Sunday, October 15, 2006

And So I Created God in the Image of My Father

Well, not all by myself. I recall -- as a young Roman Catholic child raised in the pre-Vatican II, ethnic, Roman Catholic genre of the 1950's -- that we were told that a very stern God was our Father. It was not such a stretch for a toddler -- in any generation -- to believe that her father was also God. It is, after all, part of the developmental task of a child to figure out all those distinctions.

While I learned fairly quickly that my father was not literally God, part of my theology remained corrupted, as I ascribed dominant qualities to God that were present most starkly in my earthly father.

For example, God The Punisher - This was the God that hurt you if you did something wrong (or if he thought you did). There was no questioning it -- do something wrong, and punishment would happen. And it wasn't hard to find scriptural ballast for that one.

Then there was God the Wrathful. God wanted things done his way. If we didn't deliver, there would be rage. Questions were not acceptable. God was zero-tolerance.

The God Who Required Sacrificial Offerings -- God wanted us to achieve things that would reflect on his glory. Our job was to keep piling up fuel for his ego fire, regardless of the cost to ourselves or others. God was the ultimate narcissist.

I could go on and on ...but I wonder how much all of our theologies have been shaped by our childhoods.

I know now that God is all-loving and eternally-forgiving and ever-accepting and all those things that I missed in an earthly father. I know because people in my life took the time to walk me across the bridge of understanding -- because people helped me see where I had created God in my father's image, even if they didn't say that outright. And because I had a deeply loving mother.

The above examples are pretty clear -- but it leads me to wonder how many unhelpful theological beliefs come out of us mirroring our or our familial dysfunctions onto God.

The neocon Christian who is full of fury at people who step outside the lines they believe that God has drawn are living in a fear-zone. They fear God's judgement unless they become His Little Enforcers. These are the folks who throw a gay child out of their home because they believe that is what God would do to them if they accepted that child. Who judged them so harshly that they must promulgate that cycle? What message do we need to send them, and how do we do it?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a poignant post.

I guess the challenge is to become yet one more of those people who "walked you across the bridge of understanding"--I love that phrase!--and somehow reach the Little Enforcers with the news that they can rest in Christ, that judgment is His. It would seem miraculous, though, when a person finally drops that knee-jerk reaction of expecting God to be punishing, wrathful and selfish.

1:00 AM  
Blogger Dancing on the ceiling said...

Your comments are so helpful in thinking about my own perspectives of my father. Thank you for elucidating this so clearly. I too, love your term, "Little Enforcers" and will probably use this in my own work.

12:44 AM  

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