Well let me tell you something …
How come most Christians only perceive in the mind’s eye, a limited image of God. How come in all of scripture we read nothing like the following lyrical description of one singer’s particular “Divinity?”
Over and over I tried to prove my love to you.
Over and over What more can I do?
Over and over My friends say I’m a fool.
But over and over I’ll be a fool for you.
‘Cause you got personality
Walk, with personality
Talk, with personality
Smile, with personality
Charm, with personality
Love, with personality
And of Cause you’ve got
A great big heart.
Now over and over
What more can I do.?
Lloyd Price was an American R&B and swing singer-songwriter, record executive and bandleader, known as “Mr. Personality.” Perhaps his most famous song came out in 1959 – a love song to his sweetheart. It’s title was Personality.
We might find such lyrical odes to God in the writings of ancient Christian mystics but even then they do not read as if a mystic had sat down with God and enjoyed an in-depth interview from which a glowing description of a vital and intense Divine Being was the result.
Spiritual writer, Stephen Mitchell expressed in The Gospel According to Jesus, a comparison between the Jesus of scripture untainted by Roman or Protestant theology and the “Jesus” of orthodoxy and conformity.
No careful reader of the Gospels can fail to be struck by the difference between the large-heartedness of such passages and the bitter, badgering tone of some of the passages added by the early church.
It is not only the polemical element in the Gospels, the belief in devils, the flashy miracles, and the resurrection itself that readers like Jefferson, Tolstoy and Gandhi have felt are unworthy of Jesus, but most of all, the direct antitheses to the authentic teaching that were put into “Jesus’” mouth – doctrines and attitudes so offensive that they ‘have caused good men to reject the whole in disgust.’
Jesus teaches us, in his sayings and by his actions, not to judge (in the sense of not to condemn), but to keep our hearts open to all people.
The later “Jesus” is the archetypal judge, who will float down terribly on the clouds for the world’s final rewards and condemnations.
Jesus cautions against anger and teaches the love of enemies.
The later “Jesus” calls his enemies “children of the Devil” and attacks them with the utmost vituperation and contempt.
Jesus talks of God as a loving father, even to the wicked.
The later “Jesus” preaches a God who will cast the disobedient into everlasting flames. (A Eloheim who will deliberately withhold blessings and mercy because of sin,)
Jesus includes all people when he calls God “your Father in heaven.”
“The later Jesus” says “MY father in heaven.”
Jesus teaches that all those who make peace, and all those who love their enemies are sons of God.
The later “Jesus” refers to himself as “THE Son of God.”
Jesus isn’t interested in defining who he is (except for one passing reference to himself as a prophet).
The later “Jesus” talks on and on about himself. (As does the LDS version of Jesus)
Jesus teaches God’s absolute forgiveness.
The later “Jesus” utters the horrifying statement that “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is guilty of eternal sin.”
The epitome of this narrow-hearted, sectarian consciousness is a saying, which a second-century Christian scribe put into the mouth of the resurrected Savior at the end of Mark:
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever doesn’t believe will be damned.”
No wonder Jefferson said, with barely contained indignation:
‘Among the saying and discourses imputed to him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being.’
When I first read this it occurred to me that even the writers of so-called holy scripture did very little to assign any kind of three-dimensional view or personality to God. What we have to work with as we try to conceptualize and perhaps make a portrait of the personality is the limited 2-dimensional personality reflected in scripture:
“A two-dimensional character is the same as one-dimensional character except for the fact that they show one emotion or character trait. They are also known as “cardboard” characters, your cutouts, because they lack dimension. They show a little bit of character through their words, actions, or emotions, but everything they reveal is of a one-track nature that’s somewhat undeveloped and often lacking in background, explanation, or depth.
Unlike the one-dimensional character, they must react through speech or gesture to reveal an emotional trait. Their reactions and integrations in the story are often brief, but not always. Though a main character may be present the majority of the story, if he/she is lacking in depth, complexity, or history, that character becomes two-dimensional. One of the biggest dangers to believability or engagement of readers in a story is a lack of depth to main, or even secondary characters.”
So the God of most Christians, in terms of personality and get-to-know-you-ness, is in truth not much more than a cardboard character whom we have been taught to respect, revere and actually worship through praise, prayerful petitions and doting hymns that are nothing more than appeals to an assumed narcissistic deity who loves to be lauded.
The other truth is that there is no substance to an on-going intuited relationship with a cardboard character which is not what those early mystics sought or achieved in their inner imaginary worlds.
The television series LUCIFER presents a mythological angel who has a no-holds-barred intimate and often hostile relationship with the creator of the known universe in Christian terms. Lucifer Samael Morningstar (think biblically: Son of the Morning) who appears fearless in his willingness to confront and verbally attack God who he calls “Dear Old Dad.”
