For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. -- John 3:16-17
I often wonder how people develop such a warped perception of God. Often people's perception is of a God who is just waiting to kick them in the gut should they so much as have one tiny nose hair out of place. Some of us who come from a background that sits right on the border of cultish, have been raised with a God who has a jaundiced eye. This God is one who is standing on the balcony of Heaven looking over waiting for us to screw up at which point He will whack us over the head like the carnival game Whack-the-Mole.
Perhaps this can be traced back to our history of struggle against oppression where religion really was the way to a better life. Being filled with hope gave our ancestors something to strive for. They could be better people. But...they had to watch their p's and q's otherwise it would all be for naught. In 1741, renowned preacher Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon entitled Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God. It seems that this image of God isn't new at all and maybe our attitudes now are just the after effects of our ancestors hearing the old story of a God who is pissed off and ready to wreak havoc.
This past December I came to the realization that Christianity doesn't have a market on this philosophy that God is this angry, vindictive being just waiting for us to screw up. As we watched the Southeast Asian countries ravaged by the awful Tsunami and witnessed the list of the dead climb to astronomical figures, I heard a Muslim cleric from a tiny island off the coast of Thailand quoted as saying that the Tsunami was God's punishment on the people for their lack of strict adherence to the Koran. Apparently they were not taking their duties as seriously as they should and were on occasion enjoying "worldly pleasures" such as a drink here or there or not praying 5 times a day.
On September 11, 2001, my country was faced with evil and as a result lost thousands of lives and we suffered. As with any disaster, there are those who immediately come out and begin pronouncing God's judgment. And so out came The Right Reverend Jerry Falwell and The Most Righteous Pat Robertson telling us that this was God's punishment on America for losing it's moral "center." Never mind of course that God did not choose to intervene when scores of Africans were literally kidnapped from their native land, shipped in the most vile of conditions to a country they knew nothing about and forced to serve as slaves for the enrichment of the white man. Treating people as property is not nearly as bad as say sleeping with a person of the same sex and then talking about it openly. That will piss God off every time. At least according to these two fine gentlemen.
Then I read today of one other of their ilk who also proclaimed that 9/11 was God's punishment of America for it's tolerance of homosexuality. The exulted Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Phelps and his congregation are on a mission to rid the world of fags. And so, over the years this group of people has been spotted at the funerals of those who have died of AIDS loudly proclaiming that the death was a direct result of disobedience to God's laws. They showed up at the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, the young gay man beaten to death in a horrible hate crime in Wyoming shouting that Matthew got what he deserved.
This year, they have made it their mission to picket and protest graduation ceremonies of highschools that have Gay/Straight Alliances or other such groups seen as potentially promoting or just condoning "aberant" sexual behavior. This past weekend they were in Boston with their signs that scream God Hates Fags and this next weekend they will be in the bedroom community of Tracy, California, some 60 miles (and a whole continent away from) San Francisco. Several pastors, about 15 in fact, of local churches (my home church included) have taken a stand against Phelps and his church group saying that God's word is against them on this. This brought an angry response from Fred Phelps daughter, Sharon Phelps-Roper who said about these pastors, strip away their titles and those churches are all talking about the same big lie, that God loves anyone.
There it was staring me in the face. The Same Big Lie! I was raised with the same big lie. That lie that told me that God loved me! That He sent His Son to die for me! I wondered if I should be concerned because I've bought into that lie! In fact, that big lie has given me hope when nothing in my world could. God loves me!! And if it is a big lie, does that mean that there are only special people who God loves? How do I know if I'm one of the people that He loves?
I realized when I read that statement that some people can get so carried away in their views of an angry God, that they forget that God is really love. Sure there are examples of God's anger in the scriptures! Absolutely God doesn't like sin. But He still loves us! My mom always said that "before the foundations of the world, He knew you and loved you!" Christ said that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. John 3:16 and 17 gives us the best view of God that we could every have. He loved us so much that He sent His one and only son to die for us so that we could have life! Shirley Phelps-Roper calls that the same big lie. Well, if that's a lie, then I'm happy to be delusional!!
Oh how He loves you and me! Oh how He loves you and me! He gave His life, what more could He give! Oh how He loves you! Oh how He loves me! Oh how He loves you and me!