November 21, 2007

On the angry gods: Part 1

I started writing a post yesterday but just haven't been feeling it. Then tonight I went to hear Rob Bell speak as part of his tour, The gods Aren't Angry. I made the last-minute decision to go earlier this week after reading a couple of interviews and reviews of Rob Bell. I've seen a few of his Nooma videos and I'm always amazed at his ability to explain things in such simple and profound ways. I could have listened to him speak for another five hours tonight, but then my brain would have overloaded and I'd have passed out and missed Thanksgiving.

If you are able to attend of one his 'lectures,' I'd highly recommend it. Go buy tickets. Now. But since many of you (all four of you who read this blog) probably won't be in any of the cities left on the tour, and because I like to explain and regurgitate things I've heard or read, I'm going to give you the gist of what he said. And I'll probably add some of my own thoughts. I'll probably break it up into two or three sections because I highly doubt many people would have the patience to read a blog post that is the approximate size of the Constitution of the United States.

So sit back, relax, grab a drink, put on some good music...and let's go over what I just heard tonight. It's good stuff:

Rob (I'm going to drop the last name for the sake of saving four keystrokes) began by telling the story of how man-made religions were born: Thousands of years ago, people began noticing how all things were connected. The plant grew based on the sun and rain and since the people depended on this plant for survival, they began to give importance to sun and rain. Then they noticed how almost everything in their life is connected to some force or pattern. So they began giving these 'forces' names and identities. These identities had human characteristics--anger, selfishness, pettiness.

So man and woman tried to appease these moody gods and goddesses. If the crop was good, they'd give them part of the harvest to thank them. If the crop was even better the next year, they'd give them even more of the harvest. But if the harvest was bad, they'd have to give even more to make the gods happy. It was all about giving and giving and giving some more. You never knew if you were doing the right thing or making the right sacrifice because these gods were distant and never made contact with humans. So you just kept making sacrifices and giving to these distant gods, hoping you were doing the right thing.

An important note: The Bible never took place outside of history. The stories of the Old Testament were present and happening during all of this.

Then comes Abraham. Suddenly, one of the gods--the true God--steps down and talks directly to a human. God tells Abraham to leave his father's house--the house where good ol' Abe had learned about the other gods and goddesses--and follow Him. So Abraham does. Then things get really interesting. Keep in mind that Abraham is living during a time where people sacrifice anything and everything, including their first-born child, to appease the distant gods.

God has promised Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. When he finally has a son, God does the unfathomable and asks Abraham to sacrifice his son. Any reasonable, 21st century parent would have said no or fought God or attempted to refuse Him. But Abraham didn't. Why? Because this was not an unreasonable request in that day and age. All the false gods of the time, the gods Abraham's father taught him about, asked for the same sort of sacrifice. If not specifically for their child, then for constant sacrifices of other kinds. But as Abraham is raising the knife to sacrifice Isaac, God stops him. He says you don't have to sacrifice your child for me.

Further proof that this 'new' God is not like the other gods. Our God talks to us. Our God longs to have communion and a relationship with us. Our God is not angry.

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