Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Wrath of God

I was raised in terror of God. I don't think that this was wholly intentional, and if you asked my parents if you should be in terror of God, they would have said no. They would have explained that you should fear God as you fear a parent - with awe and respect and the knowledge of what they can do to you if you displease them. But terror is a little much.

This sent me a mixed message, as I also grew up reading the Bible, which is pretty terrifying. I grew up looking at a cartoon poster on the wall outside the bathroom that showed people's faces in the flames of hell. Their names were written neatly beneath their tortured faces - Darwin, Freud... Famous men who went against the Christian paradigm and are burning as we speak to pay for it. What a message to send to a child about going against Christian teachings. Effective, to say the least, but also psychologically damaging. (I know I have written about this before.)

I don't blame my parents for this because I think the church has psychologically damaged them as well. They lived in terror of God and his wrath, just as they taught me to. It makes me think of the Philip Larkin poem, "This Be the Verse," which goes like this:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

I think that many of us who grew up in this way find ourselves with a form of post-traumatic stress as adults. Sometimes I sincerely fear that God is simply looking for ways to hurt me. It has seemed that way throughout my life. Don't get me wrong - I am grateful for what I have and I know people have it much, much worse - but the fact remains that my life has been marred by all kinds of tragedy. Cool Aunt told me that I was immature to blame God for this. Hey, I am just going on what I have been taught.
"I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers..." Exodus 20:5

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Matthew 25:41

"If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:15

I want to believe in a loving God who is not all about hanging hell-fire over your head but it will take some time to unlearn all I have learned about him.

Wow, check out what I found when I Googled images of 'Angry God.'

No comments: