Saturday, January 30, 2010

Does God need me?

My friend Wally just sent me this picture, taken somewhere in New Hampshire. It reminds me of countless church bulletin boards all across the country, some sillier than others, but all intended to encapsulate a message seen as "important" by the particular clergyman/woman in charge of PR for that parish.

It's mildly amusing that the God who wants to be a lover has chosen to post his appeal on the Body of Christ billboard.

But what concerns me, much more seriously, is the nature of this God. The "god" question haunts me for a number of reasons: a) because I'm old, approaching the end of my life and would like to know something, if possible, about "ultimate" reality; b) because I was raised by devout (albeit very tolerant and liberal) parents for whom the existence of God was an unquestioned given and whose memory I wish to honor, if I can; c) because God and his/her priests, ministers, imams and shamans so often provide the justifications for unforgivably hateful words, unspeakably cruel behavior, incredibly ludicrous thinking.

This particular photo seems to reveal a kind of pathetic, lovelorn God who's out there trolling for warm bodies. Ok, ok. I know that it's probably the parish PR guy who fits this description. Still, I've always wondered why God was so petty that he/she somehow "needed" to be believed in by me. Why does God need all this affection and admiration and respect? It seems to me that he/she is severely lacking in self-esteem.

And I wonder. If I don't give him the love/praise/obedience he requires, is he going to slap me around? If one listens to the televangelists, it would appear that God is indeed that kind of a bully.

I have couched my concern in a rather light-hearted way. But I truly would like to make some sense of this. For most of my life I have "faithfully" attended religious services, of various denominations (ranging from Presbyterian to Catholic to Episcopalian). But nowhere have I found anything but this anthropomorphic God. If he needs me so badly, why do I need him?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mr. Kirkeby! This comment is about a year too late, but, perhaps, this post could be in celebration of your first whole year of blogging! :)

    I stumbled upon your blog through facebook. And the truth is...I'm much too curious for my own good, and since I'm still on break and have too much time (at least until Monday), I've been reading a couple of entries here and there.

    There is definitely something wrong with a God who needs us. The thought of a God who suffers from co-dependecy is quite unsettling. If God needs us, or any other thing, then he probably doesn't deserve the title of God. But I believe God really is God, and that He doesn’t need us—not our praise, obedience, or love.

    From what I've read, I think Susanna Wesley explains who God is better than most. She writes: "He is the great God, 'The God of the spirits of all flesh,' 'the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity,' and created not angels and men because he wanted them, for he is being itself, and as such must necessarily be infinitely happy in the glorious perfections of his nature from everlasting to everlasting; and he did not create, so neither did he redeem because he needed us; but he loved us because he loved us, he would have mercy because he would have mercy, he would show compassion because he would show compassion."

    And if God really is as such, shouldn’t he deserve praise? Only a God who doesn’t need praise deserves praise. And if he really is a God worthy of praise, is he not right to demand it? He doesn’t need it, but he demands it…because not demanding praise would be pretending to be anything less than who he really is—One who deserves praise.

    Maybe this demand might make God look like a bully (not only through the mouths of the televangelists, but even through stories in the Bible). Look at Jonah. God bullies Jonah to go to Nineveh. When Jonah tries to flee, God bullies him some more by having some men throw him off a boat, and then sends a whale can still go to Nineveh. God then bullies the Ninevites to believe and turn from evil. So, I guess, all this kind of makes God look like a big, fat bully.

    But if God is not a bully, then he must really care.

    He must care enough about Jonah and the Ninevites to want them to know ultimate reality. He doesn’t need to bother with Jonah or the Ninevites; he doesn’t gain anything from them. But he cares because he cares, and, as Susanna Wesley says, he loves because he loves.

    (There are still many things I have questions about; however, I've noticed that they always, more or less, lead to the same question: do I dare believe and trust that God is a good and just God? Sometimes, I flip and flop in my own little ways, but I always come to find there is enough reason to believe God is good. Anyway, these are just a few thoughts from one human to another. :) Forgive my rambling.)