Wednesday, September 13, 2006

the face of god

i seem to remember a passage in the torah where moses begs to see the face of god, who tells him he cannot for it would be too much and kill him. god's compromise is to let moses sit in the cleft of the rock and see god's back after god has passed by. (exodus 32:18-23)

in any case, while i understand that all our visions and understanding of god are limited by our human experience; and my tradition tells us we were made in the image of god ... i still worry that we tend to reverse this and make god to be in our image.

what do i mean by this? it has something to do with the difficulty of accepting there are some things we cannot get our heads round. for example, why do bad things happen to good people? if god lets that happen, why should one have anything to do with such a god? we assume that this entity we have defined as a supreme deity works within the rules that we understand. of course we can only understand within our own dimension. yet there seems little space for a god that does not fit our needs.

perhaps we need to start reading the book of job again. god tells it like it is to job:

god speaks out of the whirlwind and says, "who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?"

god continues, "where wast thou when i laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast the understanding. who determined the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who stretched the line upon it? whereupon were the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the cornerstone thereof ...?" (job 38)

you go god!

meanwhile, today's times runs the following story:

America is revealed as one nation under four faces of God
By Tim Reid
A survey shows that the way Americans see the Almighty is closely linked to their political beliefs

NINE in ten Americans believe in God but how they vote, or regard the Iraq war, depends on the very different views they have about His personality, according to a detailed survey of religion in the US.

It found that Americans hold four different images of God — Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical or Distant — and these views are far more powerful indicators about their political, social and moral attitudes than any of the traditional categories such as Protestant, Catholic or Evangelical.

The study also suggests that America is more religious than previously thought, with only 5.2 per cent of respondents calling themselves atheist and 91.8 per cent saying that they believed in God.

In Britain, by contrast, 20 per cent say that they hold no belief in a higher power and only 38 per cent claim to believe in a traditional God, according to a 2005 survey.

The American survey, conducted by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion in Texas, broke new ground in asking respondents how they viewed God’s personality.

Researchers found that Americans hold four distinct views, and these “Four Gods” are remarkably accurate diviners of how an American thinks about everything from politics, abortion, taxation and marriage. “You learn more about people’s moral and political behaviour if you know their image of God than almost any other measure,” said Christopher Bader, one of the researchers."

you can read the rest of the article here.

what i have gleaned from it is basically the more authoritarian god is, the more conservative one is; and the more distant god is, the less connected one is to one's tradition of origin.

what worries me most, is this quote:

"“This is a very powerful tool to understand core differences in the United States,” said Paul Froese, a professor at Baylor. “If I know your image of God, I can tell all kind of things about you. It’s a central part of your world view.”"

sounds like a bit of a marketing tool if you ask me.

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