The other night I stopped in town to grab some dinner. I parked my car and headed toward my favorite Mexican restaurant. As I crossed the street I couldn’t help but notice the group of people gathered on the corner of the park on the opposite side of the street. They had huge signs that read, “FEAR GOD.”
Claiming the bible tells us all to fear God and preaching in loud voices that the people of the town were sure to be condemned by God, this group was hard to miss let alone ignore. Their shirts said something about Jesus being love. Hmmm. So we should fear a vengeful God but accept Jesus as love?
This made no sense to me. Why would Jesus, whom they consider the son of God, be filled with love or represent love when God, the so-called father, represents something to fear, something that might strike us down at any time?
I know Judaism and the Old Testament talks about God as vengeful and during the High Holy Days we pray to be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year rather than judged in such a way that God sees fit to bring death to our doorstep. But I don’t think the majority of Jews feel they live day-to-day with a God ready to strike them down at any moment.
I, for one, consider God in terms closer to those used by most Christian–God is love. (Not just Jesus is love.) Like the female aspect of God, the Shechinah, who we say resides with us on the physical plane, I consider God with me every day like a loving mother or parent ready to support me in whatever way possible. If I am open to feeling His/Her love, I can feel it. If I am open to hearing His/Her words of wisdom or guidance, I can hear them