Saturday, October 3, 2015

Inventing God

"Natural Beauty" 


I found myself laughing out loud last night as I watched a segment of Real Time With Bill Maher, the comedy series on HBO.  Tongue-in cheek, Maher suggested that the message of the “real” Jesus as portrayed in the Bible is far too subversive for most politicians today (especially conservative Republicans) and so they have to invent a new Jesus to fit into their own image.

After all, if you read what Jesus actually says in the New Testament he sounds like a radical “socialist:”

-       Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.
-       Whatever you do to the least among you, you do to me.
-       Go sell all you have and give it to the poor.

There are plenty of politicians in America today who could never be elected unless they are a professed “Christian” believer (or at least belong to some religion); but any politician who went around spouting these Jesus’ teachings wouldn’t stand a chance of winning any elected office. So politicians have to to invent a new Jesus to fit their own agenda.

In Maher’s comedy sketch yesterday he suggested that this new Jesus is something like a “small businessman from Galilee,” a “supply-side Jesus” who promises prosperity to the rich, rewards those who work hard, and if there is something left over it can “trickle down” to the poor (pretty much the opposite of what Jesus actually taught).

Like all humor, the funny part of all this is that Maher’s “tongue-in-cheek” analysis of American politics is essentially quite true.

The fact is that depictions of “God” are very often invented and remade to fit the image and the agenda of those who profess their belief in God.

The various “Prosperity Churches” in America have fashioned “God” into something like a “good luck charm”  - if you go to church and believe in God you will get rich quick and the more you give to the church the richer you will become. God has also been portrayed as the “Heavenly Warrior” leading the troops into battle assuring that our side wins the war, God is the great “Football Coach in the Sky” who wants our team to win the game, God is the “Vindictive Lawgiver” who stands in judgment against people of the same gender who come seeking a marriage license.

God often looks like and thinks like and lives like the people who say that they believe in God.

I am reminded of something Anne Lamott once said:

You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image
when it turns out that God hates the same people you do.

I am often amused and bewildered by the outcry of people in this country who say that we should all get down on our knees and pray that we might all become a “God-fearing, Bible-believing nation” once again. I am amused at this because if you actually look at what the Bible says my guess is that many of the people on their knees praying want nothing to do with a “God” who calls us all to live with kindness and compassion, to welcome foreigners and immigrants, to care for the poor, to respect the dignity of every human being and to treat the environment as a sacred place.

You have to be careful what you pray for.

Actually I kind of like the idea that we might all become this kind of “Bible believing” nation.

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