Monday, May 24, 2010

The Divine Parent

After 45 years one thing that I have figured out is that I have a very Jewish view of God. I've checked out other religions and they are just fine but what helps me connect, pulls me out of despair, inspires, and lifts my spirit, is this Jewish idea of God as a divine parent. A good parent of course. Most questions that I had about God I answered by putting myself in God's place as a good parent.

Why would God create us knowing that we have this frightening power to do evil?
Would I decide not to have children because they might turn out to be murderers?

Doesn't that make it His fault that evil continues?
Does that make it my fault if I have children and they do evil?

Why doesn't he stop us?
Why don't we stop our children?

Should I be afraid of God?
Should my kids be afraid of me?

How about if I put myself in the place of the child? Does my parent really forgive me? Can I really trust my parent? Does my parent really love me? Should I feel guilty about asking my parent for what I need or want? Should I really be pissed off if my parent refuses to give it to me? Am I grateful for what my parent has already given me? Do I let my parent know that I am grateful?

God seems to talk to us in the Tanakh and the Message (New Testament) exactly the way our parents talked to us; "Why do you do exactly what I told you not to? Didn't I tell you it was going to turn out badly if you did that? You can't understand why yet, you just have to trust me. I know you really want that, but believe me, I'm doing you a favor by not giving it to you. This is really gonna hurt for a while but its the only way. Its ok I forgive you, but for my sake, yours, and everyone else's, please don't do it again. Don't make me have to spank you! You'll be back."

One of the few questions that can't be answered this way is, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Personally, I believe the answer is twofold. If it is a result of nature, then its just random and is just one of the things about earth that is a drag. The Bible says this pretty explicitly in Ecclesiastes 9:11-12:" I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift 
or the battle to the strong, 
nor does food come to the wise 
or wealth to the brilliant 
or favor to the learned; 
but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: 
As fish are caught in a cruel net, 
or birds are taken in a snare, 
so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them."

If its a result of one human's actions against another then maybe it is allowed so it can teach us about the nature of Love and the cost and consequences of our freedom. Even though we tell our children not to stick their hand in the flame, we've got to let them do it to really learn. And certainly we can admit that Love is not true unless it is freely given. If God made us robots then its not real love is it? He has to give us the freedom to reject him. (And I use the term "him" out of convenience.)

I often hear what a bad thing anthropomorphism is in the Bible, and it certainly has had some very bad consequences in history when certain groups of people have taken the imagery so literally. But I think image of the Divine Parent can also be a great idea that can help us understand the nature of Love. And I believe that God is Love.


  1. Oteil,

    I am a musician in the Jamband scene I play in a band called Jabooda.

    I am also a devout christian and just wanted to thank you for making this blog. For a time I thought I might be the only christian in the scene (although I have met many over the past few years).

    Just wanted you to know I think this blog will be a blessing to many (and already has been to me). Thanks for being open about your spirituality and thanks for your perspective. Much love, God Bless.

    Nathan Dube

  2. Hi ob -

    A little more then a year ago - I was drawn back to listening to the ABB. I was unsure about listening to the old geezahs (oops!) - I meant to say the "iconic pioneers of Southern Rock". Anyway - that's the first I heard you play and my ears were pleased. Now I find this blog by serendipitous discovery. You are defending Rand Paul on Rachel Maddow's page and provoking thought out here in cyberworld.. well done! I cherish our western values of inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge. And how can we have intellectual progress without encouraging diversity of thought and dialogue among our communities of inquirers?

    In your blog - you recommend reading Rabbi Heschel. Listen to him at the end of this utube -"the primary purpose of prayer is to praise - to sing - to chant.. the essence of prayer is a song.. and men cannot live without a song.. prayer may not save us but prayer will make us worthy of being saved.." Oh yes - the Rabbi is speaking to my heart.

    The Eternal Light- Interview with Abraham Joshua Heschel

    BTW - I believe G-d is best understood in anthropopathic metaphor (having human feelings) NOT anthropomorphic (taking human form) . .

    Thanks for your efforts to improve this world we share.

    Best wishes to you and your family.

    - ab

  3. There are so many attributes to God and sometimes, just shifting our seats, and looking from another angle, helps us to get a fresh perspective. Thanks for this view!

  4. just wait until you have kids! TD Jakes said he learned more about God by being a parent than reeading the Bible. Love from the 'ham! Jeep