When my daughter Goldie died just over 3 years ago, I got a lot of well meaning, but insanely horrible comments by people who probably could have just sent flowers….or a casserole.
God takes the best ones to be his angels.
God knew how strong you were which is why He chose you.
God was testing you, and you passed!
God has commanded you to be of good cheer.
God allowed this to happen so He could bring something good out of it and get the glory.
Every time the comments would smash into my heart I would think, how in the world can people believe in that kind of HORRIBLE GOD and stay devoted to Him? According to many comments, I found that a lot of people believed in a supposed loving God who kills babies to make their parents stronger and test them, all to have an army of little heavenly cherubs, then commanding the parents to be joyful about it for the sake of bringing something good out of the tragedy so that HE can get glory.
Pardon my French, but WHAT THE FRENCH FRIES????? And why do more people not find this God terrifying????
After Goldie died I would sit and wonder, How could someone follow, love, and serve a God so cruel? How could someone stay devoted to a baby killing deity who loves to orchestrate heartache in order to get credit for the healing?? That would be like me pushing my son Moses down on the playground causing him to sprain his arm, all for the purpose of teaching him how to overcome pain and wanting his praises when I nurse him back to health. We would all be in jail for some of the parenting tactics we've ascribed to God's nature! The more I pondered the absurdity of this kind of masochistic God, the more I realized something even crazier.
My version of God wasn't much better.
My version of God sat distantly in the sky UNTIL I sang a song and lifted my arms to coax Him down from heaven.
And when my version of God would decided to come down and let his presence visit me, he was 99.99% male and looked like Zeus—a white Zeus, too.
Nothing could separate me from the love of my distant-male-Zeus-God, EXCEPT when I was bingeing on food, masturbating over the years (the byproduct of early sexual trauma), or yelling at my husband—at which point He would abandon me until I got my act together.
My distant-male-Zeus-God was good, but I wasn't really good unless I was acting sinless.
My distant-male-Zeus-God was powerful, but not as powerful as sin—because He literally couldn't be around me if I was sinning (making sin the powerhouse in the equation).
My distant-male-Zeus-God would selectively pick His miracles based upon how hard I prayed and believed, making me a hoop-jumping performance addict.
Oh, and my distant-male-Zeus-God would also let locust eat up my vineyards if I didn't give 10% of my money to my local church. But was it 10% of my net? Or 10% of my gross? And if I got that wrong, would the locust be able to eat up the extra percentage that I hadn't given, even though I was giving to other things?
The more I sat with the distant-male-Zeus-God I had created within my heart and mind, really pondering his bad character and nature, the more I realized that I didn't like him very much. I had been scared to ask tough questions about him, especially since he seemed to be a bit bi-polar from the Old Testament to the New Testament—sending plagues, killing babies, and wiping out bad people to then have a change of heart with Jesus to love and include everyone unconditionally. For many years I just kept my mouth shut, loving my distant-male-Zeus-God like I was commanded, pretending that I didn't have doubts and questions, and continued to read my Bible, serve, worship, and send money to Africa.
But pretending gets exhausting, especially when you're pretending to love someone you don't like.
I didn't really like or understand my distant-male-Zeus-God. He was far off, not as powerful as sin, a bit cruel, unpredictable, and commanded me to forgive my enemies while He couldn't forgive His enemies and was sending them to burn in hell. My distant-male-Zeus-God was a man who was probably a Republican (because of the whole abortion thing), was consistently publicly cruel to gays, and apparently sent hurricanes to destroy New Orleans to combat all the voodoo. My distant-male-Zeus-God was definitely mostly American, hated ISIS and wanted to blow them up like me, and agreed with my theology more than anyone else's. He was extremely critical of people who were in the UNbelieving category (or like Buddhists, Hindus, New Agers, and atheists), and had sanctioned His church (meaning me) to police the earth by pointing out out all the ways these UNbelievers weren't living up to scripture. My distant-male-Zeus-God didn't want me around sinful people unless I was converting them, as if their sin-cooties could jump on me like a disease and pollute my holiness. My distant-male-Zeus-God might have said things like don't be a ‘respecter of persons,' and ‘the first will be last, and the last will be first, ‘ but He didn't really mean it. Because my distant-male-Zeus-God always put the REALLY chosen people in the important sections up at the front of services and on platforms—(the famous, talented, and rich people). Once I had worked hard to get a toe or two in this elite green-room category, I convinced myself that my distant-male-Zeus-God didn't really need me to get my hands dirty by ACTUALLY serving the poor, or PERSONALLY loving those difficult to love. I was too busy writing big worship songs, books, and sermons to tell those following me how to do it. ):
My god, I sure didn't like my distant-male-Zeus-God. And I didn't like him because, to be honest, he looked a hell of a lot like all of the things I didn't like about me.
IS MY GOD A CHRISTIAN?
Christian. A term I've used to reference myself and my beliefs for the majority of my life, even though it's always been a bit embarrassing. It was always mortifying to be associated with the group of people who picket gay funerals in hate, or who bomb abortion clinics to carry out God's supposed ‘eye-for-an-eye' justice. Christ has been the name used to justify the lynchings of the KKK, the slaughters of the crusades, the segregation of blacks and whites, the robbery of Native American and Hawaiian land, and the burning of female witches, just to name a few. But then Christians are also the beautiful people who rush to the aid of the homeless, the orphan, who serve those in need, and send church vans of volunteers when tornados wipe out cities. Christ is also the name that compelled Mother Theresa to serve the lowly in Calcutta and Heidi Baker to take in the orphans of Mozambique. With an estimated 33,000 denominations in the world (this number is debatable) with people interpreting the Bible to fit their own agenda for centuries, who is the real Jesus?
