Saturday, October 26, 2013

Abusive God?

Trigger warnings for abusive behaviour.

I had a crazy thought last night. I was processing my post about my mother's God. One of the things I came to realize is that God is kind of a jerk. Which made me think about his wife. Mormon doctrine kind of slithers away from Heavenly Mother, although she exists. Pretty much the only thing I was told about her is that God loves her so much, he protects her, because people will use her name in vain and stuff.
   That got me thinking. And I know this post will tick some people off, but I think it's an interesting study. I wonder if Heavenly Mother is in an abusive relationship. Is God an abuser? I've found a few sites that list the signs of an abusive relationship that I'd like to discuss.  My sources are helpguide and labmf, 2 sites dedicated to helping people understand tough situations, including abuse.
   This is just a thought exercise. Most of my points are made using logic, scriptures, and cultural constructs.

Signs of Abuse

Extreme Jealousy
   Let's take God's own word on this. Exodus 20:5 "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me."
   It seems that extreme jealousy would cover being angry and giving retribution for FOUR generations after the sinner. And the sin is hating God, and bowing down before idols. My Mormon background said that "other idols" was anything that you put above God: money, time, job, your boat, addictions. So this is a being that, for the sin of thinking anything is more important than him, will curse up to 4 generations of your children.  Yup. Definitely extreme.
Controlling Behaviour
   LAMF says this: One partner completely rules the relationship and makes the decisions. This includes “checking up” on the victim, timing a victim when they leave the house, checking the odometer on the car, questioning the victim about where they go. They may also check the victim’s cell phone for call history, their email or website history. The abuser may control the finances and tries to tell the victim how to dress, who to talk to, and where to go.
One word: Omniscience. If God is all-knowing as I was taught, he wouldn't have to check up on her, because he already knows.

Quick Involvement
This one is tricky. Quick involvement means "love at first sight" or "You're the only one I could ever talk to." So perhaps no on this one. I would be interested to hear the God and Mrs. God's first date story, though!

Unrealistic Expectations
I'm imagining how the Church views women. Prophets and Apostles (who claim to be God's mouthpiece) have said on numerous occasions that women are nurturing, soft, caring, and moral. It is generally understood that for Mormon women, being a housewife is the ideal. Clearly, not all women will get married. Yet they are still expected to "prepare" for marriage and domestic duties. There is plenty of research on the amount of stress all the expectations of Mormon women cause.
   An often quoted scripture is "Be ye therefore perfect, even as I am perfect." Extrapolating that to the Heavenly Marriage, it would seem that God, also, expects perfection from His wife. This part gets a little sticky, because the fact that she's in the Celestial Kingdom makes her perfect. So I'm not sure where I stand on this point.
   Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

This was where I first jumped on the thought train that started this post. We know next to nothing about Her, except that She's there. In fact, it is actively discouraged, often, to go searching for our Heavenly Mother. Because "God loves Her" and "wants to protect Her".  But we aren't taught to pray to Her, we don't ask for blessings in Her name...we don't even know Her name, actually. If not knowing the name of the mother of our spirits isn't isolation, then I don't know what is.

Blames Others for Their Problems or Feelings
There are numerous instances in the Old Testament when God gets mad at people. (People HE created, knowing past, present, and future) Adam and Eve ate the fruit, and the punishment was death and pain. People during Noah's time were wicked, and God killed most of them off. The Israelites were idolatrous, and God caused them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.  Job 42:7 "And it was so, that after the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite "My wrath is kindled against thee, and against they two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath."
   The trend I'm seeing in all of this is God-who is our "loving father"-doesn't act very loving. I'm reading an interesting parenting book right now (thanks, Angela), called Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids. The main premise of the book is: in order to deal effectively with your children, you need to be in control of your emotions. According to this book, punishment isn't effective, because it only teaches that pain (any kind) is the only deterrent to bad behaviour.  And in the example above, God is blaming his anger on Eliphaz & Co.  God never accepts responsibility for his behaviour. Yes, sometimes he apologises (rainbow for Noah), but he never says "I was mad because it hurt my feelings when you humans did XYZ." It's always "You sinned and I will bestow my anger upon you."

Jonah and the whale. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah ran away, instead of doing what God wanted. Instead of saying "Oh, you're a person with free will. I'll find someone else.", Jonah gets swallowed by a whale, until he was ready to do God's bidding.
There are a lot of instances in the Bible where someone does something God doesn't like, and God punishes him in some way. Sodom and Gomorrah. For the "sin" of being gay, God takes out a few cities, and countless people.
There are lots of examples. In fact, here is a fun page about all of the people God has "helped" into the afterlife for various sins.

Cruelty to Animals or Children
See the above list. The story that comes to mind first is the story in 2 Kings. A group of kids (or teenagers, depending on the interpretation) made fun of the prophet Elisha for being bald. Their punishment? God sent 2 she-bears to eat them.
Noah's flood. All the people (children included), but Noah and his family, and all the animals, except 2 of every kind were destroyed. God killed animals because the people were wicked. That seems pretty cruel.

