I’m not very in-tuned with pop culture somewhat made possible because I rarely ever watch TV and I avoid commercial radio. That is one reason I so rarely comment in the blog on pop culture or even the news for that matter. I was listening in my car to the local public radio station, WYSO, and head the following song, the lyrics of which intrigued me. I am not offering the song as an example of current culture nor as the best of what is out there. In my blogs I write about what I read and hear and think about. Obviously along the way I encounter ideas with which I disagree or which represent a perspective quite different than my own. But they sometimes capture my attention.
The lyrics below from Randy Newman’s “God Song” interested me because they struck me as being a caricature how crazy some claims of believers sound to the non-believer. The song has God amused, amazed, dismayed and distraught at what believers are willing to believe. Is this the God we teach?
Cain slew Abel Seth knew not why
For if the children of Israel were to multiply
Why must any of the children die?
So he asked the Lord
And the Lord said:
“Man means nothing he means less to me
than the lowliest cactus flower
or the humblest yucca tree
he chases round this desert
cause he thinks that’s where i’ll be
that’s why i love mankind
I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
from the squalor and the filth and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
That’s why i love mankind”
The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV
They picked their four greatest priests
And they began to speak
They said “Lord the plague is on the world
Lord no man is free
The temples that we built to you
Have tumbled into the sea
Lord, if you won’t take care of us
Won’t you please please let us be?”
And the Lord said
And the Lord said
“I burn down your cities–how blind you must be
I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
You must all be crazy to put your faith in me
That’s why i love mankind
You really need me
That’s why i love mankind”
It may be that humanity is so pathetic and hopeless that it needs a god who abuses it. But then we often use god to justify the evils we inflict on one another. Many have killed and murdered in the name of god or convinced others to do so.
We turn god into an excuse for our evils. We make god into an enslaved maid who must clean up our endless messes. Our efforts to be systematic and logical about the divine mystery results in our justifying every pain and sorrow in the world and blaming this god for evil all in the name of logic. To satisfy our own ideas, we create the god who cynically and tyrannically inflicts misery and in turn we theologically justify our own evilness. Some how we make sense out of the world by creating wrathful and vicious demon who condemns all to hell on earth and then hereafter to an eternity of suffering.
For some reason the God who is love does not win our hearts and loyalty nor our desire to imitate Him.
We should however remember the Prophet Moses, that most humble friend of God (Exodus 33:11), always caught between the people who rejected his leadership and the God who demands that he leads. Yet, Moses stood before the Lord, between God’s wrath and the people deserving punishment. Moses says to God who is angry because of Israel’s sins and threatening destruction for all of Israel:
“But now, if You will forgive their sin—and if not, blot me, I pray You, out of thy book which You have written.” (Exodus 32:32)
Never was Moses more like God than when he stood offering His life in exchange for the rebellious people. Moses never wanted to be the leader of these people, but he fulfilled the role of leader in perfect love. Moses wanted no salvation apart from the people who rejected him and rejected God! As God fully reveals Himself in the New Testament, so Moses desires not the death of sinners, but life. He lives not to judge and condemn sinners but to save them from destruction.
Moses faced this God whom he could not fully understand and demanded that God stay faithful to His love.
We see again in Christ the God who gives His life in love for the world.
There are so many things about God which are puzzling and mystery and we are called to be Moses and Christ and stand in love for God and our fellow humans to unite all. This too is crazy, but it is far removed from the religion Randy Newman presents in “God’s Song.”
The craziness which Newman criticizes really is related to the supposed wisdom of those men who confronted Job in his suffering. These men claimed a wisdom which always justifies God no matter what. God condemns their wisdom and says they have not spoken correctly about Him (Job 42:7). Our efforts to justify all that happens on God’s earth by distorting the will and nature of God to satisfy our logic are in the end rejected by God Himself.
To live according to God’s love is to take up the cross not the sword, to achieve greatness through humility and service, to love even one’s enemies, to lose one’s life in order to save it, to find riches through poverty.
In Matins (in the New Skete Prayerbook), we pray:
“Remember Lord: Your mercy is eternal.”
Moses reminded God of this truth, whether or not He needed that reminder. We too can be like Moses in attitude and prayer. In doing so we will truly be like Christ, who is God.