The God in the Mirror

To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd. (Psalm 18:25-26)

Wait a minute. I thought we were created in God’s image. You mean to tell me that all along he’s been messing with us? I thought God was supposed to be, if not always the hippest deity on the rack, at least the most sincere. So now I find out he’s a karma chameleon? Whoa.

This might explain why people can have such different ideas about God. Muslims, who live in desolate regions and live with sand in their shorts, have a really ticked off, constipated divinity who wants to kill everybody except Muslims. Hindus, living in a beehive a billion strong, have a god with major multiple-personality disorder and a penchant for contortionism. Buddhists, who just want some peace and quiet, have a god who isn’t really there or god but who can be prayed to nonetheless. Jews, with their history of feast, famine, and failure, have an Almighty who can’t decide if he likes his people or just wants to trash them and move on. Christians, who figured out how to turn sacrifice into a recipe for world domination, also have a god with multiple-personality disorder but like his inclination to bless while looking the other way.

Even within Christendom there are many different notions about what God is like. Fundamentalists, who feel both persecuted and superior, also have a really ticked off, constipated divinity but one who wants to kill everybody except the fundamentalists. Pentecostals, who love noise, have an Almighty who may be a little shaky on the details but likes to party down. Gays have a really nice, gender neutral Being who hugs a lot. Intellectual types champion a God who wears reading glasses, likes Mozart, and prefers Cognac with the Host. ESPN addicts lean toward a deity who has great pecs. The Baptists appreciate a God who always, always colors within the lines. Republicans have a red, white, and blue Republican God who always votes Republican. Democrats, for their part, have a self-effacing, rather nebulous cosmic overseer who tends to work through channels and likes to act first and think later.

So what am I supposed to make out of an invisible, immortal, eternal deity who alters his presentation style according to the moral disposition of his audience? I mean, where does that leave me? All along I’ve been thinking of God as an indulgent heavenly Daddy-o who smiles forgivingly at my repeated self-indulgent excesses while affirming my personal appetites and expecting very little of me by the way of actual obedience and service because he is most concerned about my personal and immediate happiness. Am I now to suspect that this God is only that way because I smile forgivingly at my repeated self-indulgent excesses while affirming my personal appetites and expecting very little of myself by the way of actual obedience and service because I am concerned most about my own personal and immediate happiness? Is God giving me a God who’s only me in beatific disguise? Is he showing me who he really is or only the God I want?

Then it dawns on me. I don’t want God as he really is; I want him as I really want. Seriously, what good is a deity if you can’t live with him? Say God really is as holy, holy, holy as all get out. Who’d want that? It’d be like living with Felix Ungar, that neurotic, neat freak half of the Odd Couple. You couldn’t put your feet up on the furniture, you’d have to pick up your underwear off the floor, you’d have to keep the toilet lid down—a recipe for disaster, if you ask me. Or say God is totally into justiceas some bleeding heart ghetto tourists insist. That would mean that the sow/reap thing was for reals and would screw up any chances of getting away with anything fun. What a drag.

So I’m thinking that maybe God should keep up his reflection strategy after all. Total jerks will get a total jerk for a God, which will serve them right. On the other hand, people like me whose personal sins are milder will continue to get a God they can actually live with. Wow. God may be wiser than he comes across.

I wonder if this is what those church growth guys have been talking about all along.


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