Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jeremiah 33-35

The Facts (Chapter number: Verse)

33:11 - "[Once more shall be heard] the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord."

34:9-11 - "[The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord] that all should set free their Hebrew slaves, male and female, so that no one shall hold another Judean in slavery. And they obeyed, all the officials and all the people who had entered into the covenant that all would set free them slaves, male or female, so that they would not be enslaved again; they obeyed and set them free. But afterward they turned around and took back the male and female slaves they had set free, and brought them back again into subjection as slaves."
34:16 - "but then you turned around and profaned my name when each of you took back your male and female slaves, whom you had set free according to their desire, and you brought them again into subjection to be your slaves."

35:8 - "We have obeyed the charge or our ancestor Jonadab son of Rechab in all that he commanded us, to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters."

My Comments

God's not against slavery, only against you enslaving his own people and, even then, only when the mood strikes. Never forget the many rules and laws set forth in Deuteronomy concerning owning members of your own tribe. So while God may change his mind on whether or not it's okay to enslave his chosen people, he has never changed his mind about owning slaves in general. It's still totally okay to enslave conquered people and beat them and use them until the day they die.

Now that that's out of the way, I want to address a verse I came across in my reading yesterday.

Jeremiah 32:39 - "I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for all time, for their own good and the good of their children after them."

The idea of God fearing is not uncommon. Many people who describe themselves as religious would use the terms "god-fearing" to describe themselves. And it is this notion of fear that is so often spoken about in the Bible and in many churches that has never sat right with me. Why fear? Why is fear considered a positive feeling to have towards one's god?

Fear, to me, is an emotion I attach to something that I would not, in any way, love or expect to love me in return. Fear is not something that I attach to other feelings like respect or worship. Fear is not a good state for humans (or any animal for that matter) to be in. It cripples us, leaves us unable to think, unable to make decisions, makes us timid and passive. Fear is not a good way to raise children, especially if the fear is created through abuse and threats. There is nothing good about fear, and yet here it is, spoken as if this is something we should strive for in our relationship with god.

If you talk to Christians, often times they will conflate fear with respect, basically giving the impression that they are either one in the same or you cannot have one without the other. Respect brings fear and fear brings respect. But I call bullshit on this notion. I'll try to use dogs as an example of what I'm talking about when I say fear and respect are two different things.

If you've ever worked with, interacted with, or even just seen a show about violent and aggressive dogs, there's something to be learned there about fear and respect. Dogs know when an animal is scared or passive which means that the dog has control over it. This is the basic idea on why running is not the best option when an aggressive dog comes at you. To interact with an aggressive dog you cannot fear it, much like if you want a dog to interact and trust you it cannot be afraid of you. Trainers that deal with aggressive dogs know that treating these dogs with respect, not fear, is the best way to train them. You acknowledge the dog's power and you respect that power, but you do not fear it. In the same way, when you are working with a dog you do not want the dog to fear you but to trust and respect you as the leader in the group. You cannot have a dog that both fears and respects you just like you cannot interact with an aggressive dog with both fear and respect. Fear makes you weak and controllable. Respect leaves you a confident individual even while you recognize the potential power someone or thing may have over you.

Fear keeps you from acting and leaves you open to be controlled and affected by the things around you and implies that the object that has power over you is not afraid to use that power to punish you. Respect, on the other hand, provides a mutual trust between parties, where a power difference may be present but both individuals are in a much safer position to act and question. I think that's the main part here, the ability to be able to act of your own will. If you live in fear, any action you do is followed by questions and guilt. Was it okay that I ate that piece of cake? Shoot, they're gonna be so angry when they realize I drank one of their sodas. Oh man, I can't believe I kissed that boy the other day. Was that okay? Should I have waited? What will happen to me if I'm found out? Is it okay if I read this Richard Dawkins book? I'll probably have to hide it under my bed so no one sees it. Fear makes people not think for themselves. Fear of punishment for their actions can leave people constantly questions what they are doing or have done in the past. How is that productive? Why would you want your chosen people/children to live in a constant state of fear of you and what you might do to them? I man hell, God's chosen people have plenty of reason to be shit-their-pants-terrified of God and he knows that is exactly what he did. This was calculated, much like when God hardened Pharaoh's heart in Egypt so that God could continue to rain down destruction and terror on the people so that all may know his wrath and fear him.

God wants nothing to do with your respect or love. All he wants is you fear, because fear is a sure fire way to keep complete control over other people and make sure they do not question his authority.

So why, again, do Christian's cherish fear so much? Many constantly spout that God is love, and yet many in the same turn will say that God is to be feared. God himself doesn't even describe himself as love. He plainly states that he wants all of his followers to fear him lest he have to punish them again and their children after them. God is completely on board with the abuse parent act, happy to dole out punishment completely disproportional to the alleged crime. How is that good? How is that love? How is that even considered a positive?

And no, I don't want to hear any, "But that's the God of the past. The God of the new testament is all about love and patience! Don't you know about Jesus?!" I say that the God's are no different. Both old and new are the same asshole, he's just using a different approach to fear and punishment. Old testament God would strike you down with the plague and let you be slaughtered by you enemies simply because you did not worship/love and fear him. New testament God will send you to hell for ETERNITY simply because you did not worship/love and fear him. Is there any difference there? Other than the punishment has actually gotten WORSE? An eternal punishment for a finite crime?

I cannot love that which I fear and I could never love or respect something that DEMANDS my fear.

Those are just a few, slightly scattered thoughts on the whole idea of "god-fearing." Again, I hope they made sense. This is something I have thought about before but have always had a bit of trouble really putting into words. Any other ideas on this? Ideas on fear v. respect or love? Or ideas on fear in parenting? Or just ideas on how the church uses the concept of fear and how that influences or can influence its followers?

And I only slightly apologize for the maybe poorly done dog analogy. I blame it on the fact that I've been watching too much Dog Town. Aggressive or dominant dogs are just really interesting to me and I've worked to learn how to deal with them and always want to kind of teach others how to handle them, lol. Proper dog handling is important to learn and teach because, really, dogs respond to you so how you approach one is very important. It really bugs me when children (and adults, for that matter) aren't properly taught how to interact with dogs and other animals. It's just a big pet peeve of mine. Can you tell I'm a huge dog person? :P

Friday: More Jeremiah

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