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Parenting and God

September 4, 2009

This is reposted from a facebook note.

I was reading an article the other day about some Christian dude talking about how Christianity is becoming rather unappealing. It doesn’t make sense to many, and people can see that it just brings frustration and misery. No matter what great apologists have to say about it, or what great rhetoricians and debaters can say about it, the battle isn’t won in the debate room. The battle isn’t won by making a logical argument.

Rather, the battle is won when someone can make a comment like this:

“It’s OK to not believe. Give yourself a break. Stop tormenting yourself trying to believe. Stop propping up your belief with more and more complex arguments. Just let go of God.”

And this is it. It’s the choice between tormenting and not tormenting, between misery and joy, between strife and peace. And people pick peace.
The reason this Christian pointed this out was because, quite simply, there needs to be a makeover. Belief shouldn’t be something that must “torment” one, and it shouldn’t have to be “propped up” with more and more complex arguments.

Well, still, I think what most interested me was how many Christians came, from different perspectives, to agree with the idea of the makeover. They came to say things like, “Well, I know a lot of atheists who are a lot more noble than a lot of Christians…and the worst part is, they will always point out that they aren’t doing it for some kind of reward…they aren’t doing it for heaven.” It doesn’t help Christianity if its face has blemishes, I suppose.

But then someone said something that was really interesting.

These are the folks who’ll come to meet God face to face, the same God they swore all their lives didn’t even exist, and ask Him, “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?”

And God will pat them on the head and call them righteous.

Now, I’m pretty sure that this interpretation of the pericope in Matthew 25:31-46 is still a bit more liberal than most Christians would want to accept (EGADS! WORKS DON’T SAVE! YOU HAVE TO HAVE FAITH IN CHRIST JEEEZUS! WHAT A HERESY TO SUGGEST THAT ATHEISTS CAN GO TO HEAVEN?!), but I thought the idea was interesting.

And this got me thinking…so, most people would like to look at God as some kind of parental figure, right? So, presumably, as a parental figure, he’s trying to teach us stuff. And I guess that life is the classroom and testing environment.

I guess regular Christians would say, “Well, the “right” answer is faith in Jesus Christ,” so they can feel free to ignore the rest of everything I have to say right now…but WHAT IF the “right” answer were right attitude and right action, instead of right belief? What if the right attitudes are being poor in spirit, being a mourner, being hungry for righteousness, being persecuted for seeking righteousness, being meek, merciful, blah blah blah? Then, couldn’t this *theoretically* be divorced from the church, from theology, from religion? So, let’s say Christianity as an institution (or *insert religion here* as an institution) is way off the mark…they just have no idea what they are doing. But can’t there still be people searching for righteousness? (And wouldn’t these people be persecuted for seeking righteousness precisely because they don’t have the right belief and aren’t a part of the institution?)

And couldn’t someone who doesn’t believe be one of these people? I think that’s what the commenter was saying. So far, everyone is thinking, “Well, righteousness is the “domain” of the church,” but aren’t the scriptures clear? not everyone who cries, “Lord, Lord…” And just as clear, someone might be unaware, and will come to the last day and wonder, “Lord, when did I ever serve you?” So there’s a bit of a disconnect.

So, if a nonbeliever can be one of these people, then our liberal Christian who said that the nonbeliever could yet be patted on the head (or whatever…I’m pretty sure the scriptures don’t say “pat on the head”) isn’t so heretical.

BUT….then I get back to the paradigm…with us as children and God as parent.

So, the parent is trying to teach his kid…something. Would it be enough for the kid to learn that *something* (that is, cultivate proper attitudes, humility, and all that jazz)…or wouldn’t it really be better if the kid acknowledged that the reason he was able to learn that something was because his parent was trying to teach him that something? It seems to me entirely possible and plausible that someone could become “righteous” and say, “I was able to become righteous by abandoning the church, God, etc.,” but IF this is the case, then God should be worried about this.

Shouldn’t God be worried that his name is besmirched? And trust me, this isn’t something he can fix by smiting people and sending them to hell. Rather, though he is omni omni omni, he still has to APPEAL to the nonbeliever in some way…and show that he does have credibility. I mean, I guess he doesn’t “have” to do anything (after all, he could say it was always the nonbeliever’s responsibility, not his, to exercise faith)…but if he doesn’t, and someone does go to hell despite what they DID and what they SOUGHT, wouldn’t that be sad?

Wouldn’t it be sad for a child to say to a parent, “Well, look at me now, I’ve gotten all of my affairs in order, no thanks to you“? And the parent thinks, “Why couldn’t you have seen that I was there all along?” The fact is, regardless of what that parent has done…he has failed to establish credibility. This is an ultimate loss, no matter if the child *has* learned the lesson and is living it well.

your mileage may vary.


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One Comment
  1. 1minionsopinion permalink

    That was really interesting. I think you hit on the crux of the problem when it comes to the conflict between faithful followers and atheist unbelievers. It’s not just words that matter, it’s deeds as well. Both sides sully their arguments by behaving rude and poorly. Cruelty regardless of credo. We atheists get tired of hearing the Christian right cheer about how they’ll be up in heaven celebrating while we burn below. How sadistic a vision that is. We also get tired of the assumption that because we’re godless, we’re goodless. Some of us falter, as some Christians do as well and I’m sure Christians get tired of seeings atheists gloat when another preacher gets caught with his knickers down.

    At the base we’re all human, tempted by all the same foibles and follies. It’s ridiculous of our collective societies to keep bickering like we do because it doesn’t change minds; it only hardens hearts.

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