Thursday, May 23, 2013

Blaming tragedies on God and hitting your kids

If you read this blog, you've seen my obsession with compassionate, evidence-based parenting strategies. And then there is my obsession with religion and how I feel about it (after growing up in a fundamentalist religion that doesn't really resonate with my personal values, I now feel sort agnostic/Universalist/undecided about things).

These obsessions may seem sort of unrelated. And totally unrelated to things like heartbreaking tragedies, like the tornado in Oklahoma that ripped through two elementary schools and devastated neighborhoods.  And yet...

Totally not unrelated. Here's why.

Some conservative evangelicals used the tornado and its tragic aftermath to call for sinners to repent. In a less than surprising but nonetheless offensive move, the tornado was attributed to an angry, wrathful God sending us a message and giving us what we deserve (Piper said the same thing after Newtown tragedy, after the Tsunami in Asia, and many others; Michele Bachmann said something similar about 9/11 and Benghazi).
And here's the problem.
Piper’s god is like an abusive father, filled with unpredictable rage. His family must walk on eggshells, afraid of suddenly enraging him. Should he be provoked, this god will lash out with deadly, earthquakes, tsunamis, violence and war.  When his family cries out in anguish, he reminds them that they deserve no better. They are despicable, rotten to the core, so even in their pain they are doing “better than they deserve.” The fact that any have been spared merely proves his “love.”
This theology is, in a word, abusive, for it blames the victim for whatever calamity, abuse, or tragedy she suffers and says it is deserved. 
If you think this theology is merely cerebral, with no real-world implications, consider the case of Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Rachel Held Evans concluded her post with the following insight, reminiscent of Elizabeth's Smart's depressingly necessary reminder (here).
And if you are escaping or recovering from this abusive theology, here is what I want you to know: You are not worthless. You are not disposable. You are not merely the object of God’s wrath.  You do not deserve to be abused.
Let me say that again: You do not deserve to be abused.
You do not deserve to be threatened. You do not deserve to suffer. You do not deserve to be hated.
You are profoundly, infinitely, and intimately known and loved. You are valuable. You are precious. You matter.
If your religious beliefs have to come with a caveat that you don't deserve to be abused!? THAT. That should be a red flag to you.
And this: God in the sun and the rain
If God sent the storm as punishment, then that seems both arbitrary and non-helpful. What is the lesson? That God hates school? That God isn't a fan of family homes? Most parents will agree that if you need to discipline a child, that lesson needs to apply to what the child has done wrong. The most effective lessons tend to be those that are directly linked with the undesired behavior. Throwing something out and seeing if it sticks is a poor way to parent. If I am to believe that God is a good parent, then how does this random display point to that?
I mean, of course, if you think that God (the Father) is abusive, angry, arbitrary, and violent then that seems like a good model for a plain, old, non-god father. Hit them 'till it hurts! Show them who is boss. Beat the sinfulness right out of them.

Yuck.
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