Some crankiness, but lots of challenging stuff here:
…Well, I think obviously we would have a different experience of nature. And maybe a different notion of what God expects from us; this is said as a believer, I should stress. It seems to me that a God who would reveal himself to Abraham in a place of such desolation is at least reminding us that our place on this Earth is temporary, and this is a place – a landscape – that reminds us of just how empty it is. The word desert comes from the notion of deserted; something was here and now it’s gone. What’s gone, of course, is the ocean; this was the bottom of the ocean. And this is a place of such rigor and difficulty that one stands in nature with an adversarial relationship.
So a softer, more sentimental God would have revealed himself on a lakeshore or in a forest. That would have been a very different experience. One of the things I’m asking of people, believers and unbelievers, is that we come to terms with place. The Semitic god has always been acknowledged to have broken through time. The eternal breakthrough of time at a specific moment. But we don’t talk about places much, partially because it is such a difficult thing to imagine that we are being called, by God, in a place of death.