Is God Perfect or Not?

Galton's view of social structure in the UK
Galton’s view of social structure in the UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ever since I was young enough to hear and to understand, I have been told that God is perfect. God can do no wrong. God does not make mistakes. God is …omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. The lessons of God’s perfection have been deeply engrained in my soul.

And yet, the more I listen to study phenomena like racism, homophobia, sexism, anti-Semitism, and other “isms,” the more I wonder about my theology.  Is God perfect or do we have it all wrong?

I have been squirming with this question for a while, but when an Indian-American, Nina Davuluri, won the Miss America title a couple of weeks ago, the conversation over her being too dark gave me pause. There were some in America who were angry that she, being of Indian descent had won, but there were people who said that in India, she never could have won “because she is too dark.” Apparently, the quest to have light skin to white skin is an obsession in India, with young women participating in pageants taking medications to alter their skin color – i.e., to make it lighter. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/16/miss-america-nina-skin-color_n_3935348.html)

Historically, people have wanted to be white, in this country and in others. People have tried to pray their gayness away.  Being a female has been a hindrance and not a help, too often, in the workplace.  And yet, God made all of these …untouchables, …these undesirables. Could it be that God isn’t so perfect? Could it be that not only is it not true that God doesn’t make mistakes, but that God apparently has made a lot of mistakes?

If all of these groups of people – blacks, browns, women, gays, lesbians, females – are a problem, why in the world did God create them?

There is something extremely sad about any group of people trying to deny and change themselves to fit into image of a group of people who have decided who is worthy and acceptable and who is not. The European standard of beauty has been internalized by people all over the world. Little girls in Africa carry around white baby dolls, many of them.  Studies have been conducted that show that little children in this nation think that black and brown people are not pretty and not as intelligent as are white people. Homosexual people are presumed to be morally inferior to straight people.

What in the world was God thinking when He/She created people who were not white, Protestant  males?

In the eugenics movement, which came into being largely on the efforts of Charles Benedict Davenport in the 1890s, there was a quest to create the “perfect” person. That person was white, but not any old kind of white. To be desirable, one needed to have Nordic features – blonde hair, blue eyes. Dr. Davenport, who was a Harvard-trained biologist, influenced a lot of people, including one Francis Galton. It was Galton who coined the term “eugenics,” and he defined that as “the study of agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations, either physically or mentally.” (Eyes Right: Challenging the Right Wing Backlash, . 213)

The eugenics movement was fascinating and troubling, all at once; the purpose of this article is not to go into it in-depth – but the point is that a whole cadre of very intelligent men (!!) constructed hypotheses which upheld and justified white supremacy …and their work was so titillating that the Nazis used it to justify and construct their own system of racism which resulted in the extermination of millions of Jews.

What, then? Did God mess up when God didn’t create everyone with Nordic features? Did God commission people to “improve upon” what God had created? If that’s the case, is God perfect? Can the notion of God’s perfection be trusted?

Years ago, I was chastised by a preacher whom I respected deeply because I would not say, and could not say, that only Christians would be saved. It was inconceivable to me that God would create a whole world full of different people who practiced different religions, and condemn them all to hell. That notion of God did not fit with my notion of a loving and inclusive God. Jesus was the Christian way, the Christian mediator, so to speak, between God and humans. Other religions had their mediators, but all of them, I argued, were valid. There was no way that God was that …small, that provincial, that…narrow-minded. The perfection of God did not mean to me that God intended for everyone to be the same. In fact, because of God’s omniscience, had that been what God had wanted, God would surely have done it!

I was eliminated from the ministerial student group after my talk with that pastor.

Stung and stunned, I asked God why He/She hadn’t intervened on my behalf. Like the psalmists demanding an answer, I asked God to speak up and tell me why He/She had let me be skewered as I defended the basic goodness of God and of God’s intentions.

Of course, God was silent.

But every now and then, the question of God’s perfection comes up. When babies are born deformed or sick, does that mean God was not and is not perfect? When people have addictive personalities, does that mean God is not perfect?  When little boys grow up to be serial killers, does that mean something happened in the womb that made that child’s brain program him into being a murderer? When a child gets a debilitating disease, like Michael Murphy Odone (“Lorenzo’s Oil), caused by a malfunctioning of his ability to metabolize fats, does that mean that God put a wrong gene in the wrong place when the child was growing in the womb?

Is God perfect or not? Are people of color, Jews, gays and Lesbians….mistakes?  If we are to listen to the chatter of people who are always putting a group of people down because of who they are, we might begin to question God’s creative genius, mightn’t we?

