Let’s start with this: Christians defend God. As you’d expect, right? They love God. They’ve been redeemed by Jesus. They’re in a relationship in which they’re getting something out of it (eternal life, of course, but also a day-to-day presence & guidance).
In such a loving relationship, Christians will not blame God when disappointing or unexpected or bad things happen. “It was God’s will.” “I needed to crucify my desires, anyway.” “It was selfish, what I wanted, it wasn't what God wanted.” “God is trying to teach us something through this suffering.” “We just can’t understand…God’s ways are higher than our ways.”
In other words, God always gets let off the hook. Always, always, always. It’s the assumed stance: God can simply do no wrong. So it is always the human’s fault, the human’s misunderstanding, the human’s limited pea-sized brain that can’t understand the perfect workings of an infinite, and infinitely good, God.
And let me be clear: I believed this myself, for decades. So I am not saying it lightly, and I am not saying it from an outsider’s perspective. I lived this for 20+ years.
At risk of offending the Christians that read this blog: isn’t this pretty much the same dynamic you see play out in abusive human relationships?
A woman falls in love with a man. He treats her well, at least at the beginning. She feels loved, she gets attention…she’s getting something out of it. But over time, the abuse begins. Maybe it’s verbal abuse at first…but it eventually escalates to physical abuse.
Yet, when a woman is way deep in the relationship, she will defend her man no matter what he’s done: “He just had a bad day.” “I interrupted his ball game, so really, I don’t blame him for getting mad.” “You don’t know him the way I do – he is actually very tender and loving.” “He had told me twenty times not to hang out with this friend, but I did it anyway. I had it coming.” “He’s big and strong and understands the world better than I do…I need him!”
When you’re inside an abusive relationship, you are brainwashed to actually believe that you’re at fault, you deserve the abuse, he’s justified in doing it, he’s still a good man. I have watched women make these kinds of justifications for men who yelled at them or hit them. I lived through a milder version of it with a narcissistic boyfriend some years ago.
Any person outside of this relationship can clearly see it for what it is: the woman is obviously trapped and brainwashed, unable to even consider the possibility that what her man is doing is wrong, unable to even conceive of leaving him, unable to imagine having any kind of different life.
A Christian reading this entry might well be offended that I’ve just compared God to an abuser, and thus immediately dismiss the whole idea. But what I am trying to describe is a dynamic in which Christians repeatedly, consistently, and perpetually try to explain away clearly terrible things that don’t square with their notions of who God is – because those notions of who God is are inviolable. Psychologically, I don’t see any difference from that which happens in an abused woman’s mind. And I am finally in a place where I have stepped outside of my faith and my church to examine who it is I have believed in all these years. To allow for the possibility that maybe my notion of who God is isn’t inviolable. That maybe there are other explanations for why all the things that don’t add up in the faith don’t add up, including the possibility that God doesn't actually exist.
I did not arrive in this place overnight. As I mentioned in one of my comments to Bible Student, I have struggled for 6 or 7 years to reconcile my God with what I saw happening around me in the world. I have not stepped out of the faith lightly, and I don’t make this comparison lightly.
Someone early on read my blog and said that she doubted I was ever a believer, based on what I am saying today about God…an accusation I will probably have to get used to hearing.
To the commenter I will say this: it’s not terribly unlike an abused woman who finally does leave the bad relationship. As the scales fall off her eyes and she sees her man for who he truly was, she gets angry. She may cut him down, criticize him, get angry with herself for not seeing it earlier, may even try to warn others off from getting involved with him. But it doesn’t mean that she didn’t love him while she was in the relationship. It doesn’t mean that she wasn’t devoted to him. And it doesn’t mean that there weren’t occasionally good times.
But most of us would say that any human who would deliberately harm, or allow significant or long-lasting harm, to come to their loved one doesn’t actually love them. We usually call them sick.
So why we don’t apply the same reasoning to God, who supposedly has a supernatural-awesome-cosmic-everlasting-deep-deep-overpowering-love for us?