It is funny how our conception of God and everything relating to him can stretch no further than what is familiar to us. Let me explain. If you think about God, what comes to mind? I guess everything that is written in the Bible about him, right? And more? Yes more. This is where we take a leap of anthropocentric faith, that is, we imagine him to be one of us. This is of course biblical since we are created in his image and no God of ours is going to be and look any different. Yet we will not stop there. We sometimes go on overdrive. We start to imagine God and fantasize about him in ways that some may even squirm in their seat. Here is what I mean.
When we think about God, we always think of him as not just good looking but great looking. Going further, we may even take Hollywood stars like George Clooney and Brad Pitt as the minimum benchmark. God knows that we have already asked Jim Caveziel to play Jesus on screen and he was a hit. Undeniably, Jim is one actor who has a bankable face, hands down (of course this comparison is clearly debatable and that's my point exactly).
Recently, Discovery Channel used the latest forensic technology and reconstructed what Jesus would look like and it caused a public outcry. One columnist even commented that the Jesus she knew as a child was replaced by "the kind of guy who wouldn't make it through airport security." (Kathleen Parker).
From things as superficial as looks, we go to other humanly perceived features like....hair? Here is where it goes a tad irreverent with apology of course. Now can anyone imagine the Creator of the Universe being bald? Or having a mop of white fizzy hair? How about an Afro-American perm? Re-bonding anyone? God forbid that one should consider dreadlocks or spikey pump rock or those out-of-this-world hairdo that leaves one side with hair hanging and the other side as barren as a baby's butt (no offence to cultural distinctions here).
As far as some besotted believers are concerned, should they be compelled to describe the divine coiffure, the general unspoken consensus would be flowing golden locks with a regal fringe parted at the side (I trust there will be many who will have other creative ideas in mind). Now, the anthropocentric overdose will secretly crave for piercing blue eyes, sharp Roman nose, avuncular grandness, perfect eyesight and a symmetrical face. That is how we generally think about God (superficially) because perfection in everything will not tolerate imperfection in anything. He is God anyway, right?
For a more sobering, and no less biting, view of the son of God, here is what Bishop Yvonne Flaunden has to say: "(I see Jesus) walking around as a horribly oppressed person with a whole lot of clothes on, pressing him - just layers and layers. We've taken 2000 years to turn Jesus into someone very different than that person who got in the water with John for baptism. There's political stuff, there's economic stuff, there's church stuff. Jesus is even a plank on many political platforms. Jesus is the reason that we go to war, Jesus is the reason we oppress the immigrant, Jesus is even mad at Mickey Mouse or the Teletubies. But there comes a point when we have to undress Jesus, we have to take all the stuff, all the chap that we've put on Jesus, all of these layers and layers of tradition and all of our different ideas and theologies and get back to the Jesus that stood in the water with John." Wow, like peeling off layers after layers of the theological onion of presuppositions hor?
How about the place where God dwells? Believers call it heaven. Now to be fair, heaven, as contrast with hell, has to be of the highest class, prestige and comfort. It has to be perfect too. This is where we go all out to put heaven on par with our humanistic thinking (of course there is undeniably some biblical basis to it too). Heaven will share some similarities with mother earth, but only exceptionally perfect. This would mean that (for the lack of examples) in terms of cleanliness, it has to be like Singapore with neat alignment of trees everywhere, save for its less than perfect government and policies (now I am sure some Icelanders or Swedes will readily beg to differ). Imagine heaven as totally clean, dust and dirt free, but ruled by a benevolent, wise and perfect being...like God (or God, dispensing with "like")
How about the problems we humans generally encounter on earth like crimes, pollution, war and violence, corruption, death, pain and suffering, birth deformities and poverty, exploitation and inequality, depression, and illnesses and diseases? Does anyone think that the heaven defined according to our standards will be burdened or plagued by all that negative, dreary and ominous elements? Of course not. It is a street paved in gold for God's sake, with mansion bigger than a billionaire's estate, without death and tears, and with a whole lot of celebrating, praising and rejoicing forever and ever more (and I guess worshippers are miraculously blessed with the perfect pitch, which happens to be welcoming news for some churchgoers I know. And not to forget, we all look thirty- something, no exception. Ladies, you can throw those SKII bottles out of the window).
Next come angels. Now needlessly to say, angels are good looking too (although in the Bible, some of them are described to have more than one head and a mutant-like body). By the way, have you seen an ugly angel in the movies? We can't imagine angels having one eye like a Cyclops or four arms like that alien from ben ten right? And I guess they are musical as well with the fabled harp. They are possibly great archer too...or should I be confining my description to cupids only? Anyway, angels cannot do without them wings and some have more than one pair to cover their entire body. Angels also communicate in perfect English (some with a dreamy Scottish accent) in mellifluous tones and a smile to boot. In every way, angels are like us except that they are on average better looking (unless you are comparing them with the hunks in Hollywood) and yes, they fly too.
Finally, we come to hell. Now I guess this place is not much different from our earthly prisons except with much more dread, pain, torture and...not to forget eternity. It kind of reminds one of Abu Ghraib but with hideous looking guards staring at you 24-7 and lots of pits of fire to rotisserie ungenerated unbelievers and impenitent hypocrites...forever.
If there is one place that takes a page off our anthropocentric nature, it has to be hell. As much as we want to go to heaven, a wonderful place of endless joy, we want to avoid hell at all costs, which is a place of punishment for evil people who reject God. This is a very human thing to do since the Manichean struggle between good and evil, heaven and hell, God and the devil, and the eventual victory of good over evil are the formulaic meta-narrative we tell our children and ourselves over and over again.
Let me end on a dark note. Let's talk about the devil. To the believer, he is as real as the person standing next to him in a crowded train. This is self-evident because without him, the original sin is doomed. I can't imagine the serpent in Genesis being rewritten as any lesser evil as the devil we have over the millennia come to know and fear.
Imagine a shady Al Pacino-esque character taking the place of the proverbial serpent in Genesis, will Eve ever take the bait or the bite it? I highly doubt it. In other words, in an ironic twist, I guess no one (or entity) could ever do the so-called "apple-bait" better than him. No doubt he met his match when he confronted the son of man in the New Testament, he nevertheless got away with the mother of man in Genesis. Alas, the world would be a lot different if the son and the mother had switched places. Just a thought.
So, what is our human view of the evil one, Lucifer, Beelzebub, the first resident and Lord of hades? Well, I think the preceding paragraph speaks for itself. He is of course evil. He is heartless. He is merciless. He is all the despicable traits you can find in the villains portrayed in all our books, magazines, movies, articles, journals, pictorials, paintings and encyclopedias. In fact, it makes it a whole lot easier to think of him as the direct, glaring and deeply disturbing opposite of God.
Herein ends our thinking about God and I thank you for taking the time with me on this journey of mental experiment (or imagination?). And it would be good to be reminded that although God is not a figment of our imagination, we were once a figment of his. So, if the apple does not fall far from the tree, I can expect our thoughts about him to have a semblance of truth and reality in it with the expected anthropocentric caricatures at its periphery. Cheerz.