they believe as they grow older.

    What this world doesn’t need is more people yelling “you’re wrong” at each other when they don’t even know (in the subjective sense) what is right and wrong.

  3. Amen, Brother Ben!! I’m with you on both points.

  4. Saint says:

    Pat,
    As you know by now I believe that God’s Laws are well established and we can see them demonstrated everyday by observing nature. We humans have free will which also means we are responsible for the repercussions of our actions. To accept free will and then to blame outcomes on an “angry God” is trying to have it both ways. Further we live on a planet with severe weather as part of our natural environment. To build a city in the hurricane belt and than blame the storm on God is kind of crazy. We see in others ( including GOD) what we see in ourselves. If we are sadistic than that is all we can see in GOD. Be LOVE and you will see LOVE in GOD. Peace, Saint

  5. Saint,

    As it has been said, God made man in his image and we returned the favor. So yes, we do tend to project onto others, including God, human and flawed characteristics that we see in ourselves. To your point, wouldn’t it be grand if we could see our divinity rather than our most base nature.

    In defense of the ancients who didn’t have a clue why violent storms occur, and whose beliefs stemmed from mythology (Thor, the god of thunder, and the gang), I totally understand why they concluded that natural disasters were an “act of God.” Why that phrase is still showing up in insurance policies in the 21st century with all of our meteorological intelligence, however, is utterly jaw-dropping. 🙂

    In this morning’s yoga class, the teacher ended the session with a story from Thich Nhat Hanh. His message: Don’t blame the lettuce if the seeds you planted didn’t grow. Check the soil, see if there’s the right amount of sun and water, do some investigation. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t blame God, when the real problem is that we drew the wrong conclusions?

  6. Hal Hurst says:

    From Constantine to Ralph Reed those who wish to exercise dominion over others often resort to claims of special knowledge of the will of God, and parse scripture to fit their ends. The existence and persistence of these rascals and charlatans besmirches the name of Jesus for those of simpleminded faith and leads them away from truth.

    Was Emperor Tojo a good Buddhist? Is Osama bin Laden a good Muslim? Unfortunately religion has always attracted the power-hungry. But conscientious people must follow the best lights they have available, and constantly examine their assumptions. To demand black and white answers is to sign up for tyranny.

  7. “Unfortunately religion has always attracted the power-hungry.”

    I wonder what others have to say about this, Hal.
    😉

  8. Bobby says:

    Woah……You actually went after the concept of Us v/s Them? Don’t worry P/, I got yo’ back…..way back…….

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