A god not worthy to be praised
May 30th, 2012
Throughout the Jewish Scriptures and into the Christian testament there is a theme: worship of G-d is conditional. Their god was not worshiped simply because he was powerful and demanded it, but because he deserved to be worshiped.
In the Exodus story (the Hebrew people flee slavery conditions in Egypt by a miraculous parting of the Red Sea which closes on the Pharoah’s army and drowns their pursuers), Moses praises God for delivering them:
I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
In the 145th Psalm, attributed to David, it is God’s wonders and goodness that cause adoration
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
And closing out the black leather bound book, in the apocryphal Revelation, it is the act of creation that merits praise
Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.
While one might question whether the creation of all things is truly deserving of applause (one of the many problems which I have with apocrypha, especially the vision of John of Patmos), still there is present the notion that God is deserving of praise due to His actions or choices or attributes.
But I’m guessing the notion of God deserving praise totally bypassed Curtis Knapp, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca, Kansas. Knapp is more of a “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” kinda guy. And Knapp’s god said that gay people should be executed:
Knapp went on to read from Leviticus 20: “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death.”
“They should be put to death,” Knapp declared. “‘Oh, so you’re saying we should go out and start killing them, no?’ — I’m saying the government should. They won’t, but they should.”
“You say, ‘Oh, I can’t believe you, you’re horrible. You’re a backwards neanderthal of a person.’ Is that what you’re calling scripture? Is God a neanderthal, backwards in his morality? Is it His word or not? If it’s His word, he commanded it. It’s His idea, not mine. And I’m not ashamed of it.”
“He said put them to death,” he continued. “Shall the church drag them in? No, I’m not say that. The church has not been given the power of the sort; the government has. But the government ought to [kill them]. You got a better idea? A better idea than God?”
Well, yes. Now that you ask, I do indeed have a better idea than the one proposed by Knapp’s god. Instead of executing people because they are attracted to the same sex, why don’t we become mature enough to question whether God is great, worthy to be praised, holy, or any other trite phrase that Knapp could babble?
Ultimately it comes down to this:
* Either our understanding of sexuality, morality, decency, a functional society, and the way to treat people is severely flawed,
* or Knapp’s theology is severely flawed,
* or that there is a horrific monster named God who delights in torment and is most definitely not worthy of praise.
Regardless of one’s particular beliefs about homosexuality, I think most readers here would agree that Knapp’s theology is not one that reflects the will of God. Some see the Levitical prohibitions as needing consideration of context and culture and do not read Scripture as literal. Others might find that grace abounds and that Christ’s declaration that all Law is subject to the command to treat one’s neighbor the way one wants to be treated would reverse any command to execute gay people. And, of course, others will see Knapp’s theology flawed because it includes the presumption that deities exist.
But there are many many people out there who, as Paul put it, “think like a child” when it comes to Scripture. And if it’s written right there in 21st Century English, then it must be the divine word of God. “Is it His word or not?”
Oddly enough, people like Knapp are not really the problem. They are a small minority and if responded to intelligently, they have little influence. The problem is Christians who do not respond to Knapp and leave his words the only words in the vacuum.
Surely the vast majority of American Christians do not think that the government should execute gays. But if they don’t say so – outside their pulpit and where people can hear them – then this becomes the defacto position of the faith.
All the nice neighborliness in the world, all of the loaning of lawn mowers, all of the “you’re such a nice couple” will not rebut what Knapp says. Unless Christians tell us that they absolutely do NOT agree with Knapp (and loan the lawn mower, of course), then we have no reason to believe otherwise. Yes, actions speak louder than words; but the words have to be said as well.
And when some very lovely Presbyterian invites the lesbian couple next door to join them for Christmas Eve service, they really have no one else to blame if the response is, “Bya-ha-ha-ha! You’ve got to be kidding! No way do I want anything to do with a religion that wants to execute me!”