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:
- Emulate this brutal behavior and call it “holy;”
- 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.