For lack of other ideas today, I present another letter to Billy Graham. I don’t know if people actually mail these things to him, or if he has a staff that assembles generic questions from whatever gets sent and then puts some initials on the result. In the end, I suppose it doesn’t much matter.
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I know the Bible says we’re supposed to fear God, but doesn’t it also say we’re supposed to love him? How can you love someone that you also fear? This confuses me because it sounds like a contradiction. — A.H.
It’s a contradiction borne out of the centuries between the stories of Genesis being told and Paul’s ideas about what Christianity ought to be. It’s a contradiction borne out of cultures needing a fearful, wrathful god capable of wreaking global havoc on anyone who displeased him, and the hippyish “Jesus loves me, this I know” culture that chose a different way to think about God’s overall purpose for the flock. But since all the books are still bound together and sold that way, owners of the bible can read all of it, with or without any knowledge of the ancient histories behind it beyond what the book itself includes.
Onto Graham’s unique “solution”:
DEAR A.H.: To fear God is to treat him with reverence and respect, acknowledging that he is far greater than we are, and he alone is worthy of our loyalty. It also means that we realize we are accountable to God and that some day we will stand before him to be judged for all we have done.
People will also state that we should treat nature and wildlife with reverence and respect. Is that a suggestion to fear nature or be ecologically sensible about the world we live in and prepare ourselves for the risks before we venture out?
I think redefining fear like this is an odd way to avoid the fact that their religion evolved and their book has stayed largely the same for centuries. Even with changes in language or format, everyone still agrees they’re reading the inerrant, never changing word of god.
But does this mean we should cringe whenever we think of God and stand in terror of him because we fear his punishment? It could, but it doesn’t need to, because God loves us, and he has provided the way for us to be forgiven and saved from his judgment. That way is Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven for one reason: to take upon himself the judgment that we deserve for our sins. As Jesus himself said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10)
At which point I quit quoting the man. Blah blah blah, same old story.
The reason I consider the bible to be propaganda is because of things like this. We’re meant to think that we can’t save ourselves, can’t make our own decisions, can’t fix our own problems, will go to hell, etc., unless we think and do just what “they” want. Why doesn’t this tactic scare the crap out of people? Because sometimes the well-meaning Christians come along when a life is so far down the toilet that any suggestion will sound like a good one. Because it’s packaged as the best idea evar!!eleventyone!1 and finally there’s someone around who cares and it’s all wonderful and miraculous, and next thing you know God Is My Plunger! is on a bestseller list somewhere and former Toilet Life is a motivational speaker raking in thousands of bucks per night’s work.
They sell this to people because it works, is my point. Never mind the contradictions. Never mind the multiple personalities of the head honcho, his Jekyll and Hyde behaviour shifts from book to book. All you really have to believe is that human sacrifice works.