How Cruel is Your God?
I’m endlessly fascinated by how people relate to God by way of images and figures that are important to them. Their preferred images of God may tell us more about their religiosity and about themselves than would the particular community to which they belong.
I’m especially intrigued by my fellow Christians who, while calling God a father who sent his son to restore a broken relationship with humanity, also present the almighty as some deified version of Joffrey Baratheon, cruel and malicious and an all around jerk.
There’s a tradition for this. If you interpret the Bible as a literal record of what God said and did (I would counsel against this), then God commanded human beings to commit some pretty horrible acts. You don’t have to look far to find Christians giving God a pass on these imperatives because he’s God and can morally do as he will.
The cruelty, as you may expect, does not stay with the imagined deity. I know of well-meaning believers who would refuse shelter to a couple “living in sin” on the basis that the needs to the soul outweigh the needs of the body. Because nothing says the love of Jesus like “I must withhold benevolence until you conform your life to my religious tenets.”
I also run into the occasional fellow Christian expressing a deep concern for souls likely destined for hellfire because they call God by the wrong name, invoke the divine with wrong prayers, or hold the wrong objects as sacred. Hell makes sense to me, and not only because I recently heard five seconds of a hit song by the sensation One Direction. I image God as the being of love itself, but love can be accepted or rejected, embraced or refused. People sometimes choose misery over reconciliation. I can see Hell as a chosen state of life, but I find it passing strange that a God who so loved the world that he suffered and died to show that world the meaning of love would then send the masses to Hell because they didn’t score enough points on the test or because they filled out the wrong sheet. The kids would call that an epic fail.