IF GOD IS LOVE, DON’T BE A JERK, by John Pavlovitz
Chapter 5 – The Dude Abides
God the Father. God the man. God, the He of Hes. Chapter 5 discusses our long tradition of referring to God as male. John Pavlovitz writes about the inherent dangers in imagining a Divinity as male. Some of the dangers are reinforcing subconscious and conscious misogyny, fear-fueled violence toward LGBTQ human beings, attempts to justify all sorts of sexism both inside and outside the Church.
Most of us grew up never really questioning the image of God being an old white man with white beard living somewhere in “heaven”. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament, God and other authority figures are referred to as male. These beliefs and attitudes contributed to the formation of the patriarchy. He challenges us to examine the limits of a single-gendered God. Does this make sense, and does this attitude make for a more loving, inclusive world? He asks the question, “How did the writers of the Bible establish God’s gender to begin with?” Really good question for us to ponder. How does the male only image of God help us understand that all human beings are made in the image of God? What might it be like to image a God who transcends gender, the ability to see God in everyone?
The scale and scope of the Almighty is greatly limited. He writes, “The only way every disparate human being could be equally and fully made in the likeness of God (if we’re to use the same Bible these homophobic/transphobic Christians use) is if God both transcends and encompasses gender.
There are places in the Bible where feminine images are used such as: a woman nursing child (Isaiah 49:15); a mother comforting child (Isaiah 66:13); a weaned child with its mother (Psalm 131:2 NIV); mother hen gathering her chicks (Matthew 23:37 NIV). Ruach, Hebrew name for Spirit of God is feminine. There is a great need to expand our image of God in order to treat the diverse humanity we live among with reverence and greater respect. God is nonbinary and is in every human being.
Chapter 6 – Made in America
In this chapter John Pavlovitz explores the default system in many churches and running in background of many political campaigns, that “God is American and the gospel was written down in red, white, and blue”. This erroneous belief completely distorts Jesus and his message. He goes on to say, “An American-centered religion is the singular genesis of the white supremacy, nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant rhetoric we’re experiencing here.” This atmosphere of national greatness has been accompanied by “hostility to outsiders and lack of compassion for hurting and vulnerable people.”
What was Jesus like? He was not in the business of nation building. He worked for social justice, attended to the marginalized, the oppressed, the poor and the outcasts. He talked about selflessness and loving God and neighbor as yourself.
John writes, “The character of Jesus doesn’t rally the Bible Belt or garner the support of popular evangelists or fill glistening megachurches. Worst of all, it doesn’t seem to seep into the souls of many professed Christians anymore either-which for a person of faith is the bigger story here: the growing irrelevance of Jesus in so much of the faith tradition that bears his name.”
In John Pavlovitz’s opinion, Americans who say they are Christians, a chose has to be made. One can not be both “for God so love the world” and “America First.”
Questions to Ponder:
1. With all we know today, do we need to rethink the religion we have inherited?
2. Knowing what you know about Jesus’ life and teachings, how are they compatible or not compatible with the American Dream? With democracy? With capitalism?
3. How can American Christians avoid nationalism?
Carl Jung responded to a question about his belief in God in a BBC interview. He said, “I do not believe in God, I know God.”
Another Jung quote, “ To this day God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions and change the course of my life for better or worse.”
The names of God, in the tradition of Judaism, once written cannot be erased because of their holiness:
YHWH, Adonai( My Lords), El(God), Elohim (plural God), Shaddai (Almighty), Tzevaot (of Hosts), Ehyeh(I Will Be)
The Tetragrammaton (YHWH, Yahweh in English) I Will Be What I Will Be or I Am That I AM
For Muslims, there are 99 names for Allah because Allah has many attributes to describe.