Undressing God or “Did You Just Use ‘Judge Judy’ and ‘Justice’ in the Same Sentence?”

As I look at beliefs about God, I am going to use as a framework my own spiritual journey. This journey began as a fairly traditional Christian one as I mention in my bio and my previous post Spiritual Striptease.

I believe that you will find many places where your journey touches with mine — where you can identify with my question and discoveries.

For too long, Christian, and many other traditions, have seen God as just an old man with white hair and beard who is separate from creation and always ready to judge us when we stray.

My Spiritual Journey

My spiritual journey began when I was a child. My grandmother believed that I needed to be in Sunday school and church every Sunday. She also encouraged me to read the Bible and to say my prayers and she taught me the great hymns of the church.

But the faith that was imparted to me was a very literalistic faith. It took the stories and images found in the Bible very literal.

My Beliefs About God

There were two main components to what I believed about God.

First, I believed that God living up in the sky and on special occasions, God would interact with the world and people and these occurrences were called miracles.

And second, I knew God was an old white man who always had a suspicious look on his face and a finger that constantly wagged in displeasure. This was because I just could not seem to live up to God’s list of requirements.

This reminds me of one of my favorite TV personalities — Judge Judy. Judy, like the God of my childhood, is always looking for someone to make responsible for any accident or error that occurs. She is very quick to point her finger and boom out a pronouncement — “Does it say stupid here?” And this is just like I thought God did.

And this image of God continued to be mine for the first thirty some years of my life. And unfortunately, the church I attended didn’t try and challenge this. In fact they seemed to reinforce these ideas.

Then, beginning about 1990 and continuing during my years at Brite Divinity School (between 1995 and 2001), I began to examine what I believed about God and realized how limiting my God image really was.

As I looked afresh at the Bible I discovered people who did not believe that God was a distant figure and did not referred to this One using exclusively male images.

You see the psalmist did not agree with my idea of God as someone who was far removed. This one experienced God as close as the waters of the Jordan, as real as the flashing of lightning. God was a very present reality — known and experienced “right here” in this world.

The writer of Psalm 139 says that there is no where we can go to escape the presence of God. If we go to the highest heights or to the deepest depths we will find God. God will be found wherever we are.

In the New Testament, Matthew tells us that Jesus was called Emmanuel –meaning the God who is with us. Now, that does not seem to me like someone far away in the sky.

Jesus attempted during his whole ministry to show people that God was not just an old man who was detached from creation and sitting somewhere just waiting an opportunity to pronounce judgment. But this is the picture that I held to for many years and that the Church continues to have.

The writers in the Hebrew tradition and Jesus wanted us to see that God was more than just an old man. They knew this way of thinking led to a life based on performance. Trying to make daddy happy. Father knows best.

To balance this idea, they used images of a mother bird, a woman searching for a coin and others when discussing God. In these instances, they tried to show that it is not enough to know about God but what we lack and need is intimate direct knowing of God like lover and beloved.

Our Beliefs Affect Our Thinking And Our Perceiving

You see, how we image God shapes not only what we think God is like but also what we think the Christian life is about. People who want God to be a warrior may become warriors themselves, whether in a Christian crusade, a Muslim jihad, or an apocalyptically oriented militia. People who think of God as righteous are more likely to emphasis righteousness and keeping all the rules. And those who think of God as compassionate are likely to emphasize compassion.

Jesus showed us through the way he lived and interacted with people that God is compassionate, the one who gives us birth and nourishes us.

Yes, God still has requirements but these should not be seen as a violation of God’s laws but as a betrayal of a sacred relationship and an absence of compassion. As we become aware that we have not been faithful to our relationship with God, we turn and return to that to which we belong, God as spirit, realizing that all of our actions have consequences.

As we embrace this new image of God, we live our lives not concerned so much with meeting God’s demands and satisfying God’s justice as entering into relationship — with God, the world, and each other. The spiritual life becomes all about turning toward and entering into relationship with the one who is already in relationship with us — with the one who gave us life, who loved us from the beginning, and who loved us whether we know it or not.

May this be good news in your life today and all the days of the rest of your life. And join the conversation by laving your thoughts about God and how you relate to this wonderful Divine presence!!

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One thought on “Undressing God or “Did You Just Use ‘Judge Judy’ and ‘Justice’ in the Same Sentence?”

  1. Pingback: What If God Offered You A Present? « Seeking On Purpose

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