Sunday, August 28, 2016

Chatting up the customers at the festival

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, I attended a sort of readers/writers festival yesterday. I was not successful in selling books, but I did meet some interesting people and have some out-of-the-ordinary conversations, at least for me, and I’m not talking about the dirty old man who wanted some soft porn.
When I asked people what they read, many of them said “mysteries, thriller, horror, science fiction, gore” and that kind of thing.  That’s out of the box for me, although I am working on the mystery vein.  However, devoting myself deeply to another fiction book has its nonattractive qualities.  I spend too much time alone to dive into another book right now, as much as I want to.
One woman I spoke to was probably in her late 60s.  She was quite voluble so I didn’t get to say much.  She told me about how after 44 years as an engineer and not being the least bit interested in God, that she got “poked” and she, of all people, was a believer now.  A believer in what, though, I had to ask myself.  She started to talk about how she decided to pray to God and address God as “She.”  Her reasoning was that the three major religions are patriarchal and some women do not have good Father figures or relationships with their Fathers and some have been horribly abused by their fathers (which is entirely true), so seeing God as their father is a huge barrier to worshipping or believing in God as a Father (which is also entirely true).  So why not call God “She”? 
Then she got onto the subject of gay marriage, and she mentioned the name of her church, and said that they don’t have a problem with it and neither does she, if people love each other, why shouldn’t they be married, "but my sister doesn’t like it, she’s not there yet."
Then she went off to “talk” to another person.  (maybe “at”).
So, I process this.  Should I have argued about the gender of God and defended His masculinity?  Shouldn’t I have set her straight?  Did I fail as a witness, as I usually do?
Side 1:  If she is a real believer or seeker, at least, she may not be at the point where she has been taught enough with real theological material to see that God chose to reveal Himself as a Father (but I am not sure that translates to masculine in our sense of the word.)  Father meant much more to the Mideastern culture in which the original Scriptures were given than the word means today.  Fathers were involved in their children’s lives in a different way.  Fathers were more than breadwinners.  So the problem is not that the Bible’s concept of Fatherhood of God is mired in the past, but that the present world has tainted true Fatherhood. 
Side 1, continued: Is God She and He?  Some theologians would say so; He exhibits male and female characteristics.  But it’s pretty unambiguous that the Bible only uses “He” to identify God, patriarchal or no. 
Side 1, continued.  If she is a new believer, she, like all of us, have a long way to go.  I have been a believer for decades and have really far to go.  So I can’t really stand in judgment. The crux would be her openness to teaching.  If she is entrenched in a viewpoint of “only the modern, United States, liberal worldview understands reality, and everything else is a myth, half-truth, superstition, unevolved belief” and can’t be open to seeing what the Word really teaches, and rejects it continuously after exposure, well, then that is problematic.
Side 2:  On the other side of this issue is this really odd belief we have in our own fallibility in the modern West.  I find it interesting that we are supposed to respect the cultures of the third or developing world, yet most of those cultures reject gay rights agenda.  How can we be tolerant toward Muslims when they throw gays off of buildings?  The African Anglicans are ready to split from the rest of the church over gay marriage. 
Not to get off on that subject; it did hit me today that if we see a heterosexual couple as married when all they had was a civil ceremony, can we really deny that the gay couple is married if they have had only a civil ceremony?  My point is a bigger one.  Why do we assume that our “evolved,” modern, Western, affluent, media-driven worldview is right.  How can this woman say, “God is a She because the major religions are patriarchal and we have moved past that in our fight for equal rights as women”?  If we hadn’t fought for equal rights, would God still be a He and not a She?  Are our political views and experiences the arbiter of who God is?
The old saying, attributed to Voltaire, was “God made man in His (?) own image, and man returned the favor.”  We apparently figure we get to refine and revise that image, which makes no sense.  If God is God, our up -and down, constantly changing political or cultural views have no impact on His nature, and our arrogance is no better shown than in believing it does. 
And, by the way, God doesn't need me to defend his masculinity or honor.  But he does prefer I be obedient.

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