Truth in bio-blurbing:
David Bashevkin is the Director of Education for National NCSY and is pursuing a doctorate in public policy and management at The New School’s Milano School of International Affairs. He was rejected from the Wexner Graduate Fellowship. Twice.
“Will God hate me if I…?” I have heard this question more than once. It tells me nothing about God but it tells me a world about the inner torture of the one who asks it.
So I will be clear at the outset: God does not feel as we do. God does not think as we do. We use such language because we are human beings. But the poetic language of Scripture in such matters becomes something utterly misleading and delusional when codified into the principles of theology. And they can become the stuff of deep neurosis and psychotic delusion in the minds and hearts of the weak.
There is no psychology of the Divine.
St. Isaac of Syria:
That we should imagine that anger, wrath, jealousy or such like have anything to do with the divine Nature is something utterly abhorrent for us: no one in their right mind, no one who has any understanding (at all) can possibly come to such madness as to think anything of the sort about God.
(I have read at least one evaluation of St. Isaac’s thought that tried to dismiss it as coming from his supposed Nestorian tendencies. But this is simply incorrect. He speaks here of the Divine Nature and not of Christology. Besides, this is simply proper Orthodox theology.)
In our modern culture, Christian belief has become divorced from the Christian Church (this was an intended outcome of the Reformation). Thus people, self-identified as individuals, struggle to have a “relationship” with God in a manner that is analogous to their “relationships” with other individuals. The nature of these “contractual” events is largely perceived as psychological. How we feel about one another and what we think about one another is seen to be the basis of how we treat one another. And so in our cultural “social contract” we seek to control, even to legislate how we feel about one another. We imagine that eliminating “hate” and “prejudice,” “racism” and “sexism” will impact violence. But despite the unflagging efforts of modernity, violence not only continues but escalates.
With God the “contract” is often extended or renamed a “covenant,” an agreement between a human being and God that stipulates requirements and behaviors and outcomes. Grace, perceived as a divine emotion or attitude, is part of the contract, God’s promised manner of performance.
The result of this imaginary divine milieu has been the gradual decrease of the Church (or anything resembling it). The Church as sacrament and mystery has been replaced by the sentimentality of the individual.
I don’t know what I’d have made of this 20 years ago, encountering it randomly (before I became Orthodox via a much different train of thought than the one Father Stephen is conducting).
But I suspect there are people – I think of them as spiritual adepts – who have wandered off into Buddhism or the like because they intuit something wrong with modern Western Christendom’s fixation on God’s anger, wrath, jealousy, and such.
Come home! That’s not Orthodoxy!
The reflex to highlight Peggy Noonan was stronger when I was less disenthralled with political matters, but I found this interesting:
My conversations with several Core proponents over the past few weeks leave me with the sense they fell in love with an abstraction and gave barely a thought to implementation. But implementation—how a thing is done day by day in the real world—is everything. There is a problem, for instance, with a thing called “ObamaCare.” That law exists because the people who pushed for it fell in love with an abstract notion and gave not a thought to what the law would actually do and how it would work.
… Louis CK was right “Late Show With David Letterman,” when he spoofed the math problems offered on his daughters’ tests: “Bill has three goldfish. He buys two more. How many dogs live in London?”
… Proponents are now talking about problems with the rollout. Well, yes, and where have we heard that before?
(Peggy Noonan) See also The Ten Dumbest Common Core Problems and DC students may find themselves stumped by Common Core tests next year, linked from portions of Noonan not quoted here.
I find it somewhat encouraging that several people have picked up this blog entry and have expressed concern that college-age kids from Christian families, at Christian colleges, have little idea of the Christian faith’s content – but know a lot about who and what Christians are ostensibly against.
It so happens that what they think Christians are against are some things that make Christianity rather repellent to them, given their formation partly by popular culture. They presumably are at high risk for bailing out of a religion that seems simultaneously vacuous and hateful.
But would it be better if they perceived Christianity as standing for things of which they approve – while they remained just as ignorant of Christianity’s content? Nobody has suggested so, but ….
Matthew Schmitz picks up a common thread and traces it to his justifiably sarcastic conclusion.
They only hate us because we’re free. We never do anything that’s actually offensive. Nope. Not us.
I’m happy to see that one Supreme Court Justice does not think that the 14th Amendment was the magic national homogenizer, and that at least one provision in the Bill of Rights does not apply to the states via the 14th Amendment.
* * * * *
“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)