the sheep and
or the righteous and the sinners. Furthermore, if people do not hold
certain beliefs as sacred, they will be punished or worse yet, destroyed for all eternity.
The Scriptural references to God differ widely from book to book. There is no composite image that establishes Godís definitive identity from the body of existing sacred literature. We are left with conceptual images of God provided to us through our extensive heritage, images that produce awe and fear because they have been labeled as inspired by God. Some of these images are more primitive than many of the behaviors we tolerate within our own culture.
For example, God commanded Noah to gather seven pairs of each kind of ritually clean animal but only one pair of each kind that was unclean and bring them into the ark before God destroyed every living thing. (Gen. 7:2) We are led to understand God as a being who decided to kill the first born of the Egyptians and animals while punishing all the gods of Egypt. (Gen. 12:12). In Samuel we find God supporting and encouraging genocide (I Sam. 15:3).
Jesus indicated that on Judgment Day, God would be without mercy as He throws entire towns into Hell. (Matthew 11:20-24) Jesus waxed eloquent about Godís destructive abilities, e.g., ďWhen the Son of Man comes and the trumpet sounds, angels will be sent to the four corners of the earth.Ē We are admonished to ďbe ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when we are not expecting him.Ē (Matthew 24:15-44)
In spite of the verbal images of the ruthless, unloving, destructive tendencies of a very moody God, we must understand that early authors were framing the Creator as they understood God to be. Our choice is to believe, not to believe or to use our imaginations to reframe God, trusting God to inspire us as we do so.
Dare we reframe such limiting images of God when our religious heritage has put them on a pedestal as the benchmark or keystone for our faith? Absolutely! We have every right to reframe God according to our understanding, which is exactly what early authors were doing long before Christian authorities declared that their words were dictated from the mind of God.
It does not serve humanity to remain faithful to a God who is every bit as insensitive, callous, lacking in compassion and forgiveness as we can be. The God who poured out Divine essence in creating the universe, who engineered the genetic codes for each life form as well as the design of every atom and molecule found in our material existence cannot be the small being that was made visible through the descriptions produced by the minds of primitive authors.
Breaking through the barrier represented by earlier descriptions of God may evoke extreme discomfort in the hearts of the faithful. Shattering these imprisoning images of God is what humanity must do in order to move beyond the fear of Divine retribution and punishment. No other disciplines have stayed with the insights of even the giants in their respective fields. Instead, those insights became stepping-stones for humanityís evolution of thought. This has not happened with insights various religions consider sacred and thus unchangeable.
Reframing God is not as difficult as it may first appear. Always there will be people who claim that Godís answer to homosexuality is AIDS or that hurricane Katrina was Godís answer to the Sodom and Gomorrah activities of New Orleans. Humanity has always had a fondness for assigning the responsibility for catastrophic events to God.
Authentic loving energy is incapable of manipulating lesser life forms into its likeness by creating patterns that evoke fear and mass hysteria. Loving parents, for example, would never attempt to inspire love in their children through terror and punishment. Parents who engage in such activity are revealing what is within their spirits. If caught by authorities, they will have their children removed from them and face prosecution and incarceration. Yet such patterns of God are still looked upon by many of todayís faithful as accurate descriptions of Godís nature.
Reframing God can begin by reviewing insights from the Apostle Paul, ďBut the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self control.Ē Most certainly these and other attributes reflect a more accurate description of Godís Spirit. Spiritual qualities as these cannot be coerced into being. We are, indeed, extensions of Godís presence but most of humanity have not awakened to this reality.
God has no reason to punish and destroy people because they remain ignorant of their identity. The scales of justice are within us. For example, we cannot become angels in the flesh or angels in spirit until we develop many of the skills Paul described in his discourse on what Spirit produces. God does not micro manage life. God would not force humans into molds of a grand design in spite of how inspired or God-like they may be.
We have to change our belief that God has achieved this remarkable scale of creativity while behaving like a spoiled child whose creation is collapsing due to the incoming tide of limited, ignorant, miserable and sinful human beings. We have to replace such a belief with others that guide our lifeís energy patterns to flow freely in the same direction with Godís loving spirit.
Early writers were dominated by fear. They could only conceive of God through their known frames of reference. This statement is not to suggest that there were not flashes of brilliance and deep insights into Godís nature. There were. Godís still, small voice coming to Elijah, or the laws of God being written on the hearts of humankind as understood by Jeremiah, or the transformed spirit known to Ezekiel or Jesusí concept of being born again Ė all give testimony to our need to reframe how we think in order to perceive more accurately the nature and spirit of God.
It will remain our decision to either cling to the images of God that we have, or use our imaginations to free Godís nature from the encumbrances produced by authors who long ago wrote what early Christian authorities declared to be Godís Word.