Theology Thursday: The Abusive Savior

(A bit ago I began my new series Trans* Tuesday, Today I’m starting Theology Thursday. Again these might not be weekly, but I will try. My goal will be to talk about issues that are important to me and have a bearing on our society at large.)

At the beginning of July I attended a New Age Full Moon celebration in Cincinnati, Ohio. The point of the evening was to celebrate  and thank the Earth for her bounty, for Love, Equality, and Joy. Most of the evening was spent dancing in a large crowd surrounded by drummers. At sunset the dancing was halted for a group prayer and healing circle. All those who were struggling in anyway or needed healing were called to the center, and those who practiced healing or felt called created a inner ring around those in need, the rest of us forming a larger outer ring.  This healing circle felt not unlike the alter and healing calls that charismatic and evangelical churches often do. The main difference being that there was no expectation that anyone in the inner circle was “being saved” or even fully completely totally healed. It was about the community, the energy, and the love flowing between all of us. For me it was a fulfilling experience.

Shortly after the dancing resumed my partner and I looked around saw that there were people with signs and a camera standing a short distance form the gathering. I don’t remember the exact language of the signs, but it was along the lines of “Jesus died to save you from Sin” and “Christ Loves you” and the like. My partner and I approached them, my interest piqued. I wanted to know why they assumed there were no Christians gathered there(aside from myself I heard comments from a few others that led me to believe they claimed Christ.” While I never got to ask them any questions, I did overhear them answer the question “How is this sin?” (referring to the dancing) with “Well we knew there’d be a lot of people here.” So it seems it had less to do with our activities and more to do with the presence of the people. Bored, we returned to the dancing.

When we went to leave, however, we found a little pamphlet on the car. I was kinda excited because I would get to know what exactly their message was. By the time I had finished reading their stuff however I felt very sad, a reaction that I often have when confronted with divisive ignorance, shaming, and outright disgusting claims about that Universal Love we call “God”

I’m going to share a few highlights, and then break down their argument.

The back of the pamphlet contained an atrocious statement about salvation coming “when you confess to God you are a guilty sinner who deserves hell…” While I initially found this statement repugnant, it was my partner who pointed out that is the same type of language abusive partners use. And when I thought about it, I realized she was right. The only way abusers get away with it is to convince their victims they deserve to be abused, that the only way to avoid the abusers wrath is to do what they say, dress how they like, go where they want, see only those they allow, etc…

And I find this flabbergasting! The same people who say this stuff about “God”, say it is evil when people do it, but God gets a free pass? That is ridiculous. Shouldn’t we be holding the “perfect” God up to a higher standard? Why is it acceptable amongst much of the Christian tradition to teach such horrific lies? If God exists, then it makes no sense at all for these petty human justifications of violence to be part and parcel of “His” nature. “I beat you cause I love you” is disgusting, and if you believe this about God then I beg you to reconsider.

Now they attempt to draw support for their argument using using the process of Cherry Picking bible verses. This is a way of using the bible that basically says that this one verse, or part of a verse, is sufficient evidence to support one’s claims, and generally assumes the bible is “God’s inerrant word.”. One example is their use of “we must be saved.” from Acts 4:12, which in context reads:

 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is
             
  ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
               it has become the cornerstone.’
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.”

The pamphlet authors however attempt to use it to claim “we must be saved.” While I don’t disagree that humanity has a brokenness that needs to be cured, I personally don’t find that cure in traditional Christianity, and this type of misrepresentation of passage meaning is what makes Christians look like idiots and fools.

That is only one example of how they plucked specific verses from the King James Version in order to somehow show that their “Abusive Savior” theology is a theology of hope, and fear. When one woman said “I just can’t buy a god who wants me to be afraid of him.” the protesters responded, “Well God is wrathful, but we don’t need to be afraid, we focus on God’s love and mercy.”  The problem with this is that Love and Mercy are NOT compatible with the “biblical” depiction of “God’s wrath.”

It is this type of theology that makes the evangelical arm of The Church incredible. The Abusive Savior has driven many away from belief in God or Deity and has made the work of healing the world even harder. I myself no longer solely identify as a “Christian”, though that is a story for another time and place.

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