Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Essay: Is God punishing America? – Revisited

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Is God punishing America? – Revisited

From the book: Chum for Thought: Throwing Ideas into Dangerous Waters by David Satterlee

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Chum For Thought:
Throwing Ideas into Dangerous Waters

Is God punishing America? – Revisited

I used to play a computer game called SimCity. I discovered that when you cleared a block for redevelopment that contained a church, a tornado would come ripping through the town. I thought that it was a clever joke by the programmers. However, some people think that this is how God operates, and how fathers should operate, and how political leaders should operate.

I do actually believe that there is a narrow window during childhood when punishment is sometimes appropriate. This period starts when the young child can distinguish the connection between their choice of behavior and the resulting consequence. It ends when “Because I said so” stops making sense. During this brief time, however, this is what they can understand and this is how they can be motivated.

And then things start to change. Children develop the maturity to start making responsible choices. These children start to ask “why” and they start to be able to understand why. After that, a responsible father starts to
do more teaching, and more nurturing, and more explaining. I remember the time I called my oldest boy over for a spanking but he stood in front of me and said, “I’m really sorry. I know better, but I made a mistake and I’ll try to fix it.” From then on I resolved to find corrections that were more appropriate to the lessons he needed and connections to the ways he was best able to understand and learn.

Does God think that America is bad and so immature that punishment is the only way to drive out her errors? Has He, as Jerry Falwell wrote in 2001, “…lifted divine protection from America…allowing the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.”? Is the modern fundamentalist American ideal based on an angry, vengeful, and punishing God? Does this God actively turn his back on his children, hardening his heart, and ignoring their misfortune in an effort to call attention to their collective guilt in having shamed Him? If a child of God asked for a fish, would God give him a serpent?

What is wrong with entire cultural segments of our society that they hold the belief that people are born bad and stay that way, only caring about themselves? Why do they believe in only punishment to force obedience? Why do these same people define “goodness” as compliance to some group’s designated authority? Why do they not see that, instead, a Democracy requires thoughtful individual choices and the active participation of most citizens — working like good fathers and mothers — sacrificing now to invest in a better future for their children? Why can they not understand that cultures can, and should, also mature and grow out of authoritarian “do what you’re told” stages.

I’ll tell you straight. I love my country and I love the diversity of her citizens – all of them. We all have more growing up to do. I believe that the good in our future lies in continuously improving our empathy and care for others. Love of God and neighbor should move us to focus on bringing out the best in each other rather than only seeking to punish each other’s faults.