16 years ago, I wrote this in my journal:
God convicts me of sin, He disciplines me, and He punishes me, but it’s because He desperately loves me. I thanked Him and praised Him and told Him how sorry I was for my cold heart and my sins. He touched me, but just for a moment. And when I felt His presence, I burst into tears. Remember that when you read this again. Remember.
— July 19th, 1999
Dear Former Self,
I know you don’t realize it, but what you’ve written here is very creepy. He disciplines you? He punishes you? But it’s all because he loves you? These sound like the words of a woman in an abusive relationship–a woman who says, “Yes, sometimes he hits me, but it’s only because he loves me so much. It’s my fault for making him angry.”
What’s really insane about all this is that God isn’t even there. You’re creating an imaginary abusive relationship for yourself. When you feel guilty, you think it’s God convicting you. When bad things happen, you think it’s god disciplining you. (News flash: Sometimes bad things happen for no reason.) But despite all this punishment, you keep praising God and apologizing to him. You’ve been beaten into submission by someone who isn’t even there!
You’ve written a lot about your close, deep, personal relationship with God, but it’s clearly not a healthy relationship. Just think about it. The Bible is supposed to be God’s message to humanity. Not just humanity, but to you personally. And what does he tell you in this message? He tells you that…
- You’re a bad person.
- You don’t deserve him.
- You’re nothing without him.
- You’ll never find anyone better than him.
- You brought your punishment on yourself.
- He punishes you because he loves you.
- If you ever leave him, he’ll torture you.
In what way could this relationship be considered healthy? I’ve heard Christians say it’s like the relationship between a father and his children–sometimes he has to punish them for their own good. But considering the severity of the punishment for rejecting God, I don’t think this is a good analogy. It’s more like if a father told his child, “If you ever run away, I will hunt you down, drag you home, lock you in the basement, douse you with gasoline, and set you on fire.”
Despite all of the Bible’s vivid descriptions of Hell as a lake of fire, some Christians say, “That’s just a metaphor. No one burns forever. Hell is just eternal separation from God.” Okay, let’s modify our analogy. Now it’s like if a father told his child, “If you ever run away, I will hunt you down, drag you home, lock you in the basement, turn out the lights, and leave you there forever.” That’s still pretty bad.
Some of the more liberal Christians will say, “There’s no such thing as Hell. Instead, God just winks your soul out of existence.” Okay, then the implication is that your soul is eternal unless God destroys it. So now it’s like if a father told his child, “If you ever run away, I will hunt you down, drag you home, and kill you.”
No matter how you look at it, God is threatening you with violence if you refuse to worship him. I’ve said this many times before, but that sounds more like an evil god than a loving god.
You might respond, “But I don’t want to ‘run away from home’ anyway.” Okay, but that’s not the point. The point is, your relationship with God is not a healthy relationship. Remember, there are women out there who refuse to leave their abusive boyfriends. There are even beaten down children who are quick to defend their abusive parents. That doesn’t make the relationship any less abusive.
For it to be a meaningful relationship, it has to be optional. You should be able to walk away without the fear of death or eternal damnation. A perfect god should know that, but for some reason he keeps using the carrot and the stick–love him and be rewarded, reject him and be punished. It seems like what god really wants is a bunch of sycophants.
A relationship predicated on the threat of violence is not a healthy relationship–it’s an abusive relationship. You should dump God and move on.
— Matt, July 19th, 2015
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.