Wednesday, January 31, 2007

God in our image

We humans create God in our image because our image is all we know. Others have created gods in the forms of bulls and snakes and herons and suns. Today we Christians and Jews (maybe the Muslims, too, I’m not sure) consider ourselves to be created in the image of God…because the scriptures tell us so. Yeah, right. And, who wrote the scriptures? Humans.

Long ago, humans worshipped creatures that had mystery or power or good stories. Today, humans worship themselves. We take the scriptures with all their mystery and myth and create God in an anthropomorphic form with emotions like love and anger, with faculties like judgment and constancy, and abilities like power and might or even by elevating those things which we consider lowly – servants (not kings). The truth is that we don’t know much about God at all, if, in fact, God does exist as “other” than human or “other” than created. There you’ve said it, “other”. We can’t even know one another; so how do we think we’re going to know God, who is “other”?

The Hebrew Scriptures portray God with many of the powers common to other pantheons of the ancient ages. King, Soldier, Creator, Warrior, Winner, Strong, Commanding, All-powerful. These scriptures even tell stories about “my God is better than your God” and “Let’s have a contest to see whose god is greatest. Winner take all.” Of course, in the Hebrew Scriptures, the one God wins against the pantheon of other gods…and they have faded from most memories. A few stray druids and probably some other pagans may believe in the “old” gods, but Mars and Zeus and Hera are gods of the past.

Their time was passing when Abraham heard the call to move along, and Abraham obeyed that voice. If we did that now, we’d be treated for schizophrenia. And the great “I AM” supplanted the Roman and Greek pantheons, the bulls and the calves and the goddesses. Human domination of nature and male domination of the world shaped the form of the God of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). People thought in terms of groups, clans, nations – corporate thinking. Us against them.

By the time, this strange human called Jesus lived and taught, ways of thinking had changed. Although war was still frequent and common, the Roman Empire had brought some stability to the world and people could concentrate on relationships with each other. They could also concentrate on POWER and money and position and careers. So, the radical viewpoint promulgated by this itinerant preacher was that humans should love one another. Individual position and power and abilities superseded ordinary thoughts about corporate power – after all, the HRE (Holy Roman Empire) was taking care of all that.

While Jesus probably was a real person, the writings about his life and teachings were not put into substantial form until a number of years after his death…and the earliest ones were written by a man who never met Jesus. Jesus talked about individual responsibility and individual love. People living in those times could relate to a God that talked about real events in real lives. They created God in their image – an individual image…a male image. But, strange things and ideas crept into the myth – talking with women, women apostles, women leading churches, healing, fairness, and the possibility of individual salvation from sin.

Jesus as the Messiah had become the current anthropomorphic God – an incarnation of a God that was very much like us and less like “other”. In the 2000 years since the rising of the Christian religion, the interpretation of the New Testament has changed tremendously. From a set of rules such as Paul wrote to the churches, the message has changed to one of personal relationship with God – particularly God through Jesus Christ, with maybe a little bit of the Holy Spirit thrown in. Now we have a God that walks and talks like us, thinks like us on good days, and spreads love like flower children did in the 70s.

A relationship with God. Yeah, just talk to God like you would a dear friend. Sure, be silent and God will speak to you. In your prayers, hold people to the light.

In closing, let me say that I don’t think this development of God is wrong, bad or misinterpreted. God is so much the “other” that we will not know what God is or isn’t until/unless we are present to God. Can we do that on earth? Is there an afterlife? I don’t have those answers.

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