What is a bully?
Bullying is very much in the news in recent years and for good reason. It is obviously a practice that must end. The news events focus on physical and emotional bullying which have resulted in some very horrible tragedies. The focus of these stories has mainly been children and women who at the hand of the bully suffered very much.
A dictionary definition of a bully tells us they are: a blustering, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. Someone who intimidates and intends to dominate others without any regard for the other.
To say “God is not a bully”—as just defined—seems at the outset, like a very obvious statement. Or is it? For now I am taking the position He is not but how I arrived at this will be the subject of many of my subsequent posts. However it is a phrase that has been rattling around in my head for several years since he spoke to me on the streets of my home town. And meditating on this topic has brought me to some startling conclusions.
Is God a bully?
In theology class I was told that what a persons “Idea of God” is, is about the most important thing one could find out about a person. This is because what a person believes about God will influence all of his actions and his life direction. A benign example would be conversion, a life changing event most of the time for the better. A more pernicious example is the religious fundamentalist from any religion who’s idea of God allows them to destroy life in the name of their idea of God. This is because their God also destroys His enemies and has done so in the past [see the OT] and will do so in the future [see Revelation]. And of course God will do this because the “wicked” have refused to convert to His way a thinking; i.e. convert to their religion.
If God has told others to destroy their enemies in His name in the past and we see that those others have obeyed and were then rewarded for doing so, then today and through out history, as His agents, we must have the right to follow suit.
The following verses are examples: if God does it than it is OK for us to do it and if God does not do it than it is not OK:
Num. 23:8 How can I curse
those whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce
those whom the LORD has not denounced?
And Paul, following his training says in 1 Corinthians 16.22 (CEV); “I pray that God will put a curse on everyone who doesn’t love the Lord. And may the Lord come soon.”
When Paul wrote this was he thinking of this verse in Numbers? Is it possible that this one verse would give justification to any church authority to punish, torture and persecute those who do not “love the Lord.”? Especially if the authorities equate loving the lord as loving the organization. History is full of examples of this kind of thinking and action.
Between those extremes are the rest of us who are taught to “Fear God”, but why? Of course there are many reasons given and I guess the most obvious is: GOD is by definition BIGGER than us, ALL of us. And we are naturally afraid of someone bigger than us especially if that someone is really alien to us. If we have been exposed at all to any Sunday school stories of Gods Old Testament wrath against evil doers it becomes an easy step to apply that thought to ourselves when every wrong deed is not only condemned by others [parents; Gods face to children] and before that our own conscience.
Even if we have never been to church we have been exposed to enough pseudo theology to convince us that God is a being that is just looking for a reason to smack us down when we get out of line. And it sure doesn’t help when a natural disaster like Katrina is interpreted in the Old Testament’s continuous claim that the destruction of peoples and civilizations—genocide—is sanctioned by Yahweh
Is it possible God is not holding us over the pit of hell just looking for an excuse to drop us?
Does God force us to do his will? Does God even need to resort to psychological coercion and threats of physical and spiritual destruction? Does God, like the bully, hold the threat of eternal punishment over our heads as a means to coerce us into his “loving arms”. Does that even make sense? How many of us would convert to a religion which held a gun to our heads and demanded we convert or die? We may take on the outward form so we could keep on living but would our heart be changed. Or is God counting on what has become known as the “Stockholm Syndrome” where the captive becomes enamored by their captor. In a sense saying; “you hate me now but it’ll be OK because you’ll come to love me later.”
Does God need to use force at all, did he ever?
1 Cor 13.3-7
From “The Message”
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love.
If God is Love and love dose not “keep score” for what is God going to punish us, now or in the world to come? That includes any sin even rejecting Christ as our personal savior. For that is supposedly the worst sin of all.
Well, these questions open up many cans of worms which I will attempt to sort out in the posts to follow.