No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. (Exodus 20:4 The Message)
Too often we try to cobble God to our image of Him/Her. We allow our cultural consciousness to shape what God “should” look like. In the Old Testament, God was always a male that’s patriarchal and a potentate. This view of God was shaped by the patriarchal worldview that Judaism flourished in, along with other “male god” influences from neighboring cultures such as Egypt, Sumeria and Babylon.
This carried over into the New Testament, where God was seen as “Father”. Thanks to the patriarchal cultures of Greece and Rome, along with Judaism, we still have a male God. In later centuries you could see the cultural influences on our view of God. If you were of the Eastern (Byzantine) or Coptic (NE Africa) Church, you saw God (and his saints) with dark skin-looking Mediterranean or Ethiopian. If you were of the Western (Rome) Church, God was a White European male-an icon that stayed in the Western Church from that time forward.
In later years, we made God pro-European as settlers scattered themselves throughout the globe. Then God became pro-American with its “Manifest Destiny” and ascendancy to superpower with its “exceptionalism”. To be politically correct, we made God a Black male via actor Rex Ingram in The Green Pastures, or Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty. God’s been portrayed by women via Alanis Morissette in Dogma. In Issac Asimov’s short story, “The Last Question” we even see God as supercomputer!
And this kind of God is cool for us, because we can project our cultural, political and social junk onto Him/Her. We can turn God into “our” spokesperson who will speak on our behalf (depending on which “we” we’re talking about). Especially when we have “others” we want to hate; we have God to legitimize our hatred-just ask Rev. Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist. As Anne Lamott says:
You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
This God also endorses militaristic foreign policies, Earth-devastating practices, social service-stripping programs on Capitol Hill, the death penalty, nuclear nationalism, greed at the expense of others, you name it, our God supports it because we created him to do so. You see, we’ve been trying to create God in our image for ages. We want a God we can ultimately predict and will be our “mascot” for our mess.
However kids, I got some bad news for you: God is God and you can’t change that. We can try to make Him/Her into what we think God should be via faulty reading of the Scriptures and out cultural biases, however it won’t work. We can never shape the Divine into the mundane; remember the warning God gave in the Scripture at this post’s opening. Our imagery-noble as it may be-locks us in a mindset that diminishes God, instead of expands God in our hearts and minds. We create a stunted God that is a reflection of our own stuff, and a cheap knockoff of the real thing.
Besides, it was God that made us in His/Her image, not the other way around. It’s time to stop shaping God in our image, open ourselves up to His/Her shaping us in our image. Then we will have a healthy and living view of God. Plus, we will come closer to being divine and in God’s image.