Dear Christians is a recurring column that deals with my intersection between belief and nonbelief. It looks at my personal views of belief and deals with the myths of nonbelief that I was taught growing up. All opinions are, of course, my own. To see more Dear Christians columns, click here.
Throughout my life as a Christian, I saw Jesus (and God) depicted as a parental figure. A loving Father above me.
As I've grown and become a parent myself, I have to say, there's a slight disconnect in that imagery for me.
Recently, I ran across a piece that included this passage:
A MOTHER MAY ALLOW a child to fall sometimes and be distressed in various ways for its own benefit, but out of love can never allow any kind of danger to come to her child. And though our earthly mother may allow her child to perish, our heavenly Mother Jesus can never allow us who are his children to perish. For he is almighty and all wisdom and all love and none is like him, may he be blessed.
Often when our falling and our wretchedness are shown to us, we are so fearful and greatly ashamed of ourselves that we scarcely know where to hide. But then our courteous Mother does not want us to flee away. Nothing would suit him less. He wants us then to act like little children. For when they are distressed and afraid, they run quickly to their mother. If they can do no more, they cry to their mother for help with all their might. That is what he wants us to do, like a meek child, saying, “My kind Mother, my gracious Mother, my beloved Mother, have mercy on me. I have made myself foul and displeasing to you, and I cannot change it except with your help and grace.”
And I was kind of shocked by the contrast between how much I would have agreed with this in the past, and how terrible I find it today.
For one, a mother may allow her child to fall--but no way would she ever punish that child forever for an offense. She also wouldn't force that punishment on subsequent generations that had nothing to do with the original offense.
A mother would try to protect her child from danger--and yet, God (Jesus, in this case) maintains a hands-off policy, allowing many good and wonderful people, many good Christians, to die in terrible ways, and to allow good Christian families to experience incredible pain. Can't allow his children to perish? I strongly disagree.
I'm a mother. I gave birth to two children. They are wonderful. I can't imagine ever expecting them to be "fearful and greatly ashamed" of themselves. I can't imagine expecting them to feel guilty for characteristics I endowed them with. When my children mistakes, I don't expect guilt or simpering from them--they are children. They are human. Mistakes happen.
"I have made myself foul and displeasing to you..." Who would actually want their child to express such an attitude towards themselves? Most certainly not me.
It's really shocking to me when we try to create this parallel now, because I do understand parental love as I didn't before. Looking at my children made me look at God differently.
Let's be honest, if God was a parent, his children would be viewed as neglected. Some are favored, while others are abused. There are many starving. Many live in absolute filth, with little clean water or clothes or shelter. Some die in terrible ways because of his neglect.
If we want to be truly honest, we'd admit that if God was a parent, we would have called children's services on him a very long time ago.