Opinion Columns & Blogs

Different views of god

One of our loyal readers, in his letter to the editor, challenged my view of God in three areas and I welcome his challenge. He has every right to his opinion and I’m honored that my column would give him the impetus to explain his ideas. I’m eager to respond.

He claims I reject God as my creator. That is not true. I reject the two creation stories in Genesis, chapters 1 and 2 as historically accurate. But I find their poetry beautiful and uplifting. I find their imagery fascinating and I find their scientific fallacies understandable. Even today we don’t fully understand black holes and the pervasive field of particles, and we certainly don’t know how the Big Bang happened. I believe my God created this world, somehow, but I don’t rely on Genesis or religion to prove it.

I look to the science of cause and effect. Every seed came from a tree and every tree came from a seed, and my logical question (with Aristotle before me) has always been, “Who made the first seed?” Aristotle called it, the First Cause or the Prime Mover. I call it God. It just makes logical sense to me, even though not to my scientific friends. I think there must have been a first cause, and if first, it could not have been caused.

However, our reader goes on to accuse me of denying divine ownership over what was created. And maybe he’s right about that. I decided to clear-cut several acres of my land and do whatever I pleased with it, and I dynamited a beaver dam that plugged up my lake. I confess I never once thought of God’s ownership over my land and my lake and the beavers I displaced. My God created this world and left us in charge. My reader’s God also created this world but his God stays involved. Believe me, I understand that. I simply disagree.

However, our disagreement is most clear where God “helps us.” I reject his meaning of the phrase, God is my helper, because he implies I should pray and God will come racing down from his heaven to remove the hurricane spinning toward me. My God does not help me in this way. When I say, God is my helper, I mean the God who lives in all of us and permeates my community of love, is helping me to understand those things I need to do through natural, not supernatural, means. I do not claim, as our reader insists, that I am self-sufficient. Just the opposite. I am very much in need of being captured and mesmerized by this continually unraveling mystery I call God.

But he gets to the core of it all when he talks about God as my redeemer. This reader, and several other critics of mine, see me as a “vindictive ex-priest, spewing anti-Christian rhetoric, and making feeble attempts to emasculate the Catholic church,” and, therefore, in great need of rescue. I admit redemption is part of the Christian mythology involving the man who was created in innocence and purity but who rebelled against God and was thrown out of the Garden of Paradise. We were taught that Adam’s descendants inherited his wickedness and were condemned to hell until the son of God was crucified as a sacrifice of atonement to redeem us from the wrath of his vengeful father.

I freely admit my sinfulness (a bit different from the sins I’m accused of committing) but I totally reject the ugly image of God the father in heaven ordering the brutal murder of his only son to atone for my sins. My God is not like that at all. My God is not “out there” sitting on a throne of justice waiting for my final court trial to begin. My God is “in here” (Luke 17:21), proving at least to me, that loving is what redeeming is all about, and in the final analysis, that means all of us.

I recognize that my understanding of God runs counter to what many consider the traditional biblical image. But, then, so does my understanding of slavery, bigotry, murder, homosexuality and misogyny.

Contact me: drc@billcummings.org.