Sunday, 3 May 2015

Ten distorted/extreme views about God

1) God the micro-manager. God is like the pan-optical tower guard standing sentry over us 24-7, 365 and He sees all and knows all. Nothing escapes Him, not even the nanometer growth of one strand of our hair every single second of everyday or the time lapse between two heartbeats at anytime of the day for every living creature. He is responsible for all things and nothing moves (or even thinks of moving) without God's explicit or implicit nod of approval. Everything that happened happens because God says so and He micro-manages all things, from the most trivial and frivolous to the most momentous and earth-shattering. As JBS Haldane once wrote: "The Creator would appear as endowed with a passion for stars, on the one hand, and for beetles on the other, for the simple reason that there are nearly 300,000 species of beetle known, and perhaps more, as compared with somewhat less than 9,000 species of birds and a little over 10,000 species of mammals. Beetles are actually more numerous than the species of any other insect order." Believers take this view to the extreme by treating God like a divine Big Brother carrying out a security surveillance on them 24-7. However, its not His sovereignty that's the issue here. It is how paranoid we become as we view God as a divine sky cop patrolling every square-inch of our life with the penal code in one hand and the taser in the other. 

2) God the mollycoddler. This is the effusive maternal side of God. Here He goes beyond being our caregiver or provider. Believers who subscribe to this view sees Him as the divine spa manager. They see Him as a divine butler who stands ready to serve, hands and feet, with whatever may be their heart's desires. For the believers, this is the best bargain of salvation where nothing is impossible with God. And as long as they believe, God will in turn sign up to be their personal counselor, cheerleader and psychologist all rolled into one mushy ball for a lifetime. Of course, the raw reality of life is the conveniently avoided fine print of the so-called bargain and we refuse to read them because what is too good to be true is just too good for us to ever admit that it's just not true.

3) God the judge, jury and executioner. Coming down many levels from point two above (the divine mollycoddler), this is the side of God that some believers find most stern, strict and vengeful. Yet this is how God is perceived by them. He is a no-nonsense God who judges, decides, and then dispenses - mostly retributive justice. This side of God flourishes most starkly in the Old Testament where the order to kill, steal and destroy (the Canaanites and the city of Jericho), regardless of age, gender and culpability, shows how swift divine justice was meted out. Ultimately, in Revelation, God will judge all and He has reserved a place of eternal punishment for the unredeemed. Believers who subscribe to this view  obey God because they are scared stiff of Him. In this case, the fear of the Lord keeps them in tenterhooks.

4) God the suffering messiah. Although this view is the safest portrayal of God, it is nevertheless prone to distortion/extremism. If believers had their way, this face of God would be the most bloody and they will take it as their lot/fate in life. Believers who believe in suffering as a form of sanctification like self-flagellation and self-mortification will rebel against anything that hints to pleasure and fun. They live with a guilt-ridden soul, tormented by unconfessed sins. Never thinking that they measure up, they will work out their salvation, justify their justification, and double insure their redemption to no end. They are often a complete nervous wreck - largely self-induced.

5) God the monastic mendicant. This is the God prosperity preachers love to hate. The poverty vows are almost blasphemous for them. In fact, there is no room for such a God - even a hint of it - in their Sunday sermons. To them, the post-Calvary God is a God of enjoyment not renunciation, riches not poverty and happyness not mournfulness. You can best learn about this distorted view of God from the prosperity preachers' own extreme view of Him. Actually, you strike two birds of distortion with one definitional stone with these two versions of God, namely, the bling-bling, money-or-nothing deity and the poor-as-a-church-mouse godhead. Alas, there is no middle road for these spiritual cuckoos. 

6) God the perfect prefect. Speaking about being holy, this is a version of God that is most physically/emotionally exhausting. Believers take the scripture "be holy as I am holy" literally and live out their faith in a portable hermitage of you-can't-touch-this and you-can't-touch-that. This reminds me of the Midas touch where in this twisted version, everything that the believers touch or think, say or act contaminates their innermost being or spirit man. So they live their life set apart from the world and set apart physically. Like taking the poverty vows, they are lost in their own world of self-righteousness and social exclusivity. In fact they are so "holy" that they are of little practical use on earth. The annoyance is not about them being "holy" - that's very much their own business - but it is in their pharisaic attitude that they are holier than all that sickens all.

7) God the sugar-daddy. Now comes the prosperity preachers to showcase their spiritual mumbo jumbos. This view of God holds the key not only to eternal life in heaven but also unimaginable riches on earth. And this is the craze nowadays. This also blends supremely well with our consumerist, market-driven, materialistic global society. The marriage of religion and post-modernism makes this Babel-like tower the commanding banner in the sky. Believers practically flock like flies to fire to megachurches which preach about the wealth and health gospel. Forget about bearing one's Cross and denying self, it's just too unglam. Now, the glittering theology is all about wearing a velvety cross over your neck as a branded accessory and believing that God exists just to satisfy your every need/want. You can't get any more personal than that and what's more, it's the Creator of Heaven and Earth for goodness sake! How's that for a sugar-daddy with Aladdin-like powers.

8) God the careless whisperer. This is the epitome of self-confirmation pious bias. If I get a dollar for every believer who comes to me and tells me that God told him this and that, I would have enough money to last me this lifetime and a few generations thereafter. You see, everyone wants to be a special exclusive envoy for God and most times, it is by way of self-endorsement. The truth is, there is just no sure-fire way to verify its authenticity. They say that by his fruits you shall know the truth. But look around you, over the course of human history, the innumerable questionable denominations, self-serving beliefs, the prosperity gospel of this age, and even cults growing at such fast and lamentable pace with their robust membership and sprawling financial assets and wealth, and then allow this to whisper into your ears: "Some fruits take such a long time to show their rottenness, that by the time it does, the rotten religious tree would have embedded its root so deep into the hearts of its blinded believers that chopping it down would bring everybody down - both the deceiving leader and his deluded mass." So, most rather just let dead dog lie.

9) God the grand enigma. To be honest, there is little to distort here. God's ways are indeed higher than ours and His thoughts are not our thoughts. It is therefore not for mortal men to understand the plans of the immortal. My only bugbear here is how some believers use this as an excuse to prevent an earnest believer from airing his genuine doubts. I always believe that doubt is not the enemy of faith but absolute certainty and blind allegiance are. And believers who render blind allegiance are often the one who believes with their feelings and not their head. For this reason, they are easy target of new fads, trends and yarn spun by flashy, charismatic preachers.

10) God the absentee landlord. In a nutshell, this is deism. This is the story of the grand Architect of Creation furiously bringing his blueprint to reality and then walking away from it completely. Once He leaves, He leaves for good. He leaves His creation to their own devices as they confront and deal with the laws of quantum and social physics. He does not interfere, not at all. He leaves us where he first left us and expects us to fend for ourselves. For whatever reason, this God has better things to do and He leaves the fate of humanity in our own hands. As such, if theodicy for deism is a course of study, it would last no more than 5 minutes. The text can be summed up in these few words:
 "God has left the yourself." Cheerz.

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