And what does it really mean to be a Christian?
“Who do you think you are? You live your life without any real allegiances–not to Rome, not to politics, not to Moses; and you waste your time caring for the poor, the slave, the prisoner. Your relationships matter more to you than your country or culture. You are all about this ‘turning-the-other-cheek' and ‘going-the-extra-mile' nonsense—both impractical ways of living, with naive commitments to other-centered, self-giving love. That will never work in this world. Sure, you don't return evil with evil, you work hard, you tell the truth; but we can't count on you to keep our systems going. You are just a bunch of idealistic losers who are under the delusion that death can be defeated and who think the world could possibly be changed by love: little-Christs, that is all you are.” (Taken from ‘Lies We Believe About God' by W. P. Young)
According to the book Lies We Believe about God by W. P. Young (which is currently stretching me far out of my religious Pharisee skin), the term Christian was originally an insult describing followers of Jesus that meant “little-Christs,' or “mini-Messiahs.”
A mini-Christ, that's what I want to be–but that's not easy. A mini version of the guy who leveled the playing field to value women equal to men in a culture where they were sometimes property, recognizing that God was no more masculine than feminine. A mini-Christ who turned the idea of empire and kingdom on their head, washing feet and serving the poor instead of wearing a crown of gold. A mini-Christ whose life is centered around the core belief of compassion, grace, and non-violence….that when someone asks for your shirt you give them your cloak as well, turning the other cheek when hit, and living with radical forgiveness, even when you're wronged.
When I looked closely at my distant-male-Zeus-God, he didn't look anything like the Jesus that came to represent Him. That didn't mean God was bipolar….it just meant my distant-male-Zeus-God wasn't real.
If Jesus was a ‘friend of sinners,' then so was God—but all my friends were from church and agreed with me. If Jesus told me to turn the other cheek and forgive 70 times 7, then so did God—but I justified my offense at the evil of others. If Jesus didn't sit on a throne in a tabernacle and command people to come in and worship him, but instead was out serving and loving the poor, the broken and the needy like God was—then why was I spending most of my time inside a building singing songs and calling it worship? If Jesus valued all humanity like His Father (since all humanity was made in the image and likeness of God), then why did I only value humanity if they looked, acted, and sounded like I thought they should?
In order to get my distant-male-Zeus-God to be like Jesus, I had to stop believing in him.
I had to become a bit of an atheist.
MY CHRISTIAN ATHEISM
Last week I got an email from my mom.
“Several have come to me from around the US very disturbed that you are not willing to use the name of Jesus, God, and Holy Spirit,” she wrote. “Would love to talk to you more so that we can also represent you well.”
Though her email made me cry for many reasons (the main one being that people love talking ABOUT me without personally contacting ME), I absolutely understood why it might seem strange for a mini-Christ to stop using the personal names used to describe the Trinity.
So why, as a follower of Jesus, would I ever refrain from using those three main names while I'm teaching, even if just for a season? Why would I start using other words to describe God—like Presence, Source, I Am, Perfect Love, Creator, and Divine Being?
And why does this ruffle religious feathers so deeply?
If you've ever seen The Little Mermaid, you remember how Ariel finds a fork in one of her deep sea dives and is told that it's called a dinglehopper used to brush hair. When she sits down to her first table dinner as a human and picks up the fork to brush her hair, her beloved Prince Eric looks at her a bit strangely, wondering why in the world she's running a kitchen utensil through her red locks.
For years, I've been just like Ariel, using the name God to describe someone that wasn't acting much like God. So in order to get my mind, heart, and faith in a different place, relating to a close, loving, personal, forgiving being instead of seeing my distant-male-Zeus-God, I decided to start using language that described those attributes.
The real God is the Source of Life within each breath I take. The real God's Presence is woven inside in every subatomic particle in the universe, and nothing that has been made has been made apart from Him–making Presence always accessible. The real God loves me in my worst state, existing as Perfect Love.
(Job 33:4, Col 1:16, Romans 11:36, Jer 23:24, Romans 5:8)
I'm tired of believing in my distant God, my tiny Jesus, and my cloud-like Holy Spirit, becoming a bit of an atheist for a while to deny their false existence. I'm tired of hearing their names and instantly building a tiny box in my head that contains a deity I think I understand. To move from my false understanding of the divine and into the mystery of the Great I Am who holds the cosmos together, I thought it was quite clever to take a break from using names that have untrue associations for me personally.
Apparently, to some, it makes me dangerous and scary.
But I'm not sure I care anymore. Because I'm finally living connected to my Source of Life like never before, experiencing Presence in unlikely moments that don't seem holy, feeling the Perfect Love that's always there, and seeing the Creator in everything! And though I'm sure I'll go back to using the terms God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit at some point—after they've been cleansed from their painfully untrue associations—I don't mind my moment of atheism to find the true God.
And I don't think the true God minds much either. (:
You are enough.
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