Last week, I posted a link to an article on Facebook about the most recent stupid and idiotic comments from Pat Robertson. I always hesitate to give the man any more publicity than he somehow manages to find. But in the end, I think it is important to call him out for the harmful comments he makes, to make it clear to the world (or at least the people I know in it) that he does not speak for God and that, in this at least, he is wrong. Blaming wives for their cheating husbands is irresponsible and harmful. I cannot sit by in silence at comments like his.
One of my high school friends commented on the Facebook article with this:
Marci – I ADORE you!!! Especially that you understand that people like this are the reason people lose their faith. I lost mine long ago but THIS only continues to show me why.
My reply to her was that everyone should lose that kind of faith because his comments were appalling.
Pat Robertson appears to believe in the god in whom I don’t believe. One who is capricious and mean. One who loves just some of his children. One who is bigoted and sexist.
But the God in whom I believe is the God of mercy, compassion, healing, and justice. God would never have us tell a woman a comment like this after her husband cheated on her:
“It just isn’t something to just lie there, ‘Well, I’m married to him so he’s got to take me slatternly looking,'” Robertson said. “You’ve got to fix yourself up, look pretty.”
The God in whom I believe, and who I know through the person of Jesus of Nazareth and see revealed in the Bible, would instead have us tell the woman she isn’t alone, that she is a beloved child of the Divine, and that her inherent worth and giftedness is not in being an object for a man.
Another friend from high school commented on the Robertson article with this:
Sadly I know several women including myself that were told by Pastors that staying in a bad marriage is more important then my safety or my kids. And I have other women I know that were told the same thing.
And she reminded me of another God in whom I don’t believe–the one who says it is more important to keep up appearances and obey an abusive husband than it is to be safe and to give our children a chance at safety and flourishing.
Thankfully people responded to my friend with better and more compassionate responses than she had received from her own pastor.
I see it all the time, actually–people who have left the faith because those of us who are called to be ambassadors for the Divine have instead promoted human agendas and morals. Or we have mistaken political platforms for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m sure I’m as guilty of it as the next guy. I recognize we are all human and flawed.
But I’m so tired of people unrepentantly spewing hate and bigotry in the name of God.
Then the horrible tornadoes tore through Oklahoma this week, and I knew we’d hear some ambassador of the god in whom we don’t believe spouting blame and judgment toward the victims.
Rachel Held Evans noticed it as well and shared a tweet John Piper put up less than 24 hours after the tornadoes.
The god in whom we don’t believe is a god of punishment and wrath. She describes it this way:
That’s because Piper and many in the fundamentalist neo-Reformed movement are working off of a perversion of the doctrine of total depravity that not only teaches that human beings are depraved—that is, that our humanity is marred by sin—but that this depravity renders the world’s men, women, and children into valueless objects of god’s wrath, worthy of nothing more than eternal torture, pain, violence, and abuse.
The sad news is, of course, that Piper was using Scripture to preach about the god of wrath and hatred. He didn’t make up that quote. It is in the Bible.
This week at Men’s Breakfast, we finished reading Phyllis Trible’s Texts of Terror. While discussing the story of the Levite’s Concubine from the end of Judges (chapters 19-20). It is a terrible story. A concubine is thrown out the door so some men from the Tribe of Benjamin who want to rape the Levite will have someone else to rape. And then her body is cut up and distributed to the tribes of Israel to show the crime of Benjamin. It is an awful story on every level.
And I want to remove it from the Bible, even as I know that choice is not mine to make.
I don’t ever want a woman to read that passage and think she should submit to the violence of a man because it is her duty to do so. I don’t ever want someone to read that passage and think God is something other than appalled by the behavior of either the men at the door or the Levite who gives her over to their abuse.
What we talked about at Men’s Breakfast is the importance of context, understanding, and experience when reading scripture. We need to remember there are cultural differences, issues of translation, and many other issues that separate us from the people who wrote that text at some point in the Bronze Age. The texts of the Bible often reveal more about us and how we understand (or misunderstand) God than they reveal God.
That said, I still read the Bible. I still firmly believe God reveals the Divine self through our reading of scripture.
But just as we have to listen to comments by people like Pat Robertson and say to ourselves, “does he speak for God as I’ve experienced God?“, so also do we need to ask the same question of Scripture.
The story of Job, as quoted by Piper above, is not God’s definitive word on tragedy. It does have the capacity to speak to us, but it might just reveal more about the humans who wrote it than it reveals about God. I encourage you to read this post by John Shuck. Here’s a part of what he says about Job:
Job asked the same question. He received no answer from God and crappy answers from his friends. The clever trick of that ancient story is that we the readers know the answer. We know exactly why Job suffered. God was making bets with Satan. That is a creative way of saying that there is no reason. There is no better statement for ancient atheism than the book of Job. The author of Job pushed the limits of divine meaning to the absurd. It is a preposterous story which is of course the point. There is no meaning or plan to any of it. No one is calling the shots. No divine protector is shielding people from tornadoes, hunger, war, alcoholism, or suicidal tendencies. No divine being is making it all better.
John’s son Zach died from suicide last summer. And in the midst of that grief and loss, one bit of advice that has been useful was this comment:
You do not have to accept other people’s answers.
That is what I want my friend from high school to know when she has decided her faith is dead because of people like Pat Robertson.
That is what I want women who face abuse to know when their pastor tells them to stay in a violent marriage.
That is what I want victims of tornadoes and hurricanes and tsunamis to know when someone suggests they are the deserving victims of a vengeful God.
We don’t have to accept other people’s answers. We don’t have to believe in a sexist, vengeful, capricious and spiteful god. That’s the god in whom we don’t place our faith and trust.
You don’t have to accept my answers either.
In fact, you should seek your own.
I believe in a God of grace, mercy, compassion, and love because I have experienced that God in my life–often mediated through people who shared that love with me and provided divine care to me when I was in dire need. (You can read more about that here, if you don’t know my story.)
I believe in a God of justice, peace, and service because I have read the scriptures and know of Jesus of Nazareth.
That’s the God in whom I do believe. I invite you to seek that God for yourself. I invite you not to accept other people’s answers when they try to offer you bigotry and hatred wrapped in language of faith and God.
So go seek your own answers. And then love each other. Life is too short for the other nonsense.
And then, get out your kleenex when you have 20 minutes to spare, and watch this video about Zach Sobiech. He died earlier this week at the age of 18 from osteosarcoma. He said “I want everyone to know, you don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living,”
Again, you don’t have to accept his answers either, but they say a lot more to me about divine love than any preacher of hate ever has.