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God as allegory of the parent

March 24, 2009

When I first heard about people taking various parts of scripture or religion as being allegorical or being metaphorical, I didn’t really grant much to these kinds of theories. I would look at these kinds of interpretations, say something like, “Well, that’s nice if it works for you,” but then put it aside.

It just seemed too…scandalous…and depowered…if certain religious concepts became merely metaphorical. I mean, I understand that looking at Genesis as metaphor is probably the best way to interpret it (no young earth creationists here, nope!) but it seemed to me that there were lines…for example, it seems to me that the Book of Mormon does not stand if one hypothetically concedes that it might just be a good fairy tale. The New Testament doesn’t work if one hypothetically concedes that Jesus was “just a great teacher.” I know a guy who believes that God exists…but he vehemently argues that God exists only because he is such a pervasive idea in the minds of so many. This guy doesn’t posit the actual existence of God, except to say that such an idea reifies itself with popularity.

That’s my kind of problem with liberal interpretations of religion. I love that it is a serious attempt at a different perspective, but it just seems that after a certain point, I would have no reason to commit.

Anyway, a kind of hybrid halfway point that I’ve seen is people believing in an actual God or in an actual truth or historicity of the scriptures, but in also viewing allegories as a ‘help guide’. My dad’s latest musings brought some of that.

He raised that the church’s heavy emphasis on family (and LDS views about progression and becoming like gods — whether that’s esoteric or common doctrine) is because God and the free will he affords us is an allegory for parenting and raising a family.

So, we have parents who are trying to teach us stuff. They know that we have to experience these things on our own for it to become truly appreciated, so we must have free will and we must be able to live in our own bodies (sound familiar, right?). It might seem better if our parents made us do every thing that we were supposed to and shielded us from our own mistakes, but then, not only would we not truly learn what we needed to learn, but we’d come to resent our parents for not giving us any freedom. We have to learn to come to grips with our shortcomings, face adversity, and then come to an understanding of obedience and faith, so to speak.

My dad spoke about how painful it is as a parent to see a child not recognize what he has done. After all, while a parent gives that kid the space required for him to come to grips with his shortcomings, face adversity, etc., it might seem to that kid that he was able to do it himself. Or perhaps he was able to do it with his friends…others who are in the same small space and do not see the bigger picture.

And I’m not going to rat my family members out or anything (because every time my father goes on about something like this, it’s because someone has done something), but I’d just ask everyone reading: can’t anyone recall a time where they or a brother or sister was so focused on personal goals and wants that they couldn’t see and be grateful for the fact that when it came to needs, their parents were always there for them?

So, good parents provide the basic needs which enable kids to move upward and outward, right. But unless we are attuned to gratitude, we are too focused on all of these other factors and we take the basics for granted. We might feel entitled: “Well, I deserved that! That’s just what good parents do! And better parents would give me more!’ And sometimes, we don’t even recognize the role that our loving parents played at all.

My dad said something bone chilling. He offered, “And some people do not even believe in God.”

I mean, yeah, he was just taking a potshot at atheism and atheists, but how do you fight this from an allegorical standpoint? It really makes every single argument sound intensely petty and ungrateful.

Don’t worry; I’m not going to jump and become a believer or something.

From → Dad Talk

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