Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire and Anthony Perkins starred in “Friendly Persuasion.”
At some point in our maturation as people of faith, we come across the question, Why doesn’t everybody else get this relationship we have?
The issue so vexed the Puritan Reformers that John Calvin invented, on scant evidence from the apostle Paul, an entire theology; some people are “the elect” (for no known reason) and some people ain’t.
Elect or not, Calvin said, you’re a worthless piece of slime (“totally depraved”), but by the grace of God you may be in the in-group, not the out-group.
This is meant to illustrate how nice God is to the in-group. What it actually shows is how much Calvin hated humanity, whom he was forever convicting of sin and sentencing to the death penalty.
He had this comic book God.
But the question remains, why do I perceive a gracious, loving, selfless God that millions of others, with equally good eyesight, ears and brains, do not perceive?
It’s a mystery. No wonder it drove Calvin nuts.
I have zero doubt about God’s existence. I’m not bragging, I’m just stating, I know God for a fact. I’m convinced, the evidence is overwhelming, God is God.
But so many others don’t think so, and that puzzles me.
A good number of them are Gay people, whom I consider myself an expert on—and their rejection of faith is both understandable and mystifying.
It all has to do with comic book God.
I don’t blame them a bit for getting rid of that guy; it only makes sense.
But the comic book version isn’t anything like the real God, and I wonder how to communicate that to the narrow band of people with relatively open minds.
I’m an evangelist, this is my job; though lately I’ve been wondering what the point is.
I very much want my church to grow, but I won’t coerce people into joining (at the point of a sword, in the past), and I won’t manipulate them into it as so many others do—Roman Catholics and Fundamentalists coming first to mind.
What is the future of friendly persuasion? Is there anyone left to evangelize? In Calvin’s world, it didn’t do any good; you were the “elect” or you were not. His only hope was turning around the “elect” who were too dumb to know it.
That doesn’t work in the internet age. Everyone already has an opinion about God.
So who are these atheists? What do they believe? Is any persuasion possible with them?
With Gay atheists I’m coming to think the answer is basically no; maybe with all of them.
I understand that LGBTs have been and still are brutalized by religion in most of the countries of the world. So I don’t blame them for rejecting religion. We don’t allow homophobes in any other parts of our lives, why would we allow religious ones?
But what I’m most aware of is that the Gay people who reject homophobic religion—the Falwells and Robertsons, the ayatollahs and rabbis, the popes and archbishops—are only tossing away the comic book.
Have you heard Bill Maher on this subject? He’s an American comedian with a talk show, born Jewish I think, and he tries to be witty about “the big old white guy in the sky.”
Is that the best atheists can do? Have they no other line of attack? They set up a strawman, and then demolish him? We’re to be enlightened and entertained by this?
It’s idiotic—which is why I pick on Bill Maher, who’s occasionally a pretty smart guy.
God is nothing like that big old guy in the sky. For one thing, God isn’t a guy.
If you’re male he’s happy to be male for you, but default mode is much more like female, and if you’re Gay or Lesbian or queer or translucent, God can do that too—in diamonds.
We’re the ones who are male or female or Gay; but these are not God categories.
God doesn’t have categories. God is God, and way beyond that.
Still, the “old white guy in the sky” is a persistent image (which is all people are really reacting to, images), and we know why: because of ancient Scriptures written thousands of years ago, by men in a patriarchal (sexist) society, who couldn’t conceive of God any other way but as images of themselves.
That’s your comic book God; no subtlety to the drawing, move on to the next panel.
Comic books are about action and plot; God is about slow self-revelation.
Why slow? Because we are. We’re mentally retarded.
We’re mortals, doin’ the best we can.
Over time we have learned some things; at least some of us have, I can’t vouch for Bill Maher. I have no idea why he doesn’t know the things I know, exept that his mind and heart oppose knowing.
One thing we’ve learned: God is female and male and beyond all categories. She doesn’t wear a beard, so stop drawing her that way!
She doesn’t live in the sky, either. (This is still a new revelation.)
It is natural that mortals, living on a round earth with a sun and stars up above, would look up and wonder about “heaven,” that place where the sun and stars are. Something much bigger than ourselves is going on here. We are specks, we are dust, we are nothin’, compared to that great big sky. So it was logical once to think God lived up there.
But that’s not where God lives; she lives in your body, if you let her.
For some reason the atheists won’t let her. I have no clue why that is so, except that God won’t go where she’s not wanted.
I don’t claim that atheists are immoral; sometimes they’re more moral, because their rejection of God has made them think, more than religious people have, about ethics and relationships.
I just wish they’d apply the same serious thought past the comic book. But they never seem to; they’re happy with themselves, they’ve solved the mysteries of the world. Get rid of God and maybe it makes some sense.
It doesn’t, but they’re proud of themselves and satisfied, feeling like higher creatures than the rest of us benighted souls still looking for answers out of an Old Book.
They don’t consider the comic book they’ve made it into; and Bill Maher of course is a comedian. His paycheck depends on satire and cynicism.
Meanwhile I’m left wondering about the Gay culture of atheism/alternative religion. Wicca? Let’s worship rocks and trees. Astrology? The position of the stars has nothing to do with your fate. You don’t even have a fate; what you’ve got are choices.
I like the widespread and enormous spirituality of LGBT people. We do, as a people, recognize God in some fashion. I don’t think we know her name, but we know she’s out there. I’d guess believers are 40, 40, 50 percent, a significant number.
But you’d never know it by the official Gay culture—which is the creation of capitalists looking to take their dollars and put them in their wallets.
They love selling comic books. Who is more absurd than doddering Pat Robertson?
But there really was a Jesus, and he really did say some powerful things. Some are hard to understand, because they contradict the comic book. He met a tax collector, and a Gay Roman solder with a kept boy, and a whore who spread her legs for the whole city. He blessed them and healed them and made them more than they ever were before. He came to live inside their bodies, knowing them as sexual mortals. He wasn’t obsessed with their sin, but with their need and their health.
He was a guy. The Child of God had to be one thing or the other, and this one turned out male. We don’t get a view of the Crapshoot in the Sky that decided this, but it may have been a roll of the dice.
Or it may have been God’s deliberate calculation that a sexist, patriarchal society wouldn’t even listen to the Daughter of God, so he bowed to the inevitable.
God is forever trying to get us to grow up past the comic books to at least juvenile lit. But it’s a slow process; a lot of humans are extremely fond of the Old Man Up There, who doesn’t like us very much.
I very much regret that the Episcopal Church, which knows better, allowed Pat Robertson and a succession of popes to trivialize and dumb down the life of Jesus. In the electronic age we’re either on TV or we’re not; people don’t know anything else. Free and easy TV (which now costs $40 to $100 a month) means no one has to think anymore. Pat Robertson has been yapping for decades unopposed. That is my church’s fault.
But people intuitively know—Gay people and everyone else—that what old man Robertson sells is not Christianity and never was. It’s a comic book. It’s a dumbdown.
It’s a travesty, and it’s a sin.
So if you’re Gay and burned and cynical, I ask you this: meet Jesus, who loved the kept boy, and the soldier who came out to explain why the boy was so important; he loved him, that’s why.
The ancient Books are a lot more sophisticated than you’ve been told. They don’t do action or plot, they do love, but we have to learn how to read them.
Meanwhile get this: Jesus was Matthew Shepard long before our little Matt. Jesus died for the homo-hatred of the world.
Our little Matt, God bless his soul, was a friend of the Man from Galilee, who wasn’t above cuddling his precious ones.++