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What is God?

Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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Did you wonder when you read the headline on this column if my spelling correction software had gone wonky. Surely, I meant to ask Who is God? 

But if I use the pronoun “who” in reference to God, I’m anthropomorphizing an entity that in no way resembles a human being regarded as an individual. I’m making God in my image, because I can do nothing else, and I’m imbuing him with my own aspirations, purposes, and limitations. It can’t be otherwise because the God of the Bible is unknowable. While we insist on referring to God as a personal God, we attribute to him omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, characteristics that we have not and cannot experience as humans.

What do concepts like marriage, family, life, and death mean to an entity that exists as pure spirit, immortal and unchanging? Why would we describe God as lonely, creating mankind for companionship, when we experience such emotions and desire only because of the limitations of our humanity. 

What possible purpose could this life of struggle, pain, and loss that the Bible says God has imposed upon us for breaking a rule serve? According to Jesus, the moment of our death we will be with God in paradise, and all will be revealed. Why would a truly loving God condemn anyone who does not bow down and accept Jesus as their savior to an eternity in a burning garbage dump?

This is a difficult column for me to write. One of my core “rules to myself” is to never write anything that might cause someone to question their faith. And while I’m hopeful that nothing I could write here would cause a committed Christian to question that belief, there is always the possibility that someone not well grounded in it could be swayed. I’m breaking that rule because I’m convinced that the rise of Christian fundamentalism is an existential threat to our country.

Any God whose purposes we could ultimately understand would be impotent and unworthy of worship. And if we can’t understand what he is up to, then we should stop playing at being God with our fellow human beings.

God does not need us to stop abortions, gay marriage, transsexuals, birth control, interracial marriage, or any of the other ten thousand things we seem to be obsessed as human beings if that is what he wants to do. We seem to believe that for some inexplicable reason, God has decided to limit his omnipotence and to affect his will through barely perceptible and easily confused messages whispered in the ears of a few privileged humans. That’s nonsense. It’s also dangerous.

If God ultimately cared that every fertilized egg led to a birth, then ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and life-threatening consequences to women during gestation would not occur. God is omnipotent. We have no idea what any of this could mean to an omnipotent, pre-existing entity. But I’m pretty sure if it was important to him, he wouldn’t leave it up to old white men with limited discernment to sort out. If God was as concerned over the ultimate destinations of human souls as we are, he wouldn’t be giving us difficult to understand and impossible to agree on hints as if life was a cruel adventure game.

My belief is a simple one. I believe, whatever God’s unknowable purpose is, that because of his nature, he already knows the outcome. And it’s going to come out o.k. Because all I can do is, from my limited human discernment, believe that a God that is pure love, and not bounded by the limitations of conditional human love, will act not out of spite for all the times we have screwed things up, but redeem his creation in the end. If I am wrong, though, it changes nothing.

Christian fundamentalism, Christian nationalism, Christian dominionism are heresies created by men to use God’s name and words to control others. These people do not care about Christians, Christianity, or Christ. And they are using issues like abortion now to take literal control of women’s bodies. They are liars and are dangerous. They are so dangerous that even writing these words is dangerous (one of them tried to kill me in 1989 because I wrote these kinds of words calling them out).

If you read the New Testament, Jesus was not primarily concerned about all the things we seem to be obsessed with, and all the categories of “sin” that we have created. His was a very simple message. Love God and each other. None of this world’s issues really mattered. 

Even Paul though, in explaining what it took to be saved, skipped all the huge library of Jewish laws that had been concocted, and said simply “that if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…”

If a bunch of Christian heretics gain control of our country, as they are close to doing, we will lose the halting progress toward freedom we have gained at such cost over 200 years. We can’t know the mind of God. Leave people alone and let them live their lives as they choose. Don’t attempt to legislate in God’s name.

Jim Powers writes opinion columns. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Polk County Publishing Company or its owners.

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Monday, 15 August 2022