Sunday, February 6, 2011

Two problems that give me fits

The first and most glaring problem with Christianity is that it is conditional. It conditions eternal life in Heaven on your being a better person. It sets the bar impossibly high because it asks you to live like Jesus and God every second of the day. Therefore, every second you do not achieve this, you fail. You will never ever measure up to what the “Christian” God expects of us. It is like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the sand hill. You may make some progress for five minutes or five days, but then you fall right back to where you were, fall right back to your humanness. Do you know how debilitating it is to be loved conditionally? To be told time and again, all the time, that you are not good enough? To say you just have to do one more thing, to be one bit better. The carrot and the stick. We never reach the carrot. The Bible’s teaching never allows us to be perfect love ourselves. We can never be “perfect” as it is defined by Christianity. Only God is perfect. And we can never be him. Do you see how debilitating that framework is? Here’s a model for you to follow, but you can never achieve it? What a cruel cruel game.

And it’s such a cruel sham because our God reportedly loves us Unconditionally. We’re told that’s what unconditional love looks like, and that we need to love everyone else unconditionally, but it programs us to fear the consequence if we fail to do that. It convinces us all the time that we are simply not good enough as we are and that God will punish you with Hell if you continue to fail. How can that portrait possibly be unconditional love? It is THE DEFINITION OF CONDITIONAL LOVE.

I know Christianity is conditional just by reading the bible. See John 12: 8, Jesus says “the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” This clause is the damning one; here the bible lets slip that its game is conditional. Jesus is supposed to always be with us, at least that’s how I have understood the Bible. We do not apparently have to seek him or seek God, right? If Jesus is God, and Jesus is Love, then this clause makes us think we have to choose or earn Jesus, or God, or Love. It makes God-love conditional. He could not be more clear: "you do not always have me." Love Jesus, accept Jesus, believe in Jesus, choose Jesus, and you will have God’s Kingdom. But you have to choose him first. You must make the right choice to live in God’s love. The Jesus of Christianity, the one cited in John 12 above, is needy and jealous. He says ‘”you don’t get to drink at my table, to feel God and love everlasting unless you choose me.” God so loved the world that he gave the world his only begotten son, but then commanded that you have to follow him. It’s the only way. You can have the keys to the kingdom, but there are two catches: first, choose Jesus and Jesus only, and then, be better than you really are. Why is Christianity a campaign to elect Jesus? And why is Christianity conditional? It always wants us to be better, to be better than we know how to be, to be perfect… be “Christian”. It sets us up for failure because we can never be perfect, not in this world, not in this epoch. When Heaven comes to all of us we will be perfect without even trying, but now, Christianity is a cruel game of telling us we have to be better, we have to believe more, we have to be more faithful, we have to be more loving. It can never be enough for Christianity, for Christianity’s God, for Jesus. We will never ever measure up to what the Bible and Jesus tell us we have to do. We will always come up short, we will always be failures, which means we will always be fearful. As long as we think for one second that we are failing God, we necessarily are afraid. Of what HE will cause to happen to us. Of the consequences for our failure. LOVE is NOT conditional. Love is unconditional. We never ever have to earn it or choose it. It just is….US, from the moment we are born. We don't have to wade through a conditional God to get to love.

Next problem: God’s martyring of his son on the cross. How can our Christian God have ushered in a non-violent ethos with such violence? How could killing your own son ever ever ever be construed as an act of supreme love? We are parents, and we know better. If he did that to his only son, what would stop him from killing us too? Ah, the preachers say, "humans did the killing." But didn’t God create and conceive us all, and foretell all things….isn’t He ever-knowing? So he knew Jesus would be killed, and had the power to avert that, and still allowed it to happen. THAT IS NOT LOVE.

