Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jacob VS. "Ego" God

 All myths alike carry deep, underlying messages that relate to the complexities and challenges of  human life. Our predominant form of conservative Christian wishes to use Biblical stories as dry historical accounts that deny the intrinsic human element that is at the core of many of these stories. It saddens me that there is often a deluge of interpretations of Biblical text that merely skims the surface.  Stories like “the Garden of Eden” tale have been repackaged as an undeniable scientific account of “Creation.” Within these poor, untrustworthy revisions of Jewish myths, God merely conjures things into existence like Prosper in “The Tempest.” Except, Shakespeare used “The Tempest” to demonstrate the way stories or well-crafted language can imbue with us with an imaginative parallel existence. Of course, this stuff is not “literal or concrete.” It is the emotive experience that is vital to appreciating art of any kind including myths from antiquity that seem outdated or irrelevant.

    One of my favorite iconic images of the Bible is Jacob wrestling with God: There is simply no other Biblical image that continues to haunt my “uncertain” mind.  In the Old Testament and even in the New Testament, the Biblical figures are often overwhelmed with doubt. Our very human existence is filled with confusion as we strive to ascertain the elusive meaning of our lives. It is devastating to me that  some Christians have vilified doubt and have used Christianity as some sort of recourse from this very normal state of mind that should always be intimately a part of our psyche. Whenever Biblical figures have been too “certain,” they normally become too foolhardy.

    What is the exact meaning of the puzzling story of Abraham nearly killing his son Issac because he is fully convinced that the “voice in his head” is God? Personally, I think this particular scene within the Bible  is illustrative of the danger of doubtlessly following God’s commandments. Perhaps, it was not really God talking but Abraham’s “darker self.” Within many of Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories, the pathological main character insanely reassures the audience that he is sane yet the character shows every symptom of “psychosis” or a dangerous disassociate disorder in the book. He acquiesces to every single vile desire that floods through his mind and he always seems to weakly justified this cruel action. Why does Abraham nearly sacrifice his son “Issac?” Did he ignore his conscience and instead obeyed the evil side of him that is disguised as God?

       Some Christians believe within this punitive, tyrannical God  more-so than any loving form of God. When pastors repeat the doleful message that “ a high percentage of the world is hopeless and is bound to hell:” Are they not showing a lack of trust that God is actually merciful or even transcendent? All of a sudden, this sadistic God that is far too gleeful to see a high percentage of humans suffer eternally seems curiously to be “Satan in disguise.” In Madeleine L’Engle’s “Jacob’s Ladder, she describes this phenomenon as “ a form of Christianity that seems to believe Satan is exceedingly more powerful than God.” Why are these Christians obstinately enamored with this God as though he was the “only” God that can save us? The degree of fervor and ignorance that these followers of this devilish God shows is the crucial reason as to why there are so many loving people who feel out of place in church. Inquisitive, conscientious people are leaving the church because there is no honesty or even hope. In defense of some more progressive churches, they are earnestly trying to create a church that is both more intellectually humble and optimistic. They don’t believe within this obtuse, forensic God that seems to be plotting to do us in.

     Prior to Jacob’s encounter with God/Angel, Jacob feels restless because he knows that he’ll have to face Esau, the brother whom Jacob stole the blessing from. Jacob clearly senses that he feels a tumult of guilt about this thievery. Obviously, stealing Esau’s rightful blessing did not exactly pervade Jacob’s mind with any serenity. Instead, this imposition upon “the will of God” seems to have left Jacob feeling despondent. As a part of being properly blessed, Jacob decides to send some of his stock of cattle and other animals ahead to Esau as a sort of gift. With this initial step towards forgiveness, Jacob is lessening the power that his hubris had over him: This is quite contrary to Noah who stubbornly refuses to be forgiven and ends up destroying every ounce of his humanity.

    Conversely, Jacob decides to reacquire his sense of being and peace,. He acutely knows that he cannot contrive to know God by forcefully stealing another person’s blessing. In modern terms, this is not different from the way some Christians proselytize others by not sharing God’s words with the intention of helping that person know God. Often, that person steals that person’s opportunity to be blessed and force that person to become more like them.  This degraded person has to be inferior because they’re not us who seems to be favorable in our “Ego God’s” mind.

    Remarkably, Jacob’s encounter with the angel/God seems to be absent of any gloating. During the proceedings of the encounter, Jacob doesn’t have an audience that serves the purpose of inflating Jacob’s bloated ego. Instead, some “enigmatic” form of either God or an Angel wrestles Jacob throughout the entire night till the sun creeps upon the horizon. While this match occurs, the mysterious stranger hits Jacob’s hip socket and puts it out of joint. Symbolically, Jews within Israel at the time would refuse to eat meat from the thigh of an animal in contemplation of this iconic, mythic image. Jacob refuses to stop wrestling till he receives a blessing or is thoroughly enlightened. He needs to pin down his “egocentric” view of God into submission that that he can be properly blessed under the eyes of the ineffable God that loves both Esau and Jacob equally.

     Except, our struggle doesn’t ultimately end. We are always embattled with this “Ego” God of ours who works to eradicate any genuine sense of God within our minds. With contemporary Christianity’s focus on “belief,” some Christians are exempting themselves from the tough struggle that is involved with living the life of truly trying to understand the “unfathomable” God. Now, we just passively recite fancy sentences of belief in order to escape ourselves from this life-altering experience of wrestling over “God” with our limited cognitive abilities. It is no wonder that the clause to many of these types of Christian’s “belief” statements is a fatalistic statement that expresses a refusal to believe within any God except the one outlined by insipid Biblical "literalists." It miffs me that some Christians feel threatened by evolution, historical reality, or the true fact that the Bible stories are merely stories. So what?? How can our faith have any depth if it isn’t filled with troubling questions and trials of any sort. In church, we were coached about the trials God will place in our lives. Often,this was only used to falsely illuminate the fact that our challenge involves just dodging the valuable lessons contained in doubt. This form of “doubtless,” Christianity makes us into Noah who refuse to show any expression of remorse or guilt because we are so convinced that we’re divinely perfect. Perhaps, we should learn from Jacob and learn to wrestle with the darker part of ourselves in order to make new insights about this deeply complex world. If we claim that “God” is complex then why do we do such a poor job at having reverence for this “mystery?”  Why are we as “blind as Saul,” when approaching with the marvelous mystery that is “God?”

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