Joyous Bubbles

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What Canst Thou Say?

This morning I was thinking back on a conversation I had last summer with a friend about comfort and religion. We were both participating in a theological academy, and part of what we did was Bible study. We were considering a truly nasty bit of the Old Testament, where God says to kill every man, woman, and child of a tribe. I was deeply upset that many of my fellow students took this as the truth. For me, the idea that God would do something so blatantly immoral is ridiculous. My friend challenged me saying, "why would your comfort matter at all to God" My answer was, "why wouldn't it?" In my personal theology (Liberal Christian-Quakerism) 'God is still speaking' (to use a wonderful UCC slogan). Why should the 'Truths' of God in the Old Testament have more weight then the Truths that I know? It is basic Quaker belief that the Bible is only one of many sources of knowledge about God, the most important source being the knowledge we gain from listening to the light. I think that my deep discomfort with that passage from the Old Testament was a message-a message that was telling me that the face of God is love.

I labored a great deal over the course of the month-long theology academy with this friend over comfort and discomfort. He saw my emphasis on the love of God, on God being revealed through joy and happiness, on the bliss of being in the light of God, as a comfort with God bordering on complacency. In his personal theology God caused discomfort, God was challenging, terrifying, awesome and difficult. I agree whole-heartily that God can challenge us, God may very well ask of us things that are scary and difficult. I find myself overwhelmed sometimes and brought to tears at the awesomeness of God. Sometimes I quake. However, this is not all of what God is. God is not just discomfort, God is also comfort. God is the little beautiful things in life. Joyous bubbles. So I think that it is OK to be comfortable with God-it is OK to rest peacefully in the knowledge that we are all beloved children of God.


Blogger Carmina said...

you are so amazing. you know, I had a really hard time with that passage too. and I got into an interesting discussion with Ryan I think about the passage where God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son. see, I always thought that that was a very selfish and power-hungry thing for God to say. even though in the Abraham "passes the test" and doesn't have to kill the boy, I always thought that the test should have gone the other way, you know? like if Abraham was not willing to sacrifice his son, then he should have been rewarded. to me, the fact that Abraham would kill his son to win favour with the God that would apparently enjoy this sounds a little too much like blind patriotism. but... I watched the episode of Xena, and Meg- if you never watch any other episodes, you have got to see this one- where Xena happens upon a little boy whose father and brother are trying to catch him to sacrifice him to the one true God. of course, for Xena, the idea of worshipping only one God is strange enough, but she refuses to believe that this God who would demand the death of an innocent boy deserves to be worshipped at all. the father has a really hard time obeying the command, of course, but he tries. but Xena finds out that what actually happened was that after the father passed his inheritance to the younger son instead of the elder, the elder became very jealous and made this megaphone thing so he could stand on a hill and talk through it and sound like God and command the father to sacrifice the younger son, ensuring that the elder son would get the inheritance. but in the end, God really does command the father NOT to kill the younger son, and all is well. sorry if that was a little confusing, you've really got to see that episode, it's a lot better than my little summary of it :-)
that was a long comment. sorry. but I completely understand your having difficulties with some of those hard Old Testament passages. and I really like the Quaker idea that the most important source of knowledge about God is when we listen to the light :-)
thanks so much for sharing!

12:42 PM  

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