"Playful" Use of Force in Sex
I'm not even going to speculate here. Too many triggers.

Verbal Abuse
Helpguide asks these questions: Does your partner humiliate or yell at you? Criticize you or put you down? Ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments? The abuser tells their victims they are stupid, or useless with out them.
   I was taught that I was nothing without God. Every good thing comes from Him, and every bad thing is either a consequence of something "bad" I did (for which I should repent), or as a "test" of my faith.  I have often felt humiliated because of my sins.
   While this is not flat-out verbal abuse, there was the understanding that people are nothing. Here is a talk from 2011 General Conference about that. Interestingly enough, the talk is called "You Matter to Him". The word "nothing" is used 6 times. Or this scripture from the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 4:11
    11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have atasted of his love, and have received abremission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own cnothingness, and his dgoodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of ehumilityfcalling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing gsteadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

Rigid Sex Roles
The Family: A Proclamation to the World. This is the way the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints views the family. View the whole thing here. While General Authorities hem and haw if this is actually canonized doctrine, it is the basis of a lot of Church declarations.

Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde
The difference between the smiting God of the Old Testament, and the hippie God of the New. That's all I feel I need to say.

Past Battering
I'm not sure how well this applies, or how I can say one way or another.

Threats of Violence
Mark 16:16. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."       The Bible says many times that unbelief will be punished. It's also full of a lot of examples of punishments. These are often used as cautionary tales when taught today.
Revelations 21:8 "But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
   Basically do  what God says-when he says it-or get burnt.

Breaking or Striking Objects
Genesis 11 tells us the story of the Tower of Babel. The people had one language, and wanted to build a tower to get to heaven. God felt that their tower would turn them away from Him, instead of drawing people to Him. So He divided the languages, and scattered the people. Some traditions say this is when God divided the continents.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.
   So God is clearly not above breaking cities, or dividing land masses in a temper. There are also numerous references to Him striking people dead, dumb, and blind.

   What we can see is that God says He loves people, His children. Yet he is OK with killing them, maiming them, making sure they know they are nothing, humiliating, expecting perfection, blaming them for His emotions, isolating His wife from everyone, and punishing those who dare to put something above Him. He insists (via Mormon prophets and other Fundamentalists sects) on rigid gender roles. He threatens His followers with damnation and death for disobeying.  He admits to being petty, jealous, and wanting revenge.
   I've learned a lot about abusive relationships in my life. From an abusive family, to an abusive partner. Now we are learning signs of abuse in foster kids. And I have to say, if there was a man on earth who treated his family and others around him like God treats those He claims to "love", I guarantee Child Protective Services would be at his door, and his wife and kids would be taken into protective custody.
   Am I saying God is an abuser? Well, I'm not exactly sure. If Christian theology is to be believed, God is all-powerful and all-knowing. He has no one to answer to, and he has ultimate authority. We've all heard the phrase "absolute power corrupts absolutely". We've also all heard examples of God's wrath incurred upon those who displease him, in a seeming myriad of ways.
   What that adds up to is a being with absolute power that answers to no one.  Which is, frankly, a being I want to avoid.


  1. This reminds me of this Facebook meme I saw once
    Also, glad to see you've found the book I recommended at least somewhat helpful. I'd be interested to know what you think after you get through. I think I'm going to start re-reading it myself. My oldest and I have been butting heads constantly lately and I could probably do with some reminders.

    1. Great picture! And yes, the book was very helpful. Though sometimes I find myself thinking "How much good can I do in 3 months?"

  2. I think that some traditions teach an abusive God and some don't. When I read how others interpret the books of the Abrahamic God it makes me sad, because it's like reading a gossip column; the person portrayed in that column, no matter how factual, is not the same as the person one knows and cares for.

    1. Lol. Gossip column. Great way to look at it. :D

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Exactly. And they keep repeating "GOD IS LOVE", like that counters any other objection!

  4. I grew up not-Mormon Christian and I am starting to get this same vibe.

    What bothers me is that it seems like its the people who teach a non-abusive God who have to spend the most time explaining why 'ít didn't really mean that' and 'it isn't really like that' etc.

    Do we have a reason to understand God in any other way- if we stick with the- um- Old Testament?

  5. "The God of tanakh is often referred to as El, recalling the chief God of Canaanite religion. Furthermore, the term Elohim, which is now thought of as merely another name of God, was in Canaanite religion a term for the whole court of El....

    Asherah is interesting because of her status in Canaanite religion. She is the "consort" of El, and the mother of his 70 sons.

    Scholars believe that Asherah was worshipped by many in ancient Israel and Judah, referred to by Jeremiah as "the Queen of Heaven.""