July 17, 2011

Breaking Up with God: A Love Story

I mentioned this book before, but finally finished it yesterday. Not because it is a difficult read--quite the opposite--but I just was distracted with a few other things. So yesterday afternoon, I found myself crying a few times as I followed her journey. Greg's review is really good, and he explains this book better than I can.

This book won't be for everyone. I think that is fairly obvious. But her questions about God sounded like those in my own head. And her frustration with the church's simplification echoed my own. My own experience was like this:
Evangelical: God is so much bigger than you can even imagine.
Me: So he might actually be she?
Evangelical: Don't be silly. He is just like a father.
Me: So there is no way he would wipe out populations of people, right?
Evangelical: No, he can do that and be just like your father too.

In summary, God is so much bigger than we can even imagine, but he prefers America, hates anyone who criticizes Israel, hates gay marriage, and likes capitalism and private property. But we can't really know him. If something good happens that we prayed for--that is proof that God answers prayer. If something bad happens that we prayed for--that is proof that we can't understand God's purpose and will. Even though we understood it when we liked the outcome.

God becomes, in that sense, everything and nothing. He is in complete control, but sometimes things happen that he clearly could not have wanted to happen, but he allowed that to happen because of some other reason. We are to have a close personal relationship with him--closer than that with our closest human connections, but can't really know him. And he might still smite us--as he has that opportunity and his "ways are higher than our ways."

She recounts a similar response to the torture revelations from Iraq. I think it is hard to completely explain how difficult that moment was for me. Well, not that moment as I am well aware of the evil that men do. But when the conservative church endorsed, or at best, shrugged off the evil of torture, something died for me. Their God didn't mind that because, as Bristol Pail said the other day, "God is on our side." He prefers us to those Muslims. I expected those who talked about how big God was, and who recounted the stories of Jesus as shepherd, finding that one lost sheep--I expected them to weep when they discovered that Bush was torturing in our name.

But they didn't. They didn't even come close. And their God didn't say anything to them. Still hasn't.


Smitty said...

On your recommendation and your buddy's review, I just picked up the book for my Nook app. Looking forward to it.

Bob said...

Can you foresee what I describe as a hallowing out of Christianity in America?

When a person brought up fundamentalist is told they must deny science or deny their church, I think many will walk away from the church. The Catholic Church will deny equal rights to women in the church hierarchy, which is something we would not tolerate in any other organization, yet members are supposed to accept it? Catholics take birth control, but are told it is a sin? Again, I think people will choose equality and reproductive freedom over the church.

Is it possible that those who are willing to be science deniers or who will accept ancient views of gender will eventually be the only people left behind in these organizations? This is what I mean about the hollowing out of Christianity. In the end will there be crazy Christians, while the rest of us walk away?

Streak said...

Bob, I think that has already happened in a lot of church communities. We see it in the troll responses we get here where they can decide that Monk is not even a Christian because of some arbitrary litmus test.

I think one of the other issues is why people attend church, and for many, I suspect, it is mostly for community. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it can become that place where you simply see confirmation that you--and all these other people--are the right ones.

Andrew said...

Most Americans want a "God" that will let them do and believe as they please, and still love and accept them. But that isn't the God the Bible talks about.

steves said...

Bob, I think many will probably just find a church that better fits what they believe. I get the sense that some outside of the "church" tend to believe that believers are some kind of group that believes the same thing. I would also speculate that even among so called evangelicals, there is not as much uniformity as some would think.

I readily admit that this isn't based on any hard data, but only my personal experience. I belong to a fairly conservative denomination and have yet to run into any science deniers. There may be some, but given that there are a fair amount of MSU faculty that attend, I doubt that there are that many.

I grew up Catholic and can tell you that there are plenty that are ok with birth control. Again, my point isn't that there aren't deniers and ignorance in the church, but rather there is plenty of room for those that don't share those beliefs. I wouldn't say that they won't get some flak from some, but show me any group that doesn't do this to some degree.

Bob said...

My point is some religions allow deviation from various beliefs, but others demand you make a choice. If forced to make a choice between proven falsehoods and reality, only the most conservative will remain.

Even when a member isn’t forced to make a choice, why continue to be a member of a denomination that does not align with your views? When looking at Catholicism, I think it is somewhat just tradition for some.

steves said...

I agree, Bob. There are a great many choices out there, so there is no need to stck with something that you find wrong.

Sarah Sentilles said...

Thank you so much for reading and writing about my book. I really appreciate it! (Just finding your blog many months after the fact . . .)