Monday, July 11, 2011
God a Maniac?
"... the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces." - Leviticus 9:23.
I've shouted and fallen on my face plenty of times. Never on purpose though. And to my shame it's normally proceeded by an "Oh shit!" which I do believe, if I don't die of "natural causes" is pretty high on the list of the most likely last words of Philip. I hope not, but you never know.
I read and wrote about one of my favorite authors last week - Terry Pratchett. I've always been curious about his take on Christianity as he makes some interesting comments in his novels. So I did some reading on him, and being a British intellectual and all that, he seems to fall into the group of those who dismissed God at an early age.
In his particular case, he read through the Old Testament in "one go" at age 13 and came to the conclusion that if this is God he must be a "maniac". I don't think that's the wrong conclusion to make for a 13 year old. But to stick with that thinking for the rest of your life? It's sadly typical.
But, as I read out of Leviticus this morning, I stumbled upon a passage that I didn't have to sleep-read through (mostly because of the explosion of fire!!!). In the passage above, after a long process of ordaining Aaron and the Levites to offer sacrifices in the Tabernacle, God shows up. Kaboom!
In fact, the Israelites, with mouths still munching on dirt because they had just seen "fire come out from the presence of the LORD" may have had the thoughts similar to my friend Terry, "Are we dealing with a maniac?"
Now I'm going to do a quick google to see the definition of "maniac." Here you go: "a person exhibiting extreme symptoms of wild behavior"; "a person who has an excessive enthusiasm or desire for something."
The definitions do seem to fit don't they? God is wild and shows extremely wild behavior. And God has all kinds of excessive enthusiasm and desire.
Our God is impossible to put in a box. We think he should perhaps be a bit more tame and safe. He should be a bit more like Santa Claus, but he's not. He works in history, he works in our mess and sometimes he reacts violently, exhibiting what we would consider maniacal behavior.
Israelite: "Come on God, surely your holiness is not that big of a deal..."
Wait for it...
"Oh shit!" BOOM!
This is the God who's self-definition is "I am the LORD your God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. But I will by no means acquit the guilty..."
The error that barbs our thinking and has caused such confusion in Terry Pratchett's England and I guess all over the west forever, is that since God tends to wipe people out, whole nations in fact, he can't be loving, consistent and merciful.
Maybe since we're dealing with God, we should think of him in different categories. Rather than constantly suspecting his actions, because he makes a big deal out of things, we should look to see what he's making a big deal about.
And maybe, just maybe, God isn't so easy to define. Maybe he looks a little more like a maniac, albiet a loving and merciful maniac, than many of us Christians dare to discuss. Maybe God's excessive obsessions and violent tendecies are a good thing, something we're called on to discuss, ponder and revere, not over-look and dismiss with "Let's just skip to those pretty passages" (you know the ones, they're on web-pages with music and pictures of dancing cherubs).
Like I've said before, God gets violent and shows obsessive excessive tendencies when he sees his creation and creatures being religiously raped, violated, persecuted and murdered by a race that's hell-bent against God and focused on self. God doesn't mind getting messy and he stays holy. He's totally involved and totally seperate.
It may be a good thing that we selfish creatures come to wrong conclusions about God. Because if we thought God was "all-good," or simply one of us, we'd be in trouble. Big trouble.
There, I'm done writing about stuff I have no idea about for the day. Sorry about that. I better stop before something blows up.