Welcome to the fourth sermon in my series exploring God. Who is He, what’s He like, and just why should we be following Him anyway?
Today we’ll be discussing role models: good role models, bad role models, and absurdly terrible role models.
Let’s begin by talking a little bit about what makes a good role model. I’m sure we’ve all known someone who we’d call a good role model. Think about what traits they had. Were they perfect? No, of course not. What human is?
The important things were that they were caring, considerate and wanted the best for you. At times they likely seemed very strict, but you always knew it was because they wanted you to be the best you could be. They always believed in you, even when you didn’t always believe in yourself. And, most importantly, they never gave up on you.
Some people believe God has these traits, and is a great role model. So why don’t we investigate this. Let’s start at the beginning of humanity.
The Garden of Eden
It’s a paradise. Not much for God to do. Except plant a tree in the middle of it that is somehow bad for humans (or, perhaps, only bad for God?). He gives us one rule, ‘don’t eat from the tree of knowledge’ and, like the inquisitive children that we are, we break that rule. Does God, in his infinite wisdom, take the time to explain why it was bad? Perhaps move the tree out of reach and get on with things? Does he set a punishment that fits the crime?
I’d have to answer ‘no’ to all of these. He judges, and punishes, ALL HUMANITY to the end of days because of the actions of two members of the species. Now, maybe the tree of knowledge is so immensely powerful or dangerous that this is justified, but if that’s so, then why not at least explain it to us after banishing us from Eden. Instead, all we get is a cursory threat that ‘you will die’ if you eat from the tree.
Like you, I’m not all knowing or all powerful. And, like many of you, I have a young child. I may not be godlike, but I devote a lot of attention to my child and when she does something wrong, I do my best to explain why it was wrong and what the full consequences could have been for her.
She knows, for example, not to go into the cabinet with the cleaning products because they are very dangerous materials that could make her sick or kill her. If she were to get into them, she would pay the natural consequences, of course. It’s unlikely we would punish her further, because those consequences would be enough. It’s also pretty clear to most readers, that punishing her siblings or any future children would be pretty stupid, petty, and meaningless.
So why did God do exactly that? We can only wonder, but until it’s explained otherwise, I suggest the punishment did not fit the crime.
Moving on a short way in the bible, we encounter Noah, a member of apparently the only pious family on the planet at the time. God’s feeling a little stressed, like all parents do from time to time when the kids don’t behave, so he decides to discipline them. By killing them all.
Say what? Again, humans don’t have the infinite wisdom of God, but we, in our humble wisdom, generally consider murder, and especially genocide, as a bad thing. All the more so when the reason given for the murder is ‘they didn’t pay enough attention to me’. In fact, that kind of defense would land a human in life-long psychiatric analysis.
Not God. He goes ahead and kills just about every creature on the planet and then moves on with just a token ‘sorry’. And this story is taught to encourage us to worship God?! Why, so He doesn’t kill us all again?
A human who threatened and killed their charges would definitely not be considered a good role model. And one who’s worshipped just so He doesn’t torture or kill us again, would be considered a bully, at best.
The Sacrifice of Jesus
Skipping over a few more gruesome examples of bad role-modelling, we come to the ‘sacrifice’ of Jesus on the cross. There’s so much wrong with this story that it’s just creepy.
First, Jesus has clearly learned the ‘giving up’ lesson from his father because, despite being a demi-god, he decides not to fight the establishment at all. He just let’s them string him up. The fact that knows he will be resurrected means it’s not much of a sacrifice, but that ‘get out of death free’ card is all the more reason he could have fought the oppressors of his people.
Second, what kind of twisted, perverted parent tortures and kills their child to justify forgiving an age-old gruge? If my neighbour’s child wronged me, there’s no way that I’m going to kill my own child so that I can forgive them. That’s just so many types of wrong.
God as a Role Model
I’ve given you a few examples of God’s behaviour through the old and new testaments. It doesn’t paint a very pretty picture of Him, does it? It might be that God has very good reasons for doing such things but, if he’s omnipotent and omniscience, then he should realize that explaining his reasons to us is probably more effectively that killing us and threatening eternal damnation on our souls.
Eternity, incidentally, is an unimaginably long time.
Now, I’m not sure about you, but I don’t consider any of God’s actions to be worthy of being considered a good role model. In fact, I see him as being the worst kind of role model. I worry a lot about people following God’s example. I fear they will be:
- Quick to anger
- Prone to excessive violence, including murder
- Unable to forgive even slight wrongs done to them
And I’m sure we can each site numerous examples to demonstrate that I’m reasonable in having this fear. So when you next read the bible, and think about picking a role model… I suggest you close the book, put it in your drawer, and instead pick up something by Bertrand Russell, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Chistopher Hitchens or Sam Harris, or watch a video of the Amazing Randy. They’re all far better role models than God.
I hope you can bear with me for just a few more moments this week as I’d like to share a poem I wrote about God and his creation. I’m not a professional poet so there might be some cringe-worthy parts in here, but I think it encapsulates the meaning of this sermon quite well. Since it’s a few pages long, I’ve put it in image form to save space.