Monday, October 15, 2012

Feel Good Theology

I guess this is the first post in a long time. That's kind of how that thing goes, I suppose. These are very scattered thoughts.

What I'm kind of interested in right now (at this very moment) is the theological surroundings that I'm finding myself in. I'm taking an actual theology class where it is harder to remain disconnected (/academic/historical) so I am having to confront the fact that I disagree with people more. I think that the main problem that I see (other than the blatant 'de-mythologizing' liberalism and un-divinization of Jesus) is that lots of these theologies are at their heart 'feel good' theologies.

I'm not necessarily saying that everyone should be filled with shame or be worried about going to Hell. But I'm having a hard time really connecting with a notion of God that is basically the mother figure writ large. In its own way, it is just as faulty as God-as-stern-dad-figure. What I mean to say is that God doesn't seem to be actually challenging or transformative or painful in this context.

I think some of the people that I am around are afraid of conceptualizing God or religion as having any sort of negative feelings associated with it because they are in their own ways wounded. Many are LGBT which means that religion is already associated with being dissociated from communities. Religion and the the 'word of God' have been used to inculcate shame in them. They are already in a way harmed by God (or at least, God's followers) and therefore don't want to associate those feelings with God any beyond the idea that God also suffers with them. So God becomes someone who simply co-experiences, an inert force or security blanket to help us feel better. They have a (justifiable) reaction against a limiting, commanding version of God. We aren't asked to experience anything negative or painful in our journey towards or with God (even if that pain is simply one of growing). In more sentimentalist theologies, God becomes the erotic, that is 'feeling good'.

But what does that leave us?

I have a hard time understanding my life in that way of viewing God. When our experiences are given so much importance, I feel like we border on a Christian solipsism, where God is whatever makes us feel the best (in whatever way you want to imagine that). Talking about God is then just talking about ourselves, and I think that I already do enough talking about myself. God isn't a divine therapist, and treating God that way makes God all about us. We treat our desires as if they are sacrosanct, sometimes even calling them God. This all makes us feel better, and perhaps life would be easier if I could actually believe that.

God gave us desire, but God doesn't have to be omniscient to have understood that in giving us free will and desire, that that would necessarily lead to sin, and therefore suffering. Because if we were free to only do the right thing, then we aren't really free at all. At least while we are on this planet, there is no utopia where everyone will get what they want or need without the harm coming to some other person. I can not in right conscience act like desire is an inherently good thing when I see the desire for resources harm so many people, or the desire for power destroy lives. Desire is not good. Only God is good, everything else is instrumental.

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