Wrestling with God: (Why am I still convinced God hates me?)

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 11.13.08 AMWhile I broke with fundamentalist religion somewhere around 2007, I still struggle.

As any therapist will tell you, old mental habits take a long time to break.

I’ve been reflecting on this lately during some sleepless hours, and have come to accept something: I still believe that God hates me.

I don’t know why. Intellectually, I reject the notion- but I think emotionally I’ve never fully been freed from it.

I’ve always seen Jesus as being good, loving and accepting… but God? My inner concept of God still sees him as an all-powerful being that is infinite at everything- including being pissed off.

I get that Jesus and God are harmoniously alike, but it sure doesn’t seem that way. Even looking at the cross under old paradigms of thinking, I still see a Jesus who is dying to protect me from his angry dad- letting dad beat him mercilessly so that I can run out of the room to safety.

I’m realizing that this paradigm of thinking doesn’t work for me anymore, and that it’s internal blasphemy against a loving God. It’s caused me to actually want to run from God, because who wants to run towards someone who hates you with every fiber of their being?

What’s even worse, it causes me to see every negative thing that happens in life as being from God- instead of the good things.

I remember when we first realized we were losing our daughter– the situation quickly disintegrated, and we knew that loss was probably inevitable.

Nevermind the fact that we were actually doing what God calls “pure religion” (caring for widows and orphans), the most begging thought that plagued us was: Have we done something to make God angry with us?

Did I not try hard enough?

Did I have a lustful thought that caused God to decide to punish me with the loss of a child?

Did I… did I… did I….

It’s so effed up. This whole line of thinking… there’s no other way to describe it than…

Broken.

It’s broken thinking.

Yet, it’s broken thinking that most days, my heart still can’t over come. I lay awake at 4:00 am frequently wrestling with this, because I feel like a horrible hypocrite.

Here I am, trying to be a voice to the masses- telling them that God is way better than they ever imagined… that he looks like Jesus, the nonviolent lover of enemies… that he isn’t mad at you, but instead has mad love for you…

But I don’t always feel this way in my own life. I still too often feel as if God hates me, and when something bad happens in life, I immediately assume that he’s punishing me.

I want to repent of this broken thinking.

When it comes to the God who hates me, I want to be an atheist.

photoI’ve heard folks like Ray Comfort say the problem is that not enough people are scared of God. I’ve listened to Mark Driscoll’s (if we were superheroes, he’d be my arch nemesis) sermon “God Hates You” (which I think was recorded at Westboro), and my fair share of hell fire preaching. And, I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem isn’t that people don’t fear God anymore.

The problem is that that too many do.

Too many people have been painted a picture of God that looks more like a jealous boyfriend in a drunken rage than the peaceful, inclusive Rabi who said “if you’re tired and burnt out, come hang with me- because my way is light and not burdensome”.

As a result, our concept of God internalizes into all sorts of other broken thinking, and leads us to see everything bad that happens in life as being a divine punishment from God.

Over time, we actually start to believe that God hates us. The concept gets rooted so deep, that even when we mentally reject it, our “emotional memory” still uses it as a go-to hermeneutic for understanding life events.

I’ve been in relationships before where I couldn’t do anything right and was chronically reminded of my own shortcomings. Unfortunately, these situations don’t often cause us to become better- instead, we eventually start to believe that we’re just as bad as other people think we are.

I can’t have this kind of relationship with God anymore.

I hope that you can’t either.

westboro_baptist_churchLet’s repent together, and stop thinking that God hates us.

Cause honestly, I don’t need anymore enemies (you should see my in-box).

I need friends.

Friends who will stick it out with me, no matter what. Friends who will receive me and just love me- for who I am, and nothing more.

Let’s remind ourselves so often that we are fully and completely loved, that the emotional memory eventually switches from hate to love.

I’m realizing that will take time, but I’m committed to the process… because I can’t bear another moment alone in a room with me and this angry god who hates everything about me.

Thankfully, I’m half way there- because my mind no longer believes in this god.

My mind acknowledges that the real God, looks exactly like Jesus- and that his final words were words of forgiveness… not rejection.

Instead of the god who hates me, I’m trying to embrace the God who would like to have a beer with me sometime.

Let’s keep pressing on together. I know so many of you wrestle with this same thing- I hear it in your letters to me on a daily basis, and I’m committed to walking this journey with you.

As together, we trade anger for an embrace of the divine.

We trade hate for love,

and acceptance instead of rejection.

The god who hates us?

