Thursday, July 3, 2014

Heavenly fatherliness #2 - Relating

According to popular wisdom, a good father is a personal, approachable being that his children can talk to, relate to, and trust.

The Mormon take on this is that God loves us perfectly and desperately wants us to take our problems to him and trust in his solutions. We need to develop a personal relationship with our father in heaven through prayer and, because he loves us so much and knows exactly what's best for us, he'll communicate to us what we need to know and give us what we stand in need of. It's very personal. Very tailored to our specific needs.

I just have a few doubts. First off, God is personal only to the extent that each individual invents the god he or she prefers. We could perform the simple experiment of taking a sampling of Christians who maintain they have a personal relationship with God, ask them to describe him, and then compare and contrast. Guess what, they would all describe someone different, even drastically so. Not even all Mormons can agree on what God is like and how we should attempt contact and relate to him.

The idea that we can approach God (through prayer and learning to be like him) also fails to convince me. Let's not forget the typical set up here: God 'calls' upon a select few - almost always men - who are then responsible for relaying God's thoughts to the rest of the world. It's a pretty shitty way of reaching out to one's offspring. If my relationship with my dad were limited to listening to one of my siblings tell me about my dad, I'd be hard pressed to called my old man 'approachable'. "But you can always pray!" you might say, "it's like a phone call, you can talk to Him yourself!" Yeah, about prayer... it's horribly unreliable

The consideration of prayer working the way normal interpersonal relations work presents us with a troublesome scenario. Let's say I need to borrow $20 from my biological father. I go to him, ask him for the money, he thinks about it, and then either gives me the money or tells me that he doesn't have cash on hand. If we ask God to help us with money troubles, the best we can hope for is some magical appearance of funds in our bank account or maybe a chance encounter with some loose cash on the street. Imagine your "earthly" father placing a $20 bill for you to run across somewhere along your daily route in answer to your request. It's cute, but bizarre. He should really just be straight forward about the money.

Unfortunately for us God's not a very clear communicator and doesn't always keep his story straight which is why people spend so much time arguing with each other about what God said, what he wants, and how we know that's what he wants. Getting recognizable answers to prayers is about like playing darts in a pitch black stadium without knowing exactly where the dartboard is. Sure you might hit something from time to time that might sound like a dartboard, but was it really? Did God really answer my prayer or am I just being hopeful?

As far as God being a relatable father, I have to say that I have a hard time understanding how anyone can relate to someone whose nature is as highly debated as God's. We are stuck somewhere between believing we are like god in some ways (e.g. physical resemblance, ability to use logic, etc.) and fundamentally different in others (e.g. moral perfection, ability to “see” and comprehend, etc.). And then there's that Isaiah dude (or some other dude) in the Old Testament writing stuff like this: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (55:8). It sounds like God's trying to tell us something here about our ability to relate to him...

When was the last time you and God had a heart to heart about your thoughts on something like the season finale of your favorite TV show? He was totally shocked too, right? Do you honestly think God gets you when you feel like shit all week because your team lost? Or that God gets embarrassed with you when you have a slip of the tongue during your big presentation at work? Or that God can empathize with you in the slightest when you're so pissed because you're the worst player of your online gaming friends? How can a perfect being relate to any of us mortals in the slightest? I can't help but recall the lyrics from an oldish, kinda country-ish song: "there's nothing he [your father] can give you 'cause he's never once been wrong." God's got nothing for us.

Finally there's trust. You can't trust someone you don't (and can't) know, nor can you really trust someone who can't really understand and empathize with you. Given his record, God doesn't deserve anyone's trust anyway. I mean, the guy's a total sadist sitting up in Heaven looking down on us, watching us suffer and fight, listening to us and only kind of responding to some of us sometimes. It's all a very sick game. God's like those horrible fathers who bait their kids into fighting so they can catch all the fun on film and put it online. Worse dad in the whole universe!

*These attributes represent the popular thoughts of Ask Men’s Jullian Marcus,’s Tanya Tringali, and Open Talk Magazine’s Glenn Silvestre as per their respective articles on what makes a good father.

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