A candid observation …

 

 

Why the Hatred?

Bible
Bible (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

What I have been trying to figure out for the longest is why there is so much hatred directed at gays and lesbians.

By now, everyone has seen the absolutely horrid “sermon” of Charles Worley, a North Carolina pastor, who preached that if he had his way, he would put gays and lesbians in fenced in electrified pens, and drop food down to them. Sooner or later, he  preached, they’d die off.

He said, “The Bible’s agin (sic) it, God‘s agin it, I’m agin it and if you have any sense you’d be agin it, too!”

He said he’d keep the lesbians, homosexuals and queers in these pens, and sooner or later they’d be gone because they wouldn’t be able to reproduce themselves.

He said that the thought of same-gender loving people (that’s now how he said it) made him puke.

His words made me want to puke.

The hatred directed toward the LGBT community cannot simply be because religious people think that same-gender relationships are a sin. There are a lot of sins and a lot of sinning people, and there is not this hatred, spewed from pulpits, and claiming God’s will is being done in the words of hatred being spoken.

If it’s not because they deem homosexuality to be a sin, then what is it?

Is it ignorance? Arrogance? There’s not so much venomous religious speech when women are abused, sexually and/or physically, by their husbands.  We don’t see it when children are molested, too often by fathers, uncles, brothers or close friends.

There’s not such venomous religious speech when people commit adultery…and that should arouse some passion, shouldn’t it, since opponents of anything LGBT will say that marriage is supposed to be between “one man and one woman.”

There are no such hate-filled outbursts when women are raped, or when innocent people are put to death for crimes they didn’t commit.

There used to be such vitriol when it came to Christians supporting racism. The Rev. Worley said he wouldn’t vote for Mr. Obama because he was a baby-killer and a homosexual-lover. Used to be if one stuck up for the civil rights of African-Americans, he or she would be called a nigger-lover.

So, race and sex, not any sex that is truly immoral, but only homosexual sex – are the only things that arouse this kind of hatred. Why?

Supposedly the hatred against the LGBT community is worse in African-American communities. I’ve been trying to figure that one out, too. I have read the historical context of the opposition of religious African-Americans to homosexuality. I understand how, since African-American males have been historically emasculated by this American society, that anything that further feels like a continuation of that would be objectionable.

But I do not understand how what one man may do with another man can affect the masculinity of a heterosexual man or woman.

It can’t be just that “the Bible says” it’s a sin, that “the word of God” says it’s so…because the Bible and the word of God say that lots of things are wrong, and we just don’t get that uptight about it.

The hatred spewed by Christians against anyone is antithetical to Christian theology, a theology that says that God is love. The “Great Commandment,” found in the Hebrew scriptures and then repeated by Jesus himself, says that we are to love God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our souls…and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

I especially do not understand the capacity of African-Americans to hate or discriminate against another group of people, as we have been so discriminated against ourselves.

I do not believe the hatred is supported by “the word of God,” or by “the scriptures.” I think the hatred is a uniquely human reaction to a fear and ignorance about sexuality in general. I think the hatred directed outward is a reflection of the self-hatred many feel as they struggle with their own sexuality. While sex is beautiful as an expression of love between two committed adults, the fact of the matter is that too many people, especially religious people, have treated it as dirty and bad. I have heard some Christian women express remorse when they’ve had good sexual relationships with their husbands, because they’ve been taught that sex is bad.

So, if people have issues with committed heterosexual sex, then it’s not hard to understand that they might struggle with “sexual fantasies” or with any sexual activity they might deem “unnatural,” but which they might really want to try themselves.

Sex is not what makes a loving relationship; it’s the commitment between the people that makes a relationship pleasing to God.  There clearly is a lack of commitment in heterosexual relationships, as evidenced by the ever-increasing rate of divorce in this country.

I would feel less uneasy about the objections to homosexuality spewed by religious people if I felt like it was genuinely rooted in the will and word of God, but God is not hatred, God does not condone hatred, and God does not cause hatred. Rev. Worley, in my opinion, ought to be worried, using the pulpit, a holy space, to spew unholy rhetoric. God would not want anyone to put  “gays, lesbians and queers” in electrified pens, with people, religious people at that, “dropping food” down to them until they died.

That kinds of sounds like something Hitler would advocate. (It is estimated that nearly 200,000 homosexuals were murdered during the Holocaust…)

These words of hatred are, in fact, anti-Biblical, statements of ideology and personal belief which ought to be called such… There is no God and no Jesus in any of what these words convey.

A candid observation …

Wikipedia: queer definition: worthless, counterfeit.