Just as in the TV series, God has not struck anyone down with lightning, thunder, earthquake or floods except in the Biblical Fairy Story accounts. One would think that according to our contemporary crop of right-wing fundamentalist Christians God would have smote the whole TV series and all the blaspheming actors straight to a real fire-and-brimstone hell. So far no.
Same for us.
There are folk lore and apocryphal stories about a punitive God punishing a specific sinner or group of sinners, but those are essentially unprovable and will remain in the folklore closet forever.
The Greeks knew who their supreme being was and what he was like. They believed that Zeus live high on Olympus with his clan of unruly, sinfully delicious companions and offspring whose charms he could not always resist. They knew what he was, what he was like and lived in a kind of fearful bondage until the time when there were not enough demonstrations of his mighty and angry existence and the Olympian gods ultimately were banned to myth only.
We Christians seem to have a hard time doing that to our Almighty Father of Heaven and Earth. Although our fundamentalist and biblically literalist friends seem to think our irreverent come-uppance is long overdue and still in the script, the myopic, immature and overly sober divinity seems stuck in the imaginations of such wannabe prophets of doom.
Maybe so, but as my alter ego (icon), Reverend Duminyun, would say:
“Madam, you will burn in hell for making light of that!”
I wrote this fourteen years ago this week. In retrospect this moment could have been a scene in the LUCIFER TV series.
Guess Who Showed Up In My Office
If you’ve seen the movie GHOST and remember the scenes where Whoopi Goldberg tries to convince Demi Moore that she (Whoopi) has actually spoken to Patrick Swayze, you may have a sense of what it was like the day an internationally known psychic walked into my office announcing that God would shortly grant an interview, adding,
“You’re all God’s got so He has to use you.”
Needless to say, I closed the door to my office lest a few ears could hear any more of her fantastic drivel.
“I’m glad you brought me in here. It makes it easier to set up the interview,” she said as I closed the door.
“You mean you are going to produce God himself? Are we going to have some sort of ‘crossing over’ here?”
“Oh, heavens no! Uh, pardon the expression.” (With a whisper, she continued,) “I used to say ‘hell no’ but since linking with Mr. Big himself, I don’t dare use the phrase. Now Arthur, God wants you in this room tomorrow morning at 4:30 a.m. SHARP and says that the rest will be handled for you. You just be here!”
“You’d better explain yourself.” I told her, thinking of how to get a 911 responder to believe my reason for calling.
Article space is precious and it would take up too much to relate how she convinced me to at least give God a chance to show up at the appointed time. Since tomorrow morning I had planned to start work on my next article before turning on The View, I decided to get up real early so as to humor the lady. Assuming God would not show, I could still get some work done.
Next morning I was no sooner in my office and reaching for the light when the light switch activated before I could touch it.
And there was light.
A voice, not loud, not soft, not a whisper but then not a shout either … spoke quite forcefully.
“Sit down son. After turning on your light for you, I’m only going to give you one other miracle.”
There wasn’t time to go through any theatrics of shock and awe. I heard the quite command and I obeyed. As I sat down at my desk, I suddenly spied a shape in the side chair opposite my desk. The shape clarified itself and I found myself staring at a distinguished old man dressed in a long white robe with gold edging casually sitting in my side chair.
There was no pillar of fire or light and no aura around him but I knew somehow that He was either legitimate or Steven Spielberg’s special effects crew had snuck into my office and set up shop in the middle of the night.
Now I felt it … I really KNEW who was sitting there.
I remembered one time a child’s story about new arrivals in heaven not recognizing their Savior when they met him. It was explained to me that only the righteous will recognize Him instantly. Well, I knew instantly that I was looking at God. There was no time to be astonished. One minute there was nothing and the next I found myself no longer alone in my office. God was sitting in my side chair looking directly into my eyes … and I exclaimed, managing only a quivering whisper,
“You really are … God! I somehow know it to be true. You are … you are!”
Then God turned in His chair, facing me from another angle. And my wild eyes saw a woman.
She shifted again and I saw a young man looking exactly like a Michelangelo David
… who moved again and I found myself looking at my 13-year-old granddaughter who, I knew, was 150 miles away sound asleep.
“I … I think I get your point. You’re telling me … you’re revealing to me that you are …”
“I’m not revealing anything that all of humanity does not already know inside. Now, let’s get this going and be done with it. Son, I’m not a meddler, but things have gone so far in the wrong direction that something must be done. You people need to redirect the path everyone seems determined to march down.”
My granddaughter was back and pointing at my legal pad.
“You do some asking and I’ll do some telling. As things progress you’ll realize a few things without asking. Other things won’t come to you as answers from me, but as understandings … if you pay attention and let your thoughts run free.”
I was convinced … or hallucinating … or delusional like Uncle Pat Robertson.
God was talking to me.
No doubt about it. I can’t and won’t launch into any speculation as to why God chose me. I appreciate John Denver’s role with George Burns even more now. And somehow I know that it’s not relevant to me whether some or all disbelieve what I write. What is relevant is that I know and God knows that I know.
