It was our last year in middle school and to celebrate, my class went to Washington D.C. We had been learning about important American history and the next stop on our jam-packed “vacation” was the State Capitol.
On the steps was an absurd little man prancing and chanting loudly about why newborn males should not be circumcised. My friend and I started laughing and pointing, making fun of the man and even taking photographs of him to document the ridiculous situation. And then my camera broke.
I later recalled the story to my mother and Aunt, and, with confidence, stated, “God was punishing me for making fun of him.” Both cocked their heads to the side and met my eyes with a look of confusion. My mother responded warily, “I don’t think God is that involved.”
That response changed my view of God.
For so long I had the idea in my head that God was set out to punish us every time we messed up, or God was there to provide us rewards for our good deeds.
In the Bible, and in popular religion, God is made out to be a scary being. God is a daunting figure, ready to crush anyone the minute they mess up. Even as I child I wasn’t sure I wanted to formulate a relationship with a being that was seemed so impatient.
I would later come to believe that God is not a cosmic sugar daddy, her to reward or scold me. And God is certainly not affected by my actions, be they good or bad. For me, God is much bigger, much more mysterious, than that. God does not care who wins the Super Bowl – even if I pray with all my might for my team to come out victorious.
I cannot tell you how often, as a child, I said this prayer: “I’ll do this, God, if you do this for me in return.” But I came to learn that bartering with God is only prostituting religion. To insist that God is that involved in those meaningless parts of my life is insulting to the nature of a God so unexplainable. And it is certainly unacceptable in a world where so many suffer. It’s important to get priorities straight. An “A” on a test or blue skies on a wedding day really aren’t that important when you consider the big picture.
All in all, I believe in looking for the God beyond God – not the limited version of God that humans conjure up.
In this crazy world bad things happen and good things happen. And, contrary to many practicing Christians who are offended by my philosophy, I believe that that both those good and bad instances have nothing to do with God’s response to our human actions, especially the actions of eighth graders on field trips.
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