Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dear God, Please just SHUT UP!

In mid-March and mid-July of this year, people were severely wounded by young women who heard God tell them what to do. This is the evil flip side of the evangelical belief that God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit) speaks directly to people. This is why I wish the church would just stop claiming God speaks--just drop the whole metaphor. It doesn't work on many levels, or possibly ANY level.

In the March incident, according to the New York Daily News, a 23-year-old Tennessee woman (who acknowledged to police that she was a frequent marijuana smoker) said God told her to drive her car into a church. After causing serious damage to the church, she phoned her husband, who rushed to the scene and found her lying in front of the altar. he checked on her, she stated, 'The devil is in me', and stabbed him on the right side of his chest with a large kitchen knife 
In the July incident, a 25-year-old woman in Indiana told police that “she was driving and out of no where God told her that he would take it from here and she let go of the wheel and let him take it.” When she did, her car swerved into a motorcycle and its rider:
 The car ran over his midsection breaking all of his ribs on his left side, damaging his spleen, bruising his kidney and leaving him with road rash that covered much of his back and extremities. It’s amazing that he lived.
Of course these two instances of people hearing God tell them to do evil things are not the first or even the most dire. David Koresh comes to mind...

I've written before about a local lecture series, presented by Keith and Nigel, the Diocesan church renewal experts, on "Listening to God." As I wrote in my blog post "God's Saying the Same Old Thing,"these expert priests
Evidently... have discerned that the way God speaks is by planting an idea in your head that you should pursue churchy things. ... You just need to have a heart-to-heart conversation with God, Keith advised.
They acknowledged three voices that might be heard in your head: God's, your own, and the devil's. "But fortunately, we're given the gift of discernment, they said."

The thing is, if the church is going to claim all the wonders produced when God speaks in this way, it also needs to claim all the idiocy -- or do a lot of handwaving and qualifying to explain why sometimes the "gift of discernment" works in such evil ways. Perhaps God only gives some people discernment? And how do you know if you are one of those?

In my second blog post on the lecture series, "Voice of the Dollhouse God," Keith and Nigel invited members of the audience to relate times when God had spoken to them and the pair related times when they had detected signs and wonders. All the messages and signs were experiences that non-believers would probably not have noticed, and if they did, would have attributed to happy or unusual coincidence: a fortunate move; dragonflies flying in the house after reading a story about dragonflies.

It seems, at best, this version of a talking God is handing out goodies that aren't actually any better than the workings of an observant brain in a wonderful world full of pattern and randomness -- not to mention chance that looks remarkably non-random. At worst this version of God tells Christians to do horrible things.

Of course I don't propose God's shutting up is the solution. It's religious humans that need to change -- to stop pretending that the wonders of our wishful thinking, imagination, observation, and questioning--and influences such as psychoactive drugs, alcohol, mental illness, and suggestive subliminal messages from videos, songs, movies, vines, t.v., friends, etc.-- are anything other than human. There are always some people incapable of comprehending the difference between the metaphorical and the literal.

If you're going to do God, please don't listen for a God so feeble he can be blamed for such human stupidity. Or as I wrote before,
...the only kind of God I can start to imagine is a Creator far beyond human imagining. More wonderful than a God who runs his Earth and its inhabitants like an elaborate dollhouse, I would see a God who made the Ultimate Awesome: Creation that keeps on creating through cosmic and atomic forces (increasingly understood by physics); geologic processes; evolution; human discovery, growth, societal change...  ... Between the Ultimate Awesome of creation and our neurons that perceive it, there is no end of "messages" we could be getting from God every minute, every place we look, every sound we hear, every breath we take. The only question is which messages, which signs, which instincts, which input we're going to take in, which we're going to ignore, and what significance we attach to them. This is the pallet from which we create our lives.

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