Sunday thoughts #8: does God have an anger issue?

Posted: January 20, 2013 in believing, fundamentalism, sunday thoughts
Tags: , ,

460_345_resizeIn light of this month’s focus on gun violence, I thought I’d center this weeks “Sunday Thoughts” on the (violent?) nature of God.    I admit – this edition of “Sunday Thoughts” isn’t quite as contemplative or fluffy as usual…

It seems to me that Biblical literalists and fundamentalists don’t seem to have much of a problem with the violence of God.  Those of us of other traditions often do. There is something in us that recoils against the idea of God raining destruction down upon entire populations or directing a “chosen people” to wage war against entire nations. In this light, the plagues that eliminated all the first born male children in Egypt just prior to the Exodus seem out of character with the “just and loving God” we have learned to know and love. Likewise, the idea that God would condemn entire populations to an eternity in hell simply because they did not profess faith in Jesus Christ seems manifestly unjust.

Likewise, while we are not very comfortable about it, many of us recognize that religions generally, and Christianity in particular, all too often are the CAUSE of some of the most serious situations of conflict within the human family. Indeed, in places like the Middle East, Northern Ireland, India, Pakistan, etc., religion continues to be a major cause of  persistent antagonisms between entire populations.

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Below you will find 6 articles that explore the relationship between religion and violence, exploring a question that has been taboo in many religious communities: if God is capable not only of permitting, but actually promulgating violence, are we driven to the conclusion that there is something violent and abusive in the very nature of God?

In the lead article, “Violence in Christian Theology,” J. Denny Weaver finds in the central Christian doctrine of the atonement a major source of theproblem.  For despite the fact that Jesus renounced violence and urged his disciples to follow his own example of nonviolent resistance to evil, the early church adopted a view of Christ’s saving work that provided a convenient pretext for later generations of Christians to justify the sorts of behavior that Jesus specifically condemned. Indeed, Weaver argues, by promoting the idea that God not only permitted but also somehow “required” the death of his own Son, Christianity inadvertently presented to the world an image of God as an abusive parent. It was this element of traditional Christian theology that was waiting like a time bomb for later generations of Christians to pick up when they needed a convenient justification for using military force against their neighbors, as Christian leaders since the days of the Emperor Constantine have been all too ready to do. Weaver’s analysis also goes a long way toward explaining how it is that a majority of Christians in the United States today persist so passionately in supporting capital punishment even though the founder of their own faith was himself a victim of the unjust administration of the death penalty. Weaver concludes his article by suggesting a practical program for the reshaping of Christian theology and Christian ethics so as to address the problems he identifies.

Warning! These articles are not easy; they are not written to make you feel comfortable or to put to rest nagging doubts or disturbing questions. But if you are interested in wrestling with the tremendous question of God at a deeper level, you may find them well worth the investment of time necessary to read them.

Editorial: The Image on Impact

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Violence in Christian Theology 

The Violence of God: Dialogic Fragments

Blood & Stone: Violence in the Bible & the Eye of the Illustrator 

Notes on God’s Violence 

Is Religion Both the Cause and the Cure of Violence?

Comments
  1. I think that anyone with strong unwavering beliefs in anything is a danger to others. It’s not specific to religion, although religions do attract and encourage such people.

  2. Torger Helgeland says:

    Hmm, Hope I c an get oomph to read your articles. Thanks much for posting em. This as I’ve just begun researching homosexuality and bible and have a sore butt already.

    The Bible kill count? Ugh. OK, point kind of made, but such is akin to those who clamor for more AIDS funding and getting it , relatively speaking, much more than other big diseases, like cancer was it?, and Muscular dystrophy types ( I forget details) when AIDS clearly has a moral choice element and the others clearly don’t or are miniscule in comparison (OK, smoking yes but you drank too many diet soft drinks when you knew better and now you have cancer…? Granted, but not very comparable if you ask me). So God offs wicked folk and their families who will likely learn to propagate more wickedness in lockstep while Satan offs as randomly as any mcDonalds shooting spree killer, … wait, he specifcally targets good folk???…So lumping apples an oranges together as if all the same. Wimpy. And where did the 10 victims of Satan number come from? WHen Jesus said that Satan came to steal , kill and destroy, seems the number’s likely higher than 10. so if use Bible to make sarcasm, author should at least put a little thot to it. Seems like they cracked the covers for a quick statistcal hit and published the next minute. Torg

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