Let’s be a circle of friends who quit believing in him, together.

(take it away, Edie…)

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About Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey, is an Anabaptist author, speaker, and blogger. His first book, Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus (Release date, August 2014), tells the story of his journey out of lifeless religion and into a fresh expression of Christianity. He is also a contributor for Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, Evangelicals for Social Action, Mennonite World Review, has been a guest on Huffington Post Live, and is one of the CANA Initiators. Ben is also a syndicated author for MennoNerds, a collective of Mennonite and Anabaptist writers. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Theology & Missiology), is currently a Doctor of Missiology/Intercultural Studies student at Fuller Seminary, and is a member of the Phi Alpha Chi Honors Society. Ben is also co-host of That God Show with Matthew Paul Turner. Ben lives in Auburn, Maine with his wife Tracy and his daughter Johanna.

You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Lora Gorton

    Great words Ben,

    That’s why I guess I like going to a Lutheran church where every Sunday I can confess my sins with other Christians and hear the words of absolution. We all need to be reminded the this is the center of our faith. Christ forgiving, loving and healing us not the Law being preached at us all the time the we need to do more, believe more, trust more. There are times I just can do anymore even as a Christian. It’s nice to sit in His loving embrace and to know that He loves me more then I will ever know this side of Heaven.

  • http://conventionallyunconventional.blogspot.com deano

    Wow Ben, Couldn’t have said it better. The LITTLEST thing happens to me and I feel like God hates me. What? He couldn’t suspend the law of gravity for just a second? Yeah, pretty silly…I know that intellectually….but that’s the consequence of a religion that majors of the “fear of God,” minors in a Jesus who “will come in flaming fire to take vengeance” and completely ignores the Sermon on the Mount and I Corinthians !3. Deano

  • Jake

    Of all you’ve ever written, this one is the one I want to hold onto the tightest. Thank you.

  • Ann Huff Townsend

    Yes. This. I know this is one of my struggles as well and in my conversations with young agnostics and aetheists, it is part of what they are struggling with intellectually. The strident, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” preachers seem to get the air time and kids who hear nothing else and experience nothing else, reject this God as “too mean” and “inconsistent”. It is a gift to have places like your blog and websites like The Poached Egg to refer this kids to for balance and truth.

    Love you brother.

  • Arlie

    I well remember when God got through to me re. his unconditional, amazing love. I was in the middle of a rebellious, sinful time, and God “spoke” to my heart – I love you just like you are. That was 35 years ago, and I have never been the same. I’m much older than most of you, but I connect with what you are communicating.

  • Sam

    Hi Ben,

    We were having a similar discussion at our fellowship. One of the brothers threw a theological curveball. He says that we tend to forget the ‘pre incarnate’ Christ who was the one who appeared to people in the O.T. in human or angelic form and who both instructed people to kill their enemies and / or even brought destruction against God’s enemies. It is the same Christ, the only difference being the incarnation. His question was’ ” how do you reconcile the apparently contradictory nature of Christ pre and post incarnation?

    How would you answer this person? Thanks!

  • Sam

    Not sure if this is a duplicate comment from me.

    We were having a similar discussion on Sunday, when another brother threw a theological curveball. He says that we forget that it was Christ who appeared to people in the O.T. in human or angelic form. The ‘pre incarnate’ Christ ordered the killing of people and/ or brought about destruction of people. How do you reconcile these two contrasting portraits of Christ?

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    Jake & Ann– thank you. Those comments made my day.

    @sam- that is a tough question, with no perfect way to answer. Certainly, this idea of the violent God of the OT is one that leaves us in tension regardless of which way you cut it. However, the best person to explain it is Greg Boyd over at http://reknew.org/ Much of his life work has been an alternate view of the violence in the OT and he has a lot of posts on it that are much better than mine. I’d invite you to dig in over at his site!

  • https://theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    I find this sad. Because you’re blaming yourself for not living up to a standard that you thing your god is holding you to, when in reality most of the evidence found in your Bible and in your Church points to your god being just as angry and hateful as you think he is.

    I’m not saying that you’re right, and God hates you. Not at all. Just that there are many reasons that you’ve been conditioned to think this way, and you are turning the blame inwardly when the sources are external.

    I won’t say I pity you, because I know how much I hate it when people do the same to me, but I am sorry this is weighing on you. It seems like such a pointless burden.

  • https://theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    @ Sam,

    It’s funny you brought that up, because I just published a post on the violence in the OT not five minutes before reading this article and seeing your comment. I don’t think it has the answer you’re looking for, however.

