Which God Are We Talking About?
Part of the problem with trying to have a reasonable conversation with believers about the existence/non-existence of God is that you can’t ever pin down what it is, exactly, they mean by “God.” Forget the theological differences among the major religions; Christians can’t even agree among themselves on the basic character traits of the deity they claim to worship in common.
- Are we talking about the Roman Catholic God who really, really doesn’t like masturbation or contraception? Who constructed Purgatory as a half-way house of painful purification on the way to heaven? (Yes, Virginia, there really is still a Purgatory in the Catholic world-view. Benedict is really into it.)
- The Southern Evangelical God who is particularly fond of the King James Bible, the American military and all things patriotic, spiritually submissive women, cheesy praise music, and full immersion baptism. He’s especially fixated on that one. It’s got to be FULL immersion.
- The Mainline Protestant God. This one is nicer than the first two versions, but definitely wimpier. He seems to care a lot about human suffering but is notoriously slow to show up and actually do anything to alleviate it. This God cares for the environment, social justice and tends to vote Democratic.
That’s the tip of the iceberg. We could also talk about the Mormon God, the Pentecostal God, and the Eastern Orthodox God, just to name a few more.
I’m not being facetious–not even about the cheesy praise music. Because if there were a God it would be reasonable to expect that he/she/it would have impeccable taste. The world of evangelical kitsch just doesn’t cut it.
Ultimately everybody is defending a different God with an agenda that is often mutually exclusive of the other Christian versions of God. The different views of God out there are so divergent that the term “God” itself has become almost useless. None of his follows can agree on what it means.