written by: joseph cotton
You do not believe in God. Yes, you. Even if you think you’ve been a good, God-fearing child of the most high. Even if you’ve gone to church every Sunday, you’re still probably wrong. Even if you claim to believe in God, what do your actions say?
I, like most of my peers, have grown up with a Judeo-Christian view of the world influenced by the stories and belief systems that have animated western culture for thousands of years.
So as far as I am concerned, the only concrete take away you can have from a book as densely packed as the Bible is that all humans are inherently divine and deserve unconditional dignity and respect.
Right from the opening, the Bible explicitly states that all men are created in the image and likeness of God. Even throughout the rest of the Bible, the idea of humanity sharing in the divine nature of God is a motif that cuts through its most iconic stories.
This idea of the divine individual might be the best idea that anyone has ever come up with. It is an idea that sits at the top of the Declaration of Independence in the phrase “All men are created equal,” and it’s the idea that has driven some of humanity’s greatest collective achievements.
Without that idea, mathematicians from America could never work with Japanese engineers to make the International Space Station a reality.
That said, I can see the deep irony in that the same people who used that phrase excluded from that promise those who didn’t share their skin color or gender. Nonetheless, the deep wisdom of that statement cannot be denied.
The “created equal” ideal has become so entrenched in our thinking, but for a majority of human history it would have been seen as a radical idea. Humans are inherently tribal creatures who like to create groups to separate themselves from others and to dehumanize outsiders. But as a nation, America has made a lot of progress to include more and more people in her fabric despite our tribal human nature.
That’s not to say that we don’t have a long road ahead of us. Recent events such as COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter protests show us as much. But it has always been my belief that we are slowly working our way toward the inclusion of every human person in spite of our most primitive instincts.
But my optimism has been undercut in recent years. I’ve found myself grappling with the thought that us citizens of the United States never fully understood our core founding principles. We seem to be abandoning the idea while simultaneously using its very source as a justification.
If you think your God tells you that any human person deserves anything other than the utmost respect and dignity, then they are no god at all. The idea that the God of Abraham would exclude people in any way is the height of hypocrisy.
Nonetheless, all denominations of Christianity are guilty of this type of thinking to some extent. Certain Protestants have been dismissive of immigrants and their dignity. Evangelicals hate everyone and everything that isn’t White. And finally, almost the entirety of Christianity, including and most notably the Catholics, has been and still is incredibly hostile to our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.
I am tired of Christendom using God as a justification to deny people their humanity. Stop perverting the message of God. Spitting on another person’s face is akin to spitting on God himself.
So don’t believe in the God of the clouds, for he is not there. Believe in the God that lives in the spirit of all people, because that actually exists.