The Weakling God of the Religious Right

Much religious conservativism is blatantly self-contradictory. Take this tweet from Fox News commentator Todd Starnes in response to the supreme court decision about DOMA:

The God that Todd Starnes and others like him believe in is apparently one who wants his will imposed on society, but lacks the power either to compel or to persuade sufficient numbers of people to do so. Apparently he is so powerful that he can hurl storms at areas infested with supporters of gay marriage, but nonetheless he was unable to get one aimed at the supreme court, and give it enough intensity or time it right, so as to persuade just one judge to vote the other way. His will is said to be sovereign, and yet a handful of judges have power of veto over him. He can guarantee you a parking spot when you go shopping, but big things like getting legislation passed and enforced are just too hard. Or at least, that is the impression one would get from listening to conservative commentators.

The ones with the weakest deity, of course, are the ones who would turn to violence to get their way. Their God is not only off with the timing or intensity of the storms that project his wrath. He is such a weakling, he needs people with guns to protect his honor. Or at least that’s the impression that militant fundamentalists give.

There is a lot to be happy about today. But the theology of many conservative and fundamentalist Christians still makes me sad. There are so many who talk about their God as an omnipotent tyrant whose will cannot be thwarted, while also speaking about him as incapable of getting his way. While either element on its own might be deemed theologically problematic, surely the self-contradictory combination of the two is even worse.

But there is hope. If, as a result of today’s events, those conservative religious people who think God controls everything, and yet can be overruled by a human court, are led to rethink their theology, that could potentially have an even greater long-term positive effect than the striking down of DOMA itself.

  • http://godofevolution.com/ Tyler Francke

    God overrules Todd Starnes.

  • Jim Stoppenhagen

    The subject of this article makes for interesting discussion.
    How does God deal with mankind? For since the beginning, God has allowed man to
    make His own choices. He has given us free will. We can choose to do right or
    to do wrong. If we chose to go against what is good, He does not immediately intervene
    because He is weak.

    When I was a teenager, I chose to disobey God, and did so
    for many years. At first I thought I was getting by with it and therefore, it
    wasn’t a big deal. But after years of dirty living the effects of sin started
    to erode my character, emotional stability and physical health. Still God did
    not stop me. But as I became more aware of the effects of the sin, I also
    became more aware of His continued love and faithfulness towards me. And when I
    had enough and turned towards Him, He was there to rescue me from the pit that
    I dug for myself. He dusted me off and gave me new life. My deepest love for
    Him comes from the fact that even while I was rebelling against Him and making
    mockery of His values, He made provision for my deliverance and that provision
    cost Him His only Son.

    Is my God weak? Never. I just hope that we Americans
    do not have to get as far down into the pit as I did before we realize what destruction
    we bring upon ourselves when we rebel against what the all-powerful God says is
    right.

    • J

      Yeah, but no: The whole “god gives people free will” thing isn’t really so much of an explanation as an *observation*. And it’s also worth pointing out that it’s an explanation that really occurs nowhere in the bible: It has the taste, rather, of something people made up after the fact to explain why god didn’t ever seem to make a personal appearance any more.

      Face it: a world where god ‘lets man choose between good and evil’ looks *suspiciously* like a world where god just straight-up doesn’t exist and man pretty much just muddles through on his own.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      It is interesting to reflect on your comment, as someone who has likewise had a life-changing religious experience. Why not treat that as evidence that God desires to see the world redeemed, however long it takes, rather than in terms of others getting a judgment that you believe yourself to have sidestepped?

      Be that as it may, our sacred texts are full of stories which do not at all fit with the modern notion of God working in such a way as to not compel belief. God is depicted as regularly doing outstanding things which leave no doubt as to God’s power, never mind God’s existence, and failure to respond appropriately is attributed to the hardness of human hearts, and not divine circumspection aimed at respecting our free will. I think that we need to think differently about things in light of the world as we experience it.

      • newenglandsun

        Okay, now I’m curious as to why no one has ever outlawed heterosexual monogamy or made laws against that.

    • newenglandsun

      “I just hope that we Americans do not have to get as far down into the pit as I did before we realize what destruction we bring upon ourselves”

      This is why I am still a proud supporter of the abolishment of ALL forms of marriage as a government institution. Including heterosexual marriage. It is the only way to truly free marriage and enable free will to allow people to live their OWN lives the way they see fit. If they feel it is displeasing to God to be in a homosexual relationship, that’s their choice. If they don’t that’s their choice too. But the government should have no say in whether or not two or more people or animals are married to each other. It’s ridiculous.


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