Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Punitive Nature of God

The Punitive Nature of God

According to this article, found in the British Newspaper, The Telegraph.co.uk, extramarital sex causes earthquakes in Iran. I'm not kidding. Here's the quote:

Attractive women who snub traditional Islamic clothing to instead wear fashionable clothes and apply heavy make-up, caused youths in the country to “go astray” and have affairs, Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi said.

The hard-line cleric said as a result the country, bounded by several fault lines, experienced more “calamities” such as earthquakes, the reformist Aftab-e Yazd newspaper reported him saying.

Wow--that will keep them submissive to religious law, won't it?  Have extramarital sex, and be guilty for causing massive death and destruction to wholly innocent others.  

On the surface, this sounds pretty ridiculous to most people I know.  Yet, as extreme as this sounds, I hear such thinking about God and God's punitive nature all the time.  Something happens that is bad or unwanted, and many will immediate jump to, "God is punishing me . . . (or you or someone else) because of my actions." 

Is that what God is about?  Does God work with nature and events to hurt and destroy so that fear of punishment will encourage certain behavioral standards?  Does God manipulate clouds, storms, tectonic plates, volcanoes, other people, automobiles, airplane electronics, world politics, etc., in order to keep people from crossing some moral line?  Did riotous living in New Orleans bring about Hurricane Katrina?  Are the sexually promiscuous responsible for the downing of the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001? Did the recent earthquakes and Haiti and Chile occur because some unmarried people couldn't restrain their urges? 

Don't get me wrong--I do think sexual intimacy outside the covenant of marriage is problematic and unhealthy.  Human beings are created for the kind of relational activity where physical intimacy is an expression of trust and vulnerability already built emotionally, physically, socially and spiritually.   That kind of trust and openness doesn't happen outside covenant and commitment.  Without that kind of connection, sexual encounters offer momentary pleasure at the cost of long-term hurt.  Nonetheless, are thoughtless sexual encounters adequately evil so as to cause the kinds of death and destruction that earthquakes in urban areas bring? I don't think so.

There is something more going on here and I contend it is the need control the behavior of others in order to keep ourselves in a bubble of unquestioned comfort and power.  If, by the use of fear and threats, we can force others to do what we want them to do, then we do not have to face our own demons and our own ability to be destructive.  The vicissitudes of life lay squarely at the feet of someone else--be they seductive women, punitive and nasty deities, or poor, helpless men who can't control their sexual urges.  

Again, I ask, "Is this what God is about?"  I've recently been re-reading the Gospel of Mark, an exciting narrative about Jesus' many encounters with the ailing, oppressed population in ancient Israel.  There is no indication he came to enforce perfect morality.  Instead, there is much emphasis on a holy healing, a freedom from oppression, and an extravagant love that invites everyone to take part.  Everyone--not just the morally or doctrinally elite.  Everyone--the broken, the sick, the troubled, the outcast.  Everyone--including you and me.  I'm saying "yes" to this healing  I hope you will as well.

No comments: