A response to “Sorrow and Love Flow Mingled Down”
Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. – Isaac Watts
Moving on to chapter 2 in the book The Fury of God by Pastor Jeremy Lundmark, and in response to his study on the topic, we come to the Hebrew account of the flood and the destruction of humankind by the deity. Here we are presented with a few things that many belivers/non-belivers take issue with. Why would a loving God decide to kill off every living thing that had the breath of life and start over? And my own question; why did Noah simply comply? At lest Abraham was able to ask some good questions about justice when the Lord came with his messengers. “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Gen 18:24-25 -NRSV
While some fine ministers of the Lord like to attribute natural disasters to sins such as homosexuality, abortion, or whatever transgressions the good folks come up with to scapegoat the calamity; in the Hebrew text of Genesis 6:11 it seems the drastic action by the heavens was due to violence. At the start of chapter 6 of Genesis we see that Humankind mates with deities and God places a limit on their years of life “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days– and also afterward– when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.” -Gen 6:4 -NRSV. Some believers wonder what or who these beings were. But anyone who spends some time reading the Homeric epics of the Iliad and Odyssey, will come to understand just how much killing and suffering these human/deity beings caused the Greek divine realms. Even the son of the terrible Cronus, Zeus, was in hardship over the violence and misery caused by the raging warriors at the walls of Troy.
On page 55 in his book, The Fury of God, pastor Jeremy Lundmark makes the statement “In short , God can be grieved by the world and still agape love the world by sending His Son. I think we’ve made a subtle and serious theological error when we start thinking that God’s love necessarily corresponds to the affections we often think of when we use the word love.” And correct he is, but not in the way we might think. As a non-believer and agnostic I view the relationship much differently.
I would like the reader to avoid projecting the “angry anti-theist, atheist extremist, new atheist” label on me for a time and allow me to layout my response in some relaxed fashion, because at times these labels can distract us from the discussion at hand. I view the relationship between God and man as abusive. And even though much has been done to correct that image in the “New Testament” salvation is NOT free, but as the song by the hymn writer Isaac Watts above states, “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.” I have learned in the past that if a political movement, social movement, or belief system needs to advertise they are peaceful, free, and loving, one should check to see what is in the water before jumping in the pool. And action should directly correlate with the message they are sending. Many times it is not. While much can be blamed on human frailty, “sin”, or believers not meeting the expectations, the “Fury of God” can also be simply God’s mental issues. The biblical writers and believers provide excellent theology and interpretations to cover for the divine.
It seems the whole book The Fury of God is a justification and excuse for God’s bad behavior. And what a intricate and complex systems have been created! I told the good pastor in a text while discussing his book that the non-believer would have a blast with such a topic. In the following paragraphs I would like to discuss some ideas from the German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist, Eric Fromm. I realize I already lost half of my good christian readers already with such titles describing Fromm, but in his book Escape From Freedom he makes some excellent observations that should help my argument out here.
After a short break for a drink (coffee). We find, as the righteous Job experienced, the divine in the Hebrew literature had very authoritarian and sadistic tendencies while at the same time having the expectation that his followers be somewhat masochistic, loving him more out of the pain and suffering. At times these terms are associated with human sexuality, but here with Fromm’s help we will be discussing them mentally and spiritually.
In his book Escape From Freedom, on page 163-167, Fromm launches into his chapter on Authoritarianism. He discusses the tendencies of both the masochist and the sadist. The one with masochistic tendencies, says Fromm, have feelings of inferiority, insignificance, and powerlessness. Folks would like to rid themselves of such feelings but at the same time are driven toward them. We all have such tendencies in one form or another. We realize our short comings and belittle ourselves, make ourselves weak. This causes us, as we seen in my last essay, to be open to dependence on powers beyond ourselves. Life becomes extremely overwhelming and is viewed in a very pessimistic fashion, as uncontrollable. This then leads to self accusations, and self criticism. So it becomes the norm and is viewed as a labor of love and that the circumstances are uncontrollable and the feeling of inferiority become the standard. With such a gloomy outlook on life it would be easy for some to compound that with definitions of sin and transgressions and Change the label “masochistic” to the more theological term “Conviction”.
By heavens! With such folks brought to such lives through Christianity at times, and other systems, it is no wonder that there are such pessimistic views of this world and life here on earth, of humankind, a fall, and a future of war torn apocyclopticism. And we praise Noah for simply building with no questions asked and champion Job when the Hebrew text states; “Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22 -NRSV).
What Fromm says about the sadistic tendencies is even more damaging for it is quite the opposite. And it is as if opposites attract! Fromm on page 165 of Escape From Freedom states; “ We find three kinds of sadistic tendencies, more or less closely knit together. One is to make others dependent on ones self and to have absolute and unrestricted power over them, so as to make of them nothing as instruments, “Clay in the potter’s hand.” Another consists of the impulse not only to rule over others in this absolute fashion, but to exploit them, to steal from them, to disembowel them, and so to speak, to incorporate anything eatable in them. This desire can refer to material things as well as to immaterial ones, such as the emotional or intellectual qualities a person has to offer. A third kind of sadistic tendency is the wish to make others suffer or to see them suffer.”
So such a one in this type of “give and take/ opposite attract” relationship would live the most miserable life. So the good Lord sends his Son to have him die death and resurrect to give a person freedom. Freedom from what? If we are still allowing the abuser back into the house because he felt sorry and gave us a rainbow and his only son to die for the very psychological fury he works on the world. Then why do we have to make excuses on why we still show injury? We can not simply keep telling folks we fell down the stairs. Now I can see why the early church Marcion of Sinope rejected the Hebrew deity.
And so such is the real “Fury of God” and what we give in exchange just might not be worth it if all we have is a sledge hammer being held over heads, and the fear of hell, to cow us into compliance. Should such an abuser live in our lives and homes it would not take long for a more independent person to send him packing and not let him back no matter how sorry he was or how many rainbows given. Because such a trend never stops, as seen in the bible, but continues today.
De-conversion for me has been most liberating. I have sent the abuser from my house. He calls to say he’s sorry and tries to have me let him back in but I blocked his number. He still stalks me with all kinds of misery, known and unknown. I am grateful humankind was tossed from the garden for it was a step towards freedom. With the above rant I have now lived up to the angry atheist / anti- theist stereotype. And I do hope I have not lost half of you. I do apologize for such frankness to my Jewish readers and those in Noahide and Torah study groups I attend for such a scathing rant on the Divine. But these posts have given me a means of getting the pebble from my shoe that I have been stepping on for quite some time.
Written By A.D. Wayman