We do our very best to make ourselves feel important. This starts at an early age, when we are too small to amount to much, but able to identify with those who do. “My mom is better than your mom” is a way of proclaiming to the world and ourselves that we have value because of who we hang around with, who made us, and who protects us.
In this kind of “My dad is bigger than your dad” category of speech, however, there is one name that trumps all others: God — the big “G” or “A” or “J” or “Y” or whatever name or acronym or letter you care to substitute.
I am not about to bash religion here. Nor will I praise it, but simply comment on how some people abuse it.
Those folks tend to use the name of God the same way that others do when they refer to the luxury car they drive or a super-model girlfriend. Their perhaps subconscious intention is to stake a claim to a lofty status in the world. God is reduced to some sort of personal mentor or best buddy in high places — very high places. This is especially true when they believe that God has a particular, personally charted plan that, for example, explains why the apartment they’d been hoping to get was available just when they needed it.
Really? God is a real estate broker? God cares whether you have an eastern view out your window so you can see the sun come up? God wants you to have a dishwasher in the kitchen at no extra charge? This isn’t religion, but simple arrogance and conceit; sometimes also a self-defense against the fear of being just another lowly and vulnerable human being.
Some people, usually televangelists, report secret messages God has communicated only to them. Such bulletins echo their own previously stated beliefs. They often come in the form of statements like, “God brought the hurricane down on that town because there was too much sin in that place” or some similar pronouncement. Apparently, the fact that people who weren’t sinful also died in the hurricane is not troubling, either to the messenger of God or to the Almighty himself. But to be God’s emissary — to be the only one of the seven billion people on earth who God chose to offer this bit of wisdom — wow! “See, I’m pretty special, God talks to me about stuff he doesn’t say to any of you.” In other words, “My dad is really, really bigger than your dad!”
Isn’t it curious that these latter-day, self-proclaimed prophets never report the following? “God came to me in a dream last night. He said unto me, ‘Reverend, you are an ass. Why do you think I would want to use you — you — as my mouthpiece. You’re a schlemiel for goodness sake! Keep your mouth shut for once and stop telling people you’ve got a personal pipeline to me. You have no idea what you are talking about!'”
What I’m getting at here is a bit like what is observed as sports fans raise index fingers and shout “We’re #1” when their team wins. We? They may be working dead-end jobs and coming home to ungrateful families, but there is solace, consolation, and uplift in being a part of an athletic powerhouse; in getting some trickle-down benefit from victories that are experienced vicariously. Value is conferred on a single individual when he associates himself with something bigger and better.
Still, few sports fans make the to-do over their favorite team that is done by those who claim a special God-given status and believe themselves to be on the “A-List” of his best followers. God’s extraordinary attention to them is better than an invitation to a State Dinner at the White House. These folks say that God is #1 in their lives, but it is actually the other way around. For them, their special standing with “the Big Guy” is what is important. You don’t have to be creative, talented, or charismatic because God is your buddy. Mary Jo, down the street, may not have time for you — she just dumped you, after all — but God still thinks you are the real deal. Holy Cow! Who needs Mary Jo or Kim Kardashian anyway, when you can have God as a trophy friend?
Might the bible or some other ancient religious document have anything to say about this? Indeed, Micah 6:8 suggests that maybe we aren’t supposed to glory in any kind of special status with the alleged Creator of the Universe:
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Humbly. Enough said.
The above image is a portion of Michelangelo’s 1509 fresco The Creation of Adam, from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. God touches Adam’s finger to give him life. It was photographed by PDArt and sourced from Wikimedia Commons.