God is Getting a Bum Rap

In the movie, “Then She Found Me,” Helen Hunt’s character, April Epner, is 39 years old, devout, recently married, and feels her biological clock ticking away. After trying to get pregnant for ten months, her husband says he wants out of the marriage, and leaves her – right after the two lonely souls made love on the kitchen floor. Incredibly/miraculously, April finds herself pregnant and, despite the break-up of her marriage, she is ecstatic finally to be having a baby. Two months into her pregnancy, she miscarries and turns on God, refusing to pray any more. And one is reminded how much blame is heaped on God for “allowing” bad things to happen in the world.

Many years ago, the New York Times famously wondered aloud, “Is God dead?” Clearly, the human race, despite going through the motions of faith, collectively still is very lost, wandering in the darkness, so far away from the Light that it cannot find its way back Home. Let it be said here, once and for all: God is getting a bum rap, and until we recognize it, our lot will not improve.

God’s intention for His children is quite clear: He created us in His image to live forever as masters of our universe. He put us in Paradise to be happy and gave us access to His authority for as long as we chose to stay focused on Him. He gave us free will so that we wouldn’t be merely puppets on His string. And He warned us about choosing to turn away from Him through a simple act of defiance: If you eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die. It is critical to note that He didn’t say, “I will kill you.” He did say that in choosing to believe in Him and, just as importantly, to believe Him, no harm ever would befall us.

Yet, incredibly, though they had the advantage of seeing God and of being able to read His lips, God’s first children chose not to believe Him and to turn away from Him. Instead, they chose to believe the lowly serpent who assured them that they would not die by turning away from God. And the rest is history. At that precise time of disbelief, when Adam and Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit, Paradise was lost. Death was chosen, as God had warned, and outside of Paradise, bad things happened – and continue to happen. And God is blamed for the poor choices that His children made…and continue to make.

Many will say that it wasn’t “fair” of God to punish His children so severely for one simple mistake. But, God isn’t punishing us. If He’s not, then why didn’t He “let” Adam and Eve back into Paradise? Because they didn’t ask! They never chose to turn back to God. Eve blamed the serpent, and Adam blamed Eve – but, really, the serpent didn’t force Eve to turn away from God, and Eve didn’t force Adam. They chose of their own free will. And they also chose not to admit that they had done anything wrong. Unfortunately, when one doesn’t think one has done anything wrong, there is no reason to turn around [back to God].

So, rather than admitting their poor choice and turning back to God – and thereby reclaiming Paradise – they made their second, more grievous poor choice, choosing to accept Death as inevitable. In doing so, they chose to live and die away from God. And they chose to accept the consequences of living outside of Paradise, where bad things do happen. Every successive generation has made the same poor choices as Adam and Eve. And, yet, God is blamed for our poor choices.

Well, why didn’t God just kill the serpent? The reader should note that the question again assigns blame to God. But, the answer is to have done so would have taken away from us His greatest gift – our free will. What happens to the child when a parent fights all of the child’s battles? What happens when the child does not learn not to touch the hot stove? When there is no accountability for poor choices, terrible dysfunctions arise. Well, then, why doesn’t God fight our major battles (again, shifting the blame onto God)? Where would we have Him draw the line between what is major and what is not? Yes, 9/11 was a major catastrophe, but is “major” dependent on numbers? What about a child stricken with cancer in the prime of his/her youth? What about a horrific car accident that kills/maims a beloved friend or relative? What about a miscarriage for a woman desperate to have a baby?

Well, why did God have to give us free will (still blaming God)? others will ask, arguing that it wouldn’t be so bad to be a puppet on His string if nothing bad would happen to us. Maybe not, but given the choice, freedom always is preferred over slavery – and the human race already has proven its willingness to pay the highest price for freedom. Besides, the ultimate irony is that God already has given us the tools such that no harm ever would befall us, but we have been so blinded by the magnitude of the poor choices piled so high one on top of the other since the very first one, that we cannot see past them.

God anticipated our difficulties with free will, so He gave us the Ten Commandments. In the Garden, Adam and Eve had only one commandment: not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Keep in mind, the commandment was not a threat, but a warning. East of Eden, in the land called Wandering, life was not so simple. As the stories of murder, adultery, and dishonoring parents would attest, there were many more ways to stumble away from God. Over the years, thanks to a misperception of God killing Adam and Eve for disobeying Him, the Ten Commandments suffer from a similar misperception: God will punish anyone who chooses to turn away from Him. Of course, nothing could be further from the Truth. Remember, God put His children in Paradise with access to His authority over all things because He loves us and wanted us to be happy. And there is nothing more consistent than the constancy of His incomprehensible Love for His children. Thus, God intended the Ten Commandments as a sort of treasure map – [back] to happiness. Consider the Commandments:

  • Thou shalt have none other gods before me
  • Thou shalt not bow down to any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth
  • Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain
  • Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it
  • Honour thy father and thy mother
  • Thou shalt not kill
  • Neither shalt thou commit adultery
  • Neither shalt thou steal
  • Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour
  • Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbor's

Now, think of what a wonderful world this would be if everyone put God first in their lives, treated everyone else the way would like to be treated, respected their parents, and did not lie, or steal, or kill, or commit adultery! Think of all the dysfunctional emotions and thoughts that distract us when we choose to turn away from God by disobeying even just one of these commandments. Think of all the unhappiness as a result.