  • Suzy Andrews

    I am sad….no, rather angry…..that you’ve had to endure such preaching….I worry about saying something to you that you’ve heard umpteen times…but ALL the anger was poured out on Jesus. It’s done; over. I sometimes feel God is disappointed in me…and then I sort of creep into His presence, if at all. But who is behind all that? It has to be old bootface who delights in upsetting the children whom God so adores He gave His life for!

    I

  • http://emerginganabaptist.com Ryan Robinson

    I’ve been there. My church growing up was made up of a very friendly pastor and a very friendly congregation. There is little I could really complain about in their behaviour.

    And yet there was that equating of penal substitution theory to “the Gospel.” I learned that at the heart of the Gospel was that God hated me… but offered me a loophole anyway. I routinely heard the language of Jesus being a lawyer to protect me from God the judge, paying the price on my behalf. It was still firmly in the realm of judgement: God up there being angry, me down here being terrible. Made me thankful for the loophole but could never shake the idea that the loophole was there to save me from a violent vengeful God.

  • Dr James

    The issue of violence in the OT begins to become less of an issue when Christians can let go of “inerrancy”. It’s pretty well an idolatrous principle and forces interpretive square pegs through theological round holes.

  • Laura Shattuck

    Outstanding. Seriously Outstanding. I needed this… People need this. Thank you for being so open and honest. You have opened the door for very important dialogue. I think … I am pretty much speechless.

  • http://gratituesday.blogspot.com/ Jill Roper

    Ben, I always enjoy reading your material. I have a different way of looking at God. My earthly dad was an evil, hateful, child molester, homosexual and violent. I looked at God as just the opposite. That is how I shaped my view of God, he is everything my earthly dad is not. That is knowing that yes, he is viewed as hateful but I just see a God who will go to any length to show his love to me. Keep sharing brother.

    In Christ Alone,

    your plain and covered sister :)

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    Thanks for sharing Jill! An amazing story. Far too often, we assign the shortcomings of our earthly dad’s to the concept of God as father– I’m so happy that for you, it had the opposite effect.

    Stay covered :)

    Ben

  • gimpi1

    “I’ve listened to Mark Driscoll’s (if we were superheroes, he’d be my arch nemesis) sermon “God Hates You” (which I think was recorded at Westboro), and my fair share of hell fire preaching. “

    If anyone needs a arch-nemesis, it’s Mr. Driscoll. (And I know whereof I write, I live in Seattle, only about 4 miles from his West Seattle Mars Hill campus.)

    Well-written, Ben. You make your beliefs much more interesting and accessible to us outsiders than Mr. Driscoll has ever done.

  • Rachel

    Wow, you echo what I’ve been struggling with myself. I grew up in a fundie-lite environment who thought of God as this stern judge who was ready to punish me. Since becoming a Catholic, that idea has lessened but I still deal with the effects. I still think that God is punishing me and that I’m not going to make it to Heaven. It is difficult for me to see God as loving and actually caring about me so I know where you are coming from. God bless you.

  • L. Paul Beck

    Maybe it will help you not feel so hated, once I had the great fortune of keeping an elderly gentleman company for 12 hours each night for several nights while he was in the hospital. The reasons were one, so he would never be alone in the room with a woman he wasn’t married to (Nurse) and two, he had been in Auschwitz-Birkenau and like so many that had been there; “Sometimes when the air is cool, damp and still I can still smell the bodies burning”, these people don’t sleep. He was also a retired Rabi with 4 PHDs, one each in near east religion, Mideast religion, near east history, Mideast history. It seems that the famous lines in Leviticus had nothing to do with being gay and every thing to do with not worshiping a couple of Egyptian gods. It seems that the way one of those gods created the stars was to lie on his back and perform oral sex on himself and the spit the product up into the sky to create the stars. The other I can’t figure out how to explain and not run afoul of the censors. As it was an abomination, it required the simultaneous violation of 3 of the 10 Commandments, 1 from each of the 3 groups, religious, personal & social. In order to violate 18:22 for example required you to steal gold from your family, ride your donkey over to a “Foreign” city then donate the gold at the temple of the Egyptian god then having sex with a teenage slave boy who was temple prostitute as a tribute to that god. So you stole, worshiped a foreign god, committed adultery and stood a good chance of bringing home some disease to your wife that left your children orphans. Yes, we went over all 613 commandments in the Pentateuch and I learned sooo much.