The God the bible has conceived for us wrote the whole story and knows how it ends…..why wouldn’t he just give us unconditional love on a silver platter and grant us the kingdom on earth from the beginning of time til the end of time. Why, why, why condition our love? You have to TRY in order to be a Christian. In my faith, you never have to try, you are always good enough, you are born perfect. (Cue the chorus of incredulity: “What a cop out! Where are the laws, the responsibility, the discipline if we are all born perfect….what, are you perfect, Hilary???” )

Why was God ever avenging or wrathful or violent? This was made up to keep us in line. We needed an angry God so that we knew there were consequences if we acted up. But it makes God seem very childish. As a parent, if you watch your child do something bad, do you feel wrath or vengeance? Of course not. You want to reprimand them to show them the better way, to make them understand what was wrong about their behavior, but you don’t ever want to avenge them. Where is the teaching God? Where is God the parent who shows us how to improve our behavior? Where is the image of God running along side our bike as we take off the training wheels? Where is the God who laughs with amusement as we struggle to make things work in this life, but gives us the loving nudge to help us along? Where is the God who says, look, when I was young I made the same mistakes you did and I understand how hard it can be sometimes but it will all turn out okay? The God the bible portrays is never satisfied with our efforts. He is a judger, a punisher, who by the way also touts himself as perfect. Why would a parent ever punish us with eternal hell or strike us down with wrath or plague? Dangle heaven in front of us if we meet his demands? Torture us? Condemn us? Those are not verbs that are in a parent’s lexicon.

That’s our model? God…A moody, infanticidal, dictator? We’re lying to ourselves about God being perfect. Deluding ourselves. It’s so frustrating. He is not “perfect.” He is human. He is us. We made him. In our image. Face it. He’s the man behind the curtain, the veil. We wrote the veil into the story thousands of years ago, tens of thousands of years ago. We separated ourselves from him, we convinced ourselves God was something external to ourselves. And like the wizard, when we confront him face to face and hold him up to our face, to our mirror, when we see him for what he is, warts and all, he rolls over on his belly…he gives himself back to us. He is disarmed. We are reconciled with him in unprecedented unwavering soul deep love. We redeem him. We forgive him. We say “we’re not mad, how could we be, we made you the monster you are, we banished you from our hearts, from our lives, we kicked you out of our Eden, we put the veil up between us, and we are sorry and we have missed you so. We’re so glad to have you back in our hearts, where you belong. The veil is gone. You are us and we are you. Goodbye “God.””

At this moment, we forgive ourselves. We love ourselves. We redeem ourselves. We’ve won the battle, the worst is over. Blue skies.

I see the blue skies there on the horizon, still a long way off. They are there in the distance, but there is a lot that has to change about our current understanding of God and religion for us to get there. We'll have to shake free of 10,000 years of dogma. There is hard work ahead. But my lord is it going to be worth it.


  1. Hillary, I love you, here goes a response to your post:
    Not all Christians believe what you think all Christians believe.
    Unconditional vs Conditional love - I've never understood God's love to be conditional. Rather than God saying I love you if you are good enough I believe God's love for us is there even when if we feel like we are not good enough. God loves us just the way we are that's what I read in scripture and believe. In the text from John Jesus is talking about his physical presence, not his eternal presence. John plays a lot with Platonic dualism.
    Non-violent atonement, granted not all Christians believe in this but many do. God didn't send Jesus to the cross, neither did our sins. The Roman government did, they saw him as a rabble rouser and punished him just like they did all rabble rousers - with crucifixion. Then God's love broke into this world where death is used as an instrument of torture and overcame that torture, not with violence but with love, love that resurrected Christ and promised all creation that the worst the world and governments have to offer is not the end.
    Stereotypes aren't fair to those of us who do not fit into stereotypical molds, just a few thoughts.

  2. I am so glad for posts like this that challenge what I feel. I can speak for no other Christian and I don't believe I did in this post. I just wrote on what I've been taught about Christianity and the contradictions that abound (I know I am not the first or the millionth to write about these discrepancies). If there are those that can deal with the contradictions and still feel like they know the truth and have answered their own questions, doubts, and fears, I'm all for it. Christianity just does not connect the dots in my heart or brain. And if it and the other organized religions really have gotten the whole thing backwards, then I weep for the blood shed over a faulty premise.

  3. I would echo Revnols response as well. The unconditional love of God means no matter how many times we fail he still loves us and forgives us. Much like our earthly parents (for most people) will love us and forgive us over and over again. In fact sometimes God like our parents knows we are going to mess up and that we will learn from those mistakes but is waiting there patiently to pick us up when we fall.
    As for the passage you quote in John it is when the disciples were worrying about the people around them and Jesus knew it would not be long before his death. He is trying to encourage them to stay with him as much as they can until his death. To get the most form him while he is with them.


God, to have these guys in a room together again....