Grief for a View of the God-Character

Grief for a View of the God-Character

I remember the primal anguish that is born out of the belief that God is the source of both love and pain.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve observed that the feeling toward the universe it engendered is very similar to that of a hostage, a victim of abuse, a prisoner. Instead of creating a subjectivity of love in freedom, of caritas and kindness, and peace, it seemed to create an obsessive and paradoxical longing and fear that felt so meaningful that it was difficult to release.

The first stage of exit was pure rage, in my case perhaps only because of some hard-wired sense of self-preservation. If I hadn’t become angry enough, I never would have left. Yes, I also wouldn’t have spent years in college, or racked up student loans, or seen my career path veer off into something I never expected, but I also wouldn’t have had anywhere to stand, wouldn’t have slowly reconstructed a space in which I could live.

I’ve been thinking about the pathological aspects of religion for many years now. Talking with others who left the Jehovah’s Witnesses has been very healing, and I’m so very happy that such discussions have been made available. I was alone, it seemed, at first. As much as our conversations mutually heal, there are still times when the raw feelings burst through. Yes, even now when it seems that early experience shouldn’t matter anymore, I look around at our cultural landscape and see all the similarities to the dynamics that I felt way back then. The stated arguments, then the cruelties beneath them. It’s part of the reason that I follow politics so closely.

When you’ve lived in a space where justice is proclaimed, but unkindness rules, you feel things. I’ve always been too sensitive to that difference, to the unfairness, and it’s only expanded into more understanding of structural, institutionalized unfairness. For that reason, I was never able to reach that enlightenment space that some highly-evolved religious people sometimes reach, where you’re in tune with the love of the cosmos and shine out in peace and love because of that.

I am amazed at people who first question God because of logical arguments – it’s why I was first interested in philosophy and theology. I never expected answers, I was just fascinated that anyone could ever manage to think clearly about an embedded belief system. For me, the questions just keep getting better and better.

But first, I had to step away from the thing that felt so inherent to my soul. It helped and hurt that I was a woman, and one gifted with both imagination and intelligence. I was rewriting stories all the time.

Throwback moments are still powerful because I still recognize them. If they ring true, they can almost call me back. Some versions of religion look nice, but they don’t address this hard-core total involvement of the person. The pathological edges of religion do – and this, I think is both their advantage and their biggest threat. They encourage power distortions – masochism and sadism, entwined, enthrallment and rebellion, entwined. Fanaticism has incredible payoffs. I understand.

When I saw the song below performed, I didn’t know the words. I didn’t have to know them, although they do fit (a bit strangely so).

What I saw was a priestess exorcising her demon. It was so powerful that I was shaken for the rest of the night.

Every time I hear it, like I accidentally did over my morning coffee, I feel it punch the solar plexus of my soul. I cry every time, and I always remember, I remember how it felt.

This was how I felt about God.

Although I haven’t been in that particular space for many years, it still has a power, and as much as I remind myself of the path of forgiveness and kindness and peace, as much as I am more lovingly attuned now, I still lack the total transformation that would make this song just a song like any other.

Music is a personal thing. Everyone projects onto music to some extent. This is not meant to be a song about God, but it resonates there for me.

For you. In remembrance, in grief. To sing, to exorcise your demons, and perhaps to be able to voice some aspect of the experience that conversation can’t really ever address. But, lovelies, sing something sweet afterward… If you can grok it, this one takes strength to hear.

Alanis Morissette, “Sympathetic Character”

I was afraid you’d hit me if I’d spoken up
I was afraid of your physical strength
I was afraid you’d hit below the belt
I was afraid of your sucker punch
I was afraid of your reducing me
I was afraid of your alcohol breath
I was afraid of your complete disregard for me
I was afraid of your temper
I was afraid of handles being flown off of
I was afraid of holes being punched into walls
I was afraid of your testosterone

I have as much rage as you have
I have as much pain as you do
I’ve lived as much hell as you have
and I’ve kept mine bubbling under for you

You were my best friend
You were my lover
You were my mentor
You were my brother
You were my partner
You were my teacher
You were my very own sympathetic character

I was afraid of verbal daggers
I was afraid of the calm before the storm
I was afraid for my own bones
I was afraid of your seduction
I was afraid of your coercion
I was afraid of your rejection
I was afraid of your intimidation
I was afraid of your punishment
I was afraid of your icy silences
I was afraid of your volume
I was afraid of your manipulation
I was afraid of your explosions
I have as much rage as you have
I have as much pain as you do
I’ve lived as much hell as you have
and I’ve kept mine bubbling under for you
(repeat 2 x)

You were my keeper
You were my anchor
You were my family
You were my saviour
and therein lay the issue
and therein lay the problem

One thought on “Grief for a View of the God-Character

  1. What can only be called spiritual abuse is a stain upon us all and I can sympathize with how you felt. Many years ago I left a church I had grown up in and experienced a very mild form of what you have expressed here. The result was that I started to look at my faith and theology in the bright light of honesty. I found that what I had accepted as truth was an ugly and highly distorted vision of something beautiful.

    People can do that but I wish they did not.

    Props to you for seeing through the fog of lies and damnable domination that had been made out of the message of peace, love and goodwill.

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