  • http://mainecowgaels.blogspot.com/ Mainecelt

    Thank you for sharing your struggle and your reflection. Have you read, by any chance, the book “Saving Paradise” by Rebecca Parker and Rita Nakashima Brock? I found their exploration of Christian imagery and atonement theory really powerful–and helpful in the work of reframing my own understanding of God’s love for the world and for us.

  • D Bice

    What does a good fundalmentalist Christian and an atheist have in common? Neither one believes in a loving God.

    The truth is, as I see it, God IS love. That doesn’t mean that God has a loving side to him, but that He IS Love… and so everything else, flows from that love. Love is His core essence. Bask in the warmth of His love and try to recognize all the other stuff as religious crapola. God’s love is unconditional….unfailing…and inescapable. Checkmate; by grace are ye saved.

    • Lynn

      What does a good progressive Christian and an atheist have in common? Neither one believes in an angry god. :)
      Atheism can be the refuge some people need in recovering from fundamentalism.
      I’m an atheist–formerly fundamentalist–and have zero problem with the statement God IS love. I don’t personify that love and assign it some kind of identity but at the end of the day, what’s worth worshiping–ie, striving for, working for, following, reflecting on, making manifest–is love.

  • Letha

    How I wish I could leave this “god” behind! When something bad happens, I wonder what I’m being punished for (probably being female, the god I was raised with despises women with a passion). If things are going well, then I tend to wait for the other shoe to drop, because I secretly fear that god doesn’t want me to have it too good. Crazy making!

    As you said, I understand intellectually that this in just not right. I want to be an atheist too! Thanks for writing this, Ben.

  • JT

    I was “saved” in a SBC church in Dallas, Texas when I was 22. I bought everything hook, line, and sinker. And now I am sunk. I am on the borderline of suicide at least once a month. I feel like I have abandoned God because I don’t believe in religious fundamentalism any longer. I struggle every waking moment because of choices I made, and I feel that God has already judged me, even though I have never intentionally meant to hurt Him. My life is a disaster, divorced because of my hopelessness, and I feel I am reaping “what I have sown” because I left the church. Honestly, I don’t know how I keep going every day. I wish I had never walked down an aisle in my life.

  • TheTruth

    well i certainly feel that he is punishing me very much by not giving me the luck to meet a good woman to share my life with when i have to see that he has blessed many men and women to have met one another and have a family just like many of us very less fortunate men that would had wanted the same thing, and we are no different than the ones that have it. then again, there are so many very mean and nasty women nowadays too that make it much more difficult for us very serious men that are looking. Doesn’t It?

  • gimpi1

    JT, things will get better. Hang on. If there’s truly a God, that God is not going to judge and abandon you because you are questioning. Asking questions, growing in our beliefs, and, yes, leaving some beliefs behind isn’t sinful, it’s maturing. No deity worth it’s salt is going to punish someone for growing up. We’ve all made choices that haven’t panned out, that’s life. No deity worthy of worship going to toss you in the trash for having some choices not come out the way you thought they would. You are still worthy. You are still valuable. And, if there’s a God, God still loves you, warts and all.

  • gimpi1

    The Truth, perhaps if you didn’t think so many women were “mean and nasty,” women would find you more attractive. Just saying.

  • JDE

    Pathologically low self-esteem is endemic to fundamentalist religions and results in the child abuse which permeates those subcultures, which in turn fosters that low self-esteem in the subsequent generation.

    The problem facing us today is that in this country, the victims of that mindset have comandeered the political process, and through it are commandeering the educational system.

  • JDE

    L. Paul Beck – Are you at liberty to say who the rabbi was?

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    He doesn’t hate us…we hate Him (so much of the time).

    Do we do what He asks? Do we put our neighbor’s needs ahead of our own?

    Hardly. We love to be our own little gods.

    But in site of all that…He still loves us, and will never leave us nor forsake us.

    Wow. What a God.

  • Lynn

    Just found your post and wanted to offer encouragement. I declared myself agnostic in high school, then moved to atheism in college, and yet still walked around with a burden of fear. It took a difficult life event (losing a daughter), spending some time in emotional denial about how traumatic her loss was, being slammed with the reality of my feelings and emotions about her loss and hitting rock bottom, and then slowly recovering from that trauma, for the emotional switch to happen. All of a sudden I KNEW deep down in my soul–not just my head–that there really really really really isn’t any angry omnipotent spirit setting me up to fail and smoldering in anger when I did fail.


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