I ramble, I know.
I started Part 1 of this series with only one thought I really wanted to communicate. But my brain kept getting filled up with other things I wanted to say. So you’ll have to bear with me while I, um, uh… learn to write. Because if I don’t post these thoughts as they are, they will just stagnate and clog my brain.
So back to the question of whether God loves me – or you, or anyone for that matter. The way I understand the story of Christianity, God incarnated himself as a human being and thereby made it possible for us to be redeemed from our sad, flesh-bound existence. We could focus on a single human life, or on the fate of human life in general. Even if your own life makes you happy, doesn’t it feel bad that for all practical purposes, we’re stuck on this earth and that eventually the last human will die? It makes ME feel bad. And so I look for answers to the question of eternal life. Christianity is the most prominent provider of said answers. I’ve been told many times – mostly by Protestants evangelicals – that God loves me. But how would I know? This series investigates that question.
One thing that makes me sad is my lack of sufficient power over things. Why can’t I remake the world as I see fit? Why can’t I rearrange physical matter with a mere thought? I can do this to a certain extent. After all, I am sitting here, and these words appear on the screen as I type them. So I obviously have some power. But look at Genesis Chapter 1: “God created the heavens and the earth… God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” Now that is power. If I want to know what real power is, then there I have it. And if God loved me, he would give me some of it, right? So either he doesn’t love me… or he just doesn’t love me in that way. He must love me in some other way, some way much less obvious than to just give me the power to rearrange creation as I see fit. God’s love has now become a disappointing conditional sort of love. It’s like if someone says, “Of course I love you, just not as much as this other thing. You’re like number three million on my list of things. But hey, still, how about some sex?!???” No, God. No sex – I’m gonna need a little more wooing than that!
I wish I could move mountains – or entire planets! – instead of just making a few words appear on a computer screen.
If God is going to become a person, in order to accomplish a specific goal, why not have that goal be to allow me to change the physical world as I see fit? If God is going to become human, why not allow people to become God? In the story of the Crucifixion, God becomes fully human through his painful death on the Cross. Prior to this, we can only assume that God was free from physical pain and human limitation.
A more productive interpretation of the life of Christ is that God opened up an avenue of communication on how God and human beings can relate to each other. Before, God was pain-free and could do anything at any time for any reason – a state of omnipotence. But he “so loved the world” that he became human for the span of one lifetime. The only way it makes sense is if human beings are getting precisely what God is giving up. God gets pain and death, and humans are freed from pain and death, at least a little bit.
We can start to ask, what is so good about pain and death that God would “so love the world” as to want to experience it? I don’t find the traditional explanation satisfying, which compares God’s love to human love for their children. Yes, people love their children and would die for them. But that doesn’t mean that becoming their children will help them. Maybe it would be better if God retained his great status, and just bestowed fatherly gifts upon us from time to time. How does becoming such a powerless child constitute “loving the world?” How could a zookeeper benefit his animals by locking himself in a cage for a year?
The actual story is more of an erotic masochistic fantasy, where God ties himself up and plays the victim just to feel the pain. His motives seem less-than-pure.
In exchange for God’s BDSM role-play, whoever “believes” now receives eternal life. I can see the logic here, although it’s tricky. In order to become a human being, God had to undress a little, if you will, and leave some of his “God clothes” at the gate. While he was distracted and enjoying the pain of being Christ, some of his powers became available for humans to “wear.” God role-plays man, and humans can role-play God while He’s distracted. They are each revealing some of their secrets to the other.
Jesus was a way for God and human beings to begin to relate to each other.
But does God love me? That seems like another question entirely.
How do I begin answering that question? Instead of Dirty Harry’s, “‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” I think a good place to start is by asking:
“Do I feel loved?”
Well, do I?
Consider what is normally said about God, that he is almighty and all knowing and all benevolent. Such a God would never have allowed me to feel a moment’s pain, unless the pain was quickly utilized to bring an even greater joy. Yet my life is full of moments of pain, with no obvious joyful counterbalance. So it is clear that he doesn’t love me. The answer is No. People with less robust self-confidence will lament God’s “unsearchable” character. “Who can know the will of God?” they will say. But I say unto you: “If God is so unsearchable, then your beliefs about God are not based on observation. So why do you believe anything good about Him, if he is so mysterious as to be unsearchable? Why are only the good things searchable? It’s is because you are all weak-minded fools, I say unto you! Or social cowards unwilling to abandon the safety-in-numbers of the evil herds you belong to! Rose-colored glasses-wearing fools!”
So lets’ throw out the all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful idea of God, and try to examine a little more closely the nature of God’s becoming Christ on the cross. God’s strange masochistic tendency, as illustrated above, allows a little more flexibility in one’s interpretation of His nature. If God’s incarnation as a human serves to donate a part of his transcendent powers to us – perhaps the part he leaves behind during his transformation – then while I may live in sin and ignorance, with enough effort on God’s part to join me in my pain, maybe I could make up the loss. It’s the “misery loves company” method of salvation: God is going to be the submissive in our little role play, which makes me the dominant. It’s only a matter of asking, How much pain and sacrifice would God have to make on my account in order to please me, i.e. to make me feel “loved.”
Stay tuned for Part 3.