“For All Have Sinned”

Have you noticed some people seem to think their god has the morals of an abusive spouse?

I ran into one of those folks last night.  Let’s call him, “Jeff”.   Jeff was saying how according to his standards — which are not really his, but the standards of his god — he is not a good person.  That’s because he has done at least one wrong thing in his life.

In other words, Jeff was arguing the same as, “According to my god, you are no good at math unless you have never, even once, made a mistake at math.”  Or, “You are no good as a painter if your work has ever failed to move someone.”   Or, “You are no good as a blogger if even a single person has been left in full possession of their senses after reading one of your posts.”

Of course, in the real world, the most likely persons to set such high standards are abusers, for such standards are traps.  You cannot live up to them, and so your abuser will have plenty of excuses for criticizing you when you don’t.  Is that how Jeff sees his god?  As an abuser?

Apparently.  While I doubt Jeff would use the word “abuser” in reference to his god, he does seem to think his god behaves like one.  That is, first he sets impossibly high moral standards.  Then he eternally damns you to hell when you fall short of them.

Yet, according to Jeff, his god is a loving god.  He’s a loving god because he has created an escape from the trap he’s set for you.

I can think of a hundred things that show more love for you than:

  • Setting impossible to achieve standards for you,
  • Damning you when you fail to achieve them,
  • And excusing your failure if you maintain a psychological and emotional dependency on me.

I can also think of interpretations of the story of Jesus that do not spin the story in a way that parallels the behavior of an abusive parent or spouse.  So I’ve been wondering what the point is of Jeff’s approach?  How does it make sense?  And is his approach in any way mainstream?

29 thoughts on ““For All Have Sinned”

  1. I think Jeff’s approach makes sense if Jeff has no imagination.
    Imagination is undervalued in our society I believe – but take it out of religion and you have Jeff.
    It’s a shame really because there is true beauty in religion if one doesn’t take it literally and allow oneself (or others) be beaten around the head with it.
    I think it’s a bit like when you have to explain a joke to someone who parses every word it’s almost impossible to retain the humour.

  2. I don’t think it is that God sets impossible standards. The thought is that God is perfect and absolutely holy. Humans aren’t and never were, as evidenced by the fact that they fell from their original state of innocence (all this is biblically speaking, of course). But it remains to be explained how a perfect God could have created flawed creatures in the first place. However, logic doesn’t seem to be a key component in most religions.

    • I would disagree that the Christian God doesn’t set impossibly high standards. As an all powerful creator, he could have created people capable of living up to his standards. Apparently, he chose not to.

      • That’s exactly what I said. He created flawed creatures, according to the Bible scenario.

        Inasmuch as I believe the Christian God is a creation of the human mind it would seem to follow that it is humans who realize they don’t measure up to the standards they feel are ideal. Conceiving and achieing “perfection”
        are clearly different things.

        Biblically speaking, God doesn’t “set standards,” he is the standard.

  3. I find nothing beautiful about a so-called God who conceives his child out of wedlock for the purpose of having him sacrificed – murdered in an horrific manner – so you and I can be forgiven for anything construed as an imperfection. What a sick doctrine.

    Jeff’s god is not merely an abuser. He is a narcissist and a psychopath.

  4. There’s this hilarious number in The Book of Mormon on Broadway called “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.” Elder Price has a nightmare after he breaks “rule 72” in his missionary handbook. Jesus calls him “a dick” and sends him down to hell where he is terrorized by Satan, Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, Jeffrey Dahmer, Johnny Cochran, and a duo of dancing Starbucks cups. It’s pretty funny stuff. But for some people, breaking one of “god’s commands” is incredibly serious and guilt inducing. — To the point that a person who sneaks a beer feels on par with a murderer.

  5. Poor Jeff. I’m afraid he’s been duped by the many, many snake oil salesmen who’ve haunted the halls of history from the Vatican to Rick Perry’s Reliant Stadium. All the snake oil is designed to addict the consumer. The salesman says, I’ve got what you need, but you can only order it up through me and it’ll cost you. What the hell that has to do with gods is beyond me.

  6. That is a very fundamentalist approach to God. It’s the God I served for most of my life. Mainstream? I don’t know. I thought fundamentalism was mainstream because that’s the primary brand of Christianity where I’m from. I’m coming to understand that mainstream Christianity is more progressive/liberal and doesn’t believe that God is this way nor do they believe in the concept of eternal punishment. Having been caught up in fundamentalism for many years what is considered “mainstream” is hard for me to wrap my mind around.

  7. I too have noticed that the God of Christianity often behaves like an abusive husband. He demands submission, places all the blame for problems on his partner Israel, brutally punishes her and then oh-so magnanimously forgives her afterwards for her transgressions, and holds himself up as the smarter and more perfect one. The Old Testament (and parts of the New) read like a domestic violence scenario when you see it like that.

    By the way, Hot for Jesus Former Fundie penned a hard-hitting post a while back on the similarities between domestic abuse and abusive religion. Check it out!

    http://hotforjesusformerfundie.blogspot.com/2010/08/notes-to-on-fence-christians-divorce.html

  8. Some really cool guy brought up emergent Christianity in a forum recently….it presents a very different view of God. And there is a lot of dissension about God’s qualities within Christianity, not to mention outside of it.

  9. Thank you for condensing everything that I ever intuited was just plain wrong about churchly religion. Essentially it posits God as a parent with a severe personality disorder.

    • Thank you for your kind words!

      As Loren points out, Jeff’s attitude is not the attitude of every Christian. But I agree with you, Sledpress, that it appears to be a strain within Christianity.

      • I can’t see how Christianity can avoid Jeffism, unless we postulate that it is possible to be a “Christian” merely by accepting the life philosophy preached by Jesus in the New Testament, and disregarding the dogma that the death of Jesus “redeemed” the rest of mankind, providing we choose to therefore “accept” him as our Savior from some putative state of turpitude.

        The mystical aspect of Christianity — the idea that the creator-God offered his wilful creations free choice and that “we” fucked-up and need a bloodily sacrificed intercessor to atone our sins — mandates Jeffism.

        I say that while acknowledging that one of my favorite people is right now in a course of study at a Wesleyan seminary. But then, she;’s already wondering whether she will end up a Buddhist.

  10. I think we need to distinguish between Old Testament Christians and New Testament Christians.

    I’m more Buddhist than Christian, but after 30 years of teaching most of my very favorite students were Christians. I think it’s a mistake to paint them with too heavy of a brush.

    • That’s a good point, Loren. I wasn’t trying to give the impression that all Christians — or even that most Christians — held Jeff’s beliefs. That’s why I referred mostly to “Jeff’s god”, rather than to “the Christian God”. I apologize I did not make my meaning clearer.

  11. But loren…I think your point is somewhat incorrect. Despite the cherry picking image of a “loving” Jesus, Jesus (or the scribes describing “His” views) really emphasizes more than the Old Testament the doctrines of eternal punishment and damnation. (The Messiah was more of a political/cultural savior than a apocalyptic end of the world type in the Old Testament, no?)

    I would also note that Paul is not exactly loving, the apocyphral Revelations is in the New Testament, the cursing of the fig tree…etc. etc. Is it fair to say that the New Testament God, the New Covenant, is a significant improvement? Especial;ly given the assumption that the vast majority of us will be damned.

  12. The Bible is confusing and contradictory, to be sure. But…to quote Mitchell and Webb…”Oh that’s a very modern view that I don’t think will catch on….We’ve been harvesting the minds of peasants for two thousand years.” 🙂

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