July 27, 2014: Enough of this Violent God Stuff!

Posted on : Jul 24th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

God said: “I will wipe this human race that I have created from the face of the earth – not only the humans, but also the animals, the reptiles and the birds of the heavens. I am sorry I ever made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of God.

Last Sunday I shared with you that as captivating as this story of Noah and the Ark is, it’s better theater than theology. This kind of “flood story” was common among religions in the Mediterranean region of the world especially among the Babylonians. In these stories, an angry or violent god destroyed most of the world through floods of epic proportion, but saved or had mercy upon a small remnant of people (oftentimes referred to as “the righteous”) who will re-populate the earth.

I also shared with you that I don’t believe God said this. I think those who told this story “put those words in God’s mouth” so to speak.

Last Sunday I shared with you why I believe we have to stop perpetuating the image of a violent God who “wipes out” some at the expense of others. I also shared with you that even though this story is similar to many others, it has a unique ending that is unlike any other. Sadly, the ending is not the part of the story that has an impact upon us.

The ending goes like this: God said, “Here is the sign of the covenant (promise) between me and you and every living creature for ageless generations: I set my bow (rainbow) in the clouds and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, my bow will appear in the clouds…I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature on the earth, and never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all flesh.”   (Gen 9: 12-15)

What happened to the “never again” thing?

Here is why I believe it is so important to stop perpetuating God as violent or vengeful. Since the beginning of Jewish-Christian history there has been horrific violence perpetuated in the name of God or in the name of religion.   For example:

  • In the news last week was the story of ISIS militant Muslims requiring Christians to convert to Islam or flee their home city of Mosul, Iraq. Christians have lived there for 2,000 years. News reports state that almost all Christians fled the city by last Saturday. What hasn’t been reported is that the Christian Church (Roman or Western rite) did the same thing to the Muslims in 1095 AD and 1145 AD. The Crusades were military campaigns sanctioned by the Latin Roman Catholic Church during the High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages. They sought to “reclaim” holy sites in and near Jerusalem and to stop the spread of Islam in what is now the Middle East. Muslims had one choice. They could either convert to Christianity or be killed.
  • In 1792, our Puritan forebears (of what is now the United Church of Christ) burned “witches” (women) at the stake for heresy. Heresy was defined by rigid Calvinist Puritans. A number of women and a few men were thought to have the devil in them. They were burned alive at the stake. Last week it was reported that Jihadists had stoned two Syrian women to death who were accused of “adultery.” Jews and Christians did the same thing, if you remember the “let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone” story of Jesus stopping the stoning of a woman who was, like these Muslim women, accused of “adultery.” Violence against women is especially prevalent in patriarchal religions.
  • From the middle ages until the present, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people have been the recipients of outrageous religious violence. Some of us lived through that horror here in the US, especially during the HIV health crisis. For the most part, we hope, religious violence against LGBT persons is over (or at least ending) in the United States, but in countries in Africa, such as Uganda and Nigeria just being gay is punishable by death or imprisonment. Even today, religion is the greatest oppressor of LGBT persons.

These are just three examples of why I believe we need to stop associating God with violence and claiming violence to be “holy” – whether it be “holy wars” or “holy” as in self-righteous certainty of the one truth. The end of the Noah story contains the word of hope: “Never again! Never again will I destroy the earth.”

So why is this message so hard to “get?” In the midst of the struggle to overturn Apartheid in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote: “Goodness is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate.” Is goodness really stronger than evil? Is love stronger than hate? Are the dove, the olive branch and the rainbow stronger than violence?

More on Sunday.

Blessings,

Dan 

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Genesis 8 & 9

After the Flood

God did not forget Noah and all the animals in the ark, and sent a mighty wind over the earth so that the waters began to subside. The springs of the Deep and the windows in the heavens were closed up. The rain from the heavens stopped. The water covering the earth gradually dropped, until at the end of 150 days it was gone.

At the end of forty days Noah opened the porthole and sent out a raven. It would fly off and return to him as the waters were drying up from the earth. Then Noah sent out a dove to see if the waters had subsided on the earth. The dove, finding nowhere to perch, returned to the ark, for there was still water over the whole earth. Putting out his hand for the dove he brought it back into the ark. Noah waited seven more days, and again sent out the dove from the ark. In the evening, the dove retuned with a freshly plucked olive branch in its beak, and Noah knew that the waters were receding from the earth. After seven more days, he again sent out the dove, and this time it did not return.

God said to Noah, “Leave the ark, with your wife and your children and their spouses. Bring out all the living things with you – the birds, animals, and all the slithering things of the earth – so they may spread through the earth, bear fruit, and become many on the earth.”   God blessed Noah and his family and said to them, “Bear fruit and be many, and fill the earth.”
God then said to Noah and his family, I hereby establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you – birds, cattle, and the earth’s wildlife – everything that comes out of the ark, everything that lives on the earth. I hereby establish my covenant with you:

            All flesh will never again be swept away by the water of the flood,

            Never again will a flood destroy all the earth.”

God said, “Here is the sign of the covenant between me and you and every living creature for ageless generations: I set my bow in the clouds and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, my bow will appear in the clouds. Then I will remember the covenant that is between me and you and every kind of living creature, and never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all flesh. Whenever my bow appears in the clouds I will see it, and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature on the earth.”

God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all living things on earth.”

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