The wise old woman was back only this time she looked like an older Queen Latifa.
“Start the interview young man.” was all she said.
I did and managed to come up with a question.
ARTHUR: Why didn’t you appear on a mount or in a mega church before one of the prominent Christian celebrities or even in Salt Lake?
GOD: I tried! I couldn’t get through. All of them were like you were yesterday, only much more dense to my touch.
A: What do you mean?
G: They are all like peas in a pod. What they inwardly imagine is the only thing they’ll accept. They have in their minds a specific image of what God is and how God communicates – by the way, most of them think I talk only with men. It’s a part of their minds that is literally stony. There wasn’t any use in appearing to them in the way they expected. Their chests would all puff out and they’d be thinking, “see? I told you so. Now quit doubting”
A: What way would that be?
G: Looking like Max Von Sydow or Jeffrey Hunter or Jim Caviezal in the movies.
A: Why not?
G: Because I’m not that way! I’m not in any way the sort of character your Christianity has made me out to be.
A: What sort of character are you … uh, Lord?
And it was my granddaughter again looking at me across my desk.
G: Do you know where I’ve come from?
A: Uh … Heaven? A Mighty Fortress?
Granddaughter laughed uproariously.
G: We’d better back up. I can see you need to have your own assumptions adjusted. You’ve noticed that I can appear as anything I want (adding with a sly smile) even an angel of light?
A: (Thinking that somewhere I’d read or been told that the devil could appear as an angel of light and that you can test the angel by touching) Would you mind shaking-
G: Yeah yeah yeah. (Young David reached across and gave me a hard gripping hand shake. As if he’d been lifting weights.) I’m not the God you people think I am.
A: Obviously … er, Lord. But what sort of God – I mean, why do you say that?
G: Well, for heaven’s sake, pardon the pun! More than a few of you are starting to pray to the female me. Does it matter?
A: I beg your pardon?
The old woman sighed and shrugged at me.
G: No young man. I didn’t come from some heaven or a mighty fortress out there somewhere on the other side of the moon. In a way, I’ve come from your future. No, better said … I’m trying to portray your future in a way you’ll understand.
A: But doesn’t the Bible say that —
The old beardy guy was back.
G: The Bible says three things. ” “My thoughts are higher than your thoughts, ” “believe in me ” “and love each other. ” The rest is 6000 years of private interpretations.
A: But your Son? He was killed and the priests say we owe him. Which of those three things expresses that?
G: All three of them do … minus the need for fear, shame and guilt.
A: But all those commandments!
G; Private interpretations son. Believe in me and love each other. Everything else will take care of itself.
A: Are you telling me that —
My granddaughter was giggling.
G: Gosh Grampy, you’re being dense.
A: But what about the End Times? What about your Son coming to-
G: To kick butt and take names Grampy? What for?
A: Because of evil! Because of the war in Heaven! You and Satan are-
Granddaughter giggles again impishly. G: You know I’m asleep 150 miles away but even I know that Satan is only a nightmare.
A: A nightmare? Surely you know how many people have been killed because of Satan?
Young Adam smiled and took my paperweight in his hand, eyeing it with one eye.
G: Surely I know how many people have been killed because of someone else’s nightmare.
A: Is Satan real?
G: Only in the Left Behind novels.
A: Okay, so now I’m talking to David the body-builder. You were there at the start! What about the serpent in Eden.
G: A snake. Nothing more, nothing less.
A: But he made Eve ruin everything.
That brought out the old lady again.
G: You men are such twits! Eve watched the snake as she watched all things in the garden. One day, watching the snake shed its skin and not die, she figured it out. Told Adam what she learned from the snake. They took the next step together, knowing what they were doing.
Adam the twit passed the story on … but you know how gossip grows. Years later – by the time the patriarchs took over – the story changed to a talking snake, guilty women and innocent men. Fixed in place by dullards.
She gestured to the morning light coming through the window and I knew it was time.
A: We’re about through aren’t we?
G: Yes we are.
A: They won’t believe it.
G: Well, Junior, whether they believe it or not, God is not coming to their rescue, God is not going to justify what they say or what they do and God is not going to punish their enemies or reward their self-righteousness.
A: You mean you’re just going to let —
G: I mean, sonny that humans have gotten into and out of messes for millennia without my meddling. It’s your world. It was built for you to nourish, not to treat like a rental.
A: Meddling? Aren’t you interested? Don’t you care?
G: Does a parent care for the children? Does an artist care for the creation? Oh you betcha I care young man!
She stood and moved toward the door.
G: But I may have to meddle just a little bit if things get worse.
A: And if they do?
She smiled and shrugged.
And then the body-builder was eyeing me and wiggling his pectorals.
G: I might just have to appear as you see me now, kick a few butts and take a few names. Tell them to take care about what they say and do in my name.