Chapter 9—“Doppleganger God”
After visiting Universal Studios Florida and experiencing the Shrek 4-D show, Pavlovitz realizes that the reason he was not impressed with the experience is he wore his special 3-D glasses on the top of his head and instead his ordinary sunglasses were over his eyes. When he saw the exhibit wearing the right glasses, he was awed. Thus, he concludes, “The lenses through which we see the world matter.” The problem as it relates to seeing God, he says, is that we all have different lenses, made unique by our life experiences, homes, families, teachers, and more, so that we each “make ‘God’ either slightly or substantially in our own image.” Our images of Jesus are similarly personalized. This, he says, explains why we cannot agree across denominations or even within them how to view God and Jesus or agree on what Jesus’s teachings really mean. We hold others up to standards that are more of our own making than of the teachings of Jesus. He cites numerous examples to show how Jesus’ stories might be viewed differently by those with opposing perspectives. One of the greatest challenges of our religious practice is to let God be God and let Jesus be Jesus, not in our biased images but in light of all we are given to help us experience God and Jesus. Otherwise, we are judging others based on our limited lenses. We are all “universally composed of Divinity, equally saturated with Godness,” which is important to recognize as God in us. But we must work against seeing God as us.
Chapter 10—“Good Book, Lousy Hammer”
Pavlovitz—and, indeed, all of us—know Christians who claim to be “Bible believers” worshipping a “biblical God.” He quickly points out the problems with a literal belief in a biblical God—specifically that the Old Testament God was difficult to please, harsh in punishments, and seemingly arbitrary in both actions and expectations. Most people don’t want that God. What they want is the God of the verses they are comfortable with. Likewise, most people don’t really want the biblical Jesus, who feeds the hungry and loves the unlovable. That Jesus can get in the way of our capitalistic dreams and desires for ourselves. Therefore, we are selective in the view of Jesus we worship. Just like in our understanding of Jesus and God, we tend to read the Bible and glean from it the truths we want to believe. He tells the story of a woman named Donna who challenged him after his YouTube posting that the Bible does not ever say that homosexuality is a sin. Donna argues that everyone sins, and homosexuals are no worse than adulterers, thieves, and liars. He challenges her further, stating that she is “cherry-picking” verses to make her point, which is something many people are guilty of. There is nothing to be gained from believing in the totality of the Bible. We must recognize it for what it is—a collection of ancient manuscripts that have been translated and studied and reflected upon for generations. We must continue to study it and reflect upon it, but we must recognize its limitations and not use it to justify our personal causes.