When I was growing up God was like a cruel Santa Claus who not only kept track of whether we were naughty or nice, but he replaced the chunk of coal in the stocking with eternal damnation for such terrible crimes as missing mass on a Sunday or eating a cheese burger on a Friday. For lesser crimes we would be tortured with scorching fire till our debt was paid; a process known as purgation. I no longer believe in such a sadistic divinity.
I don't believe in the God who destroyed just about every living creature with a flood and then decided to let us regenerate with the same flaws as our predecessors.
I don't believe in the God who dictates laws condemning adulterers, homosexuals, fortune tellers and unruly teenagers to death (Lv. 20). I don't believe in the tribal God of the early Israelites who ordered them to kill all of the captive Midianites (men, women and children) except the virgins (Nm.31:13-18). I don't believe in the control freak who forbade Moses entrance into the Promised Land for striking the water-giving rock twice instead of once (Nm.20:7-13). I don't believe in a God who wills the death of innocent people in a "just" or "holy" war (crusade or jihad).
I don't believe in a God who claims that the only way to salvation is to accept Jesus as a personal lord and savior if it means that Jews, Muslims, Hindus and any other non-Christian person is excluded. I don't believe in the God imbedded in our psyches as a white male and used to justify the suppression of women and minorities throughout history.
The male metaphor is only valid if balanced with the female imagery because both genders are made into the image and likeness of the creator (Gn. 1:27). The ethnic metaphor undermines our common humanity when universalized. Finally, I do not believe in a God who required his pound of flesh by demanding his son die in order to save us sinful creatures. The theology of substitutionary atonement is only one of several interpretations for Jesus' life and death.
The fact of the matter is I do not believe in the God reflected in most of our preaching and piety because the images portrayed are usually a projection of our own fears and concerns. In effect, we have created an idol of ourselves.
The God I believe in is beyond our comprehension and cannot be expressed with our limited language. Our words, rituals and art can only offer glimpses into the divine mystery.
I do believe in a Trinitarian God who reminds us that all of creation is relational and connected thus exposing the fallacy of dualistic thinking which divides us from one another and justifies the exploitation of our natural resources.
I do believe in a God who is the life force within all of creation and desires the fullness of life for all of us. Therefore I firmly believe that when we are diminished or marginalized in any manner, God enters into our pain with compassion desiring justice and liberation. The Biblical texts offer multiple examples. "I have seen the misery of my peopleI have come to deliver them" (Ex. 3:7).
I do believe in God who is more concerned with social justice than public worship, (Is.1:16-17, Amos 5:24). I do believe in a God who is less concerned about private piety than our response to those in need (Is.58:6-8, Mt, 25:31-46).
I do believe in a God who identifies with those who suffer from economic and political exploitation. "Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker" (Prov.14:31).
I believe that God's vision for us was manifested through the life of Jesus. I believe that the Spirit of God empowers us to participate in the ongoing transformation of this world. I believe the cross is the cost of discipleship and the resurrection expresses God's ultimate "yes" to our humanity.
Finally, I do believe that God's final judgment is "I love you" whether we accept it or not.
Peter J. Carli
Spread Eagle, Wis.