You Here For the Love or the Fear?
by Aaron Worley
Editor's Note- This piece is not intended to downgrade Christianity. We think religion can be a very beautiful part of someone's life. The point is that with every religion comes the uncertainty of belief, causing many to question their own identity.
While many religions grace the minds of those in the United States, Christianity is still, far and away, the most popular. A great thing about Christian beliefs is that they all come from one book: The Bible. While there are many versions, the main ideas are the same, and since this report is focusing on the actions of those in The Bible and not on interpretations, any version works. For this story, the New Oxford Annotated Bible was used.
There are many stories, proverbs, parables, rules, and warnings‹all of which can cause a person to have an identity crisis. The topic that troubles me the most is wondering which God is coming for the apocalypse. I don't mean this in a polytheism way, but even Christians should agree that God had some pretty nasty mood swings. Although He created the heaven and Earth, He had some pretty harsh punishments for human kind when they screwed up.
He told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of life, but they fell into that peer pressure scam by the serpent and ate. Now most parents do punish their kids when they disobey, but what God did borders on abuse. He kicked them out of the garden, made childbearing painful, and commanded them to work and toil for the rest of their days. He even slipped in bit of mental abuse saying "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Gen. 3:19) I don't care what any preacher says, that one would hurt my feelings.
In fact, not long after that, God was within one guy of obliterating the human race all together. Think about it. Out of all the people that existed at the time, Noah was the only one he liked, and it wasn't like Noah didn't have any frailties. He was caught on at least one occasion passed out and naked after some partaking of his vineyard's end product.
There were other times when God just messed with humans. The citizens of a certain city had the idea to build a tower to reach up to heaven. Now, while that is a bit arrogant and idealistic, it could be compared with the elevator to heaven that the Mormons have built in Independence, Missouri where they believe the second coming of Jesus will occur. God has yet to mess with the Mormons (as far as I know), but he said of the former, "Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another's speech." (Gen. 11: 6-7) Now all interpretations and moral lessons aside, that's just a mean, twisted thing to do. Imagine waking up the tomorrow and going to work, school, or the supermarket, and everyone talks their own language which no one else can understand. It would be front page news of you could only understand it.
No one, however, suffered quite the same way as Job (long O). Job was just like a lot of religious folks in that he was nice, not too demanding, and loved his God. Somewhere in the meetings of heaven and hell, the devil brought up that the only reason Job liked God was that he was well off and safe, and God took this as some sort of dare. So, he let Satan take away all of Job's belongings, killed his sheep, his wife and children, and made him drastically ill. All of these were done at separate times and each time, Job still praised the Lord. Even with his friends and acquaintances telling him to denounce God, Job did not waver. I guess it was custom in those days to change gods when bad things happened to a person. In the end, God rewards Job by giving him everything he lost times two. That's right if your wife dies, you can have two the next time. Sorry, that was one of those personal interpretations. I liked Job, and I think he defended humankind well and even gave a hint of hope for us. It's God that worried me. He was so quick to take up Satan's bet and punish one of his best worshipers. You'd think he'd be above such pettiness as proving to evil that there are good people. It was quite a good story, though.
With all of the questionable things God did in the Old Testament, God needed a morality boost‹which came in the form of Jesus. If someone is trying to change their image, Jesus is the best model to follow. I know Jesus' occupation was a carpenter, but you have to admit the guy was a pretty good poet. Poets are always good for sound bites or, in this case, verses. More than anyone else, including the Old Testament God, Jesus was nice, and he told others to be. "Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile." (Matthew 5:39-41) Just think if all Christians were that nice.
Although being a decent carpenter and a great poet is pretty cool, something else was needed for people to truly dig on Jesus: miracles. And he did provide. Raising Lazurus from the dead, feeding bread and fish to four thousand, healing the paralyzed, and walking on the water were all tasks he completed. Even if they weren't all true, the man was still cool enough to merit these stories about him. In fact the only thing keeping Jesus from everyone believing he was the Son of God was that he wasn't like the Old Testament God.
While Jesus just warned hypocrites and non believers, the Old Testament God would punish. Jesus taught kindness and love, and God taught obedience and worship. So even though Jesus was the God everybody would want, no one believed him because he was too admirable. He was constantly tested by people to prove his worth. People demanded proof which he always came through on. They asked what his view on taxes were (as if he were a politician), to show signs from heaven, and heal the sick. Even those he knew most intimately were lacking in total commitment. When Peter walked on the water with Jesus but started to fall, he cried out for Jesus to save him. Surprised, Jesus helped him up saying "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14: 31). As it turned out, everyone ended up doubting Jesus, and they ordered him killed by picking the notorious prisoner Barabbas to be set free.
Now, I hear Christians today say they would never of let such a thing happen if they were there, but that sounds like a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking. The right choices are always made after the fact. What it does show is that a nice God isn't enough for people to truly believe. Imagine if a person today started preaching us all to be nice and pulled off minor miracles. Scoffing and questioning would be rampant, and many would call for the person's head (see John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr., Joan of Arc, etc...). If that person blew up towns without a thought and could flood the Earth, many more would be willing to bow down.
Christians try to have the best of both worlds. They celebrate and glorify Jesus with both his birth and death, while ignoring many of the Old Testament holidays like Passover. Fear is still needed to keep people into the faith though, and that is why the Books of Daniel and Revelations are still pointed to. Daniel had visions of Judgment Day in the Old Testament, and John had THE revelation in the New Testament. While it is difficult to explain how the world will exactly end by these books, it is clear that it won't be pretty. Daniel's dreams talk of the four beasts with horns representing nations with one small horn destroying three other horns, and so on and on. John speaks of the four horsemen, the seven trumpets, plagues, the heavenly warrior, and so on and so forth. How people will interpret these books depends on their own thoughts and beliefs, but both present a graphic picture that is enough to scare any Christian into praying for forgiveness.
By having two types of Gods, the Christians combine love and fear into a solid steadfast congregation, but it leaves followers with a personal crisis. Am I good enough? Do I believe enough? Would Jesus like me? Would God love me? What if He wouldn't? It is a crisis that disillusions some with the faith while keeping others hard-core believers. It's difficult to say which works. I've seen people affirm their faith out of love and out of fear, but others scoff at the Bible , claiming it contradicts itself. The non-believers claim that the scripture can be interpreted any way a person wants stressing that each teaching lacks potency.
One thing I have learned about the debate of Christianity is that people on both sides of the issue have not taken the time to read the Bible as a piece of unbiased literature. They look to it to justify its legitimacy or its downfall. The Bible does contain some undeniable, moral lessons that all humankind should live by, but the Christian crisis of being on the right side of Judgment Day has overshadowed its basic teachings.
I like The Bible. Not as a spiritual guide, or as the Word of God, but as a collection of good stories and moral lessons. I don't look to it to answer my questions on abortion, homosexuality, interracial marriages, or any hot topic of the month. If I learned anything, it's that even the greatest humans have frailties and vices, but we should still try to love all our neighbors. That may be simplistic and general, but I'd rather do that than read too much into each verse. I guarantee it would cause me to have an identity crisis of my own.
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