Santayana said, “Those who don’t learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.” Sure enough, by the choices we continue to make to turn away from God, we have transformed God’s greatest blessing, free will, into a curse. So, why doesn’t God do something about it? we ask (again, assigning blame where it does not belong), instead of rightfully asking, why don’t we do something about it?

Despite our unwillingness to change and turn back to God, He refused to condemn us. Rather, because He loves us so much, He sent His only begotten Son to come into the world, not only to save us [from ourselves], but also to teach us, to remind us of our divine inheritance, and to show us the way back Home. And before choosing to die in order to defeat Satan on his own turf, Jesus went to the greatest lengths to reopen our minds, our hearts and our souls to God – and to what God had provided for us. When He told the blind man to open his eyes and see, when He told the paralytic to pick up his bed and go home, when He cast out demons, when He raised the Roman soldier’s daughter from the dead, He never said, “I have healed you.” Always, it was, “Your faith has healed you.” And, when his disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast out a demon that had tormented a young boy, Jesus answered, “Because of the littleness of your belief; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

So, what did God provide for us? Access to His authority over all things. Since nothing is impossible for God, that’s why Jesus told us that nothing is impossible for us – He didn’t list a single exception (because there are no exceptions for God). He didn’t say, “Nothing will be impossible for you except lifting cars off your face,” or, “Nothing will be impossible for you except walking on water,” or, “Nothing will be impossible for you except living forever.” He said “Nothing will be impossible for you.” To emphasize His point, He gave an incredible example – He said we could command a mountain to move from here to there, and it would move! Does anyone doubt that God could cause a mountain to move if He wanted to? Then, why should we doubt that, having access to God’s authority, we, too, could move a mountain?

Religious leaders, theologians, and other Biblical scholars are quick to add that Jesus didn’t really mean what He said, that He was speaking in some kind of hyperbole. Where have we heard that before? Even though God meant what He told Adam and Eve in the Garden, the serpent convinced God’s first children that He didn’t really mean what He said. And in choosing poorly to believe the serpent over God, Adam and Eve became lost. Similarly, in choosing to believe any religious leader or organized religion that tells us Jesus didn’t really mean what He said, either, we are choosing very poorly to follow Adam and Eve away from God and towards the path of destruction. And we still are lost.

The human race is in crisis. We have chosen to accept limitations/impossibilities and in doing so, we have chosen to separate ourselves from God, for Whom there are no limitations or impossibilities. Nearly two thousand years ago, Saint John began The Revelation with, “The end is near.” Well if it was near two thousand years ago, it is very much nearer today. He wrote of the bad things that would happen – the same bad things we complain of today. And we blame God. But, it is not God’s doing. It is our doing – and it doesn’t have to be this way. We still have free will! And we must use our free will to choose to turn around and walk towards God instead of away from Him…before it is too late.

By now, hopefully, we all should recognize that God, indeed, is getting a bum rap. We are the ones dropping the ball. God has done His part – He created us in His image to live forever with access to His authority over all things. He knew that we would choose poorly, so He gave us a treasure map back to Happiness. But, we continued to choose poorly and to separate ourselves from Him, so, once and for all, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to defeat Death for all of us, even though we still insist, very poorly, on choosing to be separate from Him and to accept Death as an inevitability.

If God is doing His part, then who needs to change? The answer is obvious. We do! We need to do our part by turning around and walking towards Him instead of away from Him. And how do we do that? Through belief and faith. These are our tools of change we must choose to use. More than simply choosing to believe in Him, we must choose to believe Him! That is where faith comes in. When Jesus says that if we believe and have faith, nothing will be impossible for us, we must believe Him, and have faith that what He says is the Truth. And we must choose not to allow or to accept a single exception – no matter what anyone says. We must discipline ourselves to choose to disbelieve the naysayers, in favor of believing God and Jesus, even if the doubters are cloaked in the habiliment of parent, or teacher, or religious leader, or scientist, or friend, or brother, or sister…or anyone!

Only then can we reclaim the partnership between God and His children that he provided for us – our divine inheritance, in other words. Through belief and faith, we will reconnect the conduit to His authority in such a way that His authority will flow through to us, by His grace. And nothing will be impossible for us because nothing is impossible for Him. Remember, He did create us in His image!

Jesus told us the parable of the prodigal son for a reason: to assure us that, even after a lifetime of making poor choices, the instant we choose wisely to turn back to God, He will be rushing to embrace us and to celebrate our choice to come back Home with a great feast. There is no penance to pay. We don’t have to prove ourselves. We don’t have to walk all the way back. Our sincerity is all He asks.

And what will we find when we turn towards Him and walk towards Him? In Luke 10:19, Jesus promises, “Behold, I give to you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

You see, God has done His part. We don’t have to be puppets on a string to avoid bullets and other bad things. We simply have to exercise our free will and choose to do our part. We must have faith. We must believe in Him…and we must believe Him!

"When you come to the edge of all the light you’ve known, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly."

- Barbara J. Winter