Sunday, November 3, 2013

Against A Domesticated God

He'll be coming and going" he had said. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down--and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”  -C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Humans domesticate things.  Name another species that intentionally tames other species, solely because they can.  And we don't just domesticate animals.  We domesticate everything.  We bulldoze mountains and build skyscrapers because skyscrapers are far more advantageous and incredibly more domestic than a mountain.  We domesticate our society with social norm.  We domesticate our children, sometimes with rules, other times with Ritalin.  First and finally, we domesticate ourselves; we silently comfort ourselves by saying "Your ambitions are just too ambitious, your dreams aren't all that important.  Cubicles are safe and suburbia does not threaten you.  You don't have to be a Saint, just being a good person should be well enough for you."  Domestication is, by definition, making thing controllable, removing the wilderness from it so that we might manage it, and in order to do so, we must first manage ourselves.

But this post isn't about railing against domesticating ourselves.  I'm not advocating for us to go au naturale.  I enjoy the benefits of domestic life as much as anyone else.  However, it comes with great risks, because not everything is meant to be domesticated.  Not everything can be domesticated, and when we try to domesticate that which cannot be domesticated, that is, when we try to control something that ought to be controlling us, we stray into the realm of the problematic.  All too often, in our attempts to be religious persons, we commit the sin of domesticating God.  What do I mean about domesticating God?  Allow me to explain:

Too often, we like to think of God as a cosmic Barney the Purple Dinosaur.  He drifts daintily along above the cosmos comforting us and coddling us in his arms, ever sweet and tender and cuddly.  This view is utter baloney.  Don't get me wrong, God loves you and seeks to comfort and console you, but to think of God as an all-powerful Care Bear is nonsense.  God will destroy you.  Period.  Ladies and Gentlemen, unless you confront this reality, you are deceiving yourself.  Religion is not about making our existence more comfortable, more reassuring, or more peaceful.  These may be side-effects, but religion that only succeeds in making you comfortable, reassured, peaceful sinner has failed to be a religion.  

Just ask the Egyptians about how docile and non-
threatening God is.
God is Love, (cf. 1 John 4:8) but when you hear those words, there shouldn't be soft and fluffies associated with it.  When you hear about the God who relentlessly loves you, the first thing on your mind should be "I am going to die."  Why?  Because God loves his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and sent him to be crucified.  Love destroys.  Love is not safe and tame, it is reckless, it is wild and ferocious.  Why?  Because love always strives for the better, for the higher, for the good, true, and beautiful, and in order for this to happen, all that is not good, true, and beautiful must die.  Love destroys to create, it crucifies to resurrect.  

Our religion ought to reflect this.  Perhaps the leading contributor to the decline of religion, especially Christianity, is that we find it boring.  We whine and moan when Mass goes over and hour, but we sit on the edge of our seats when a football game goes into overtime.  Our God has become a boring, non-threatening God, a God whose mercy has been seen less as the spilled blood of a savior and more as a cosmic get-out-of-jail-free card (why would we follow such a God with irrepressible zeal and fervor anyways?).  We don't see God in His wild and reckless Love for us, nor do we see our great need for a wild and reckless lover, and therefore, we don't see our faith as much more than a mildly beneficial social activity or a nice practice in personal discipline. 

We need God.  We do not need God because God improves our quality of life.  We do not need God because God is useful for social cohesion.  We need God, because our very existence is a poverty, accountable only to God's charity.  Any other explanation for why we need God simply reduces Him to a means to our ends, a tool in our goals.  Anything but our absolute dependence on God effectively domesticates He Who Cannot, Must Not, and Will Not Be Domesticated.  We may need food to stave off hunger; we might need drink to keep thirst at bay.  These needs are means to sustaining our existence; they ensure we continue to exist.  However, our lives exist in the first place precisely because of God and are capable of being sustained because of God.  We need God, because without God, there is no we, no you, or no me.

In the end, God is not ours to domesticate and control;  He is ours to love.  When a man loves a woman, he does not think of control.  He does not seek for ways to tame her for his own purposes, rather, he will allow himself to be controlled by her.  He will allow himself to be mastered for her sake and will bend his will to ensure the freedom of hers.  He longs for ways to serve the one he loves and craves ways to make her happy.  So it must be with us when we love God.  To love God is to seek to be controlled, bending our wills to the Will of God which will not be bent.  We freely choose not to be free, we choose to be destroyed and recreated in love by a God who is love, wild, undomesticated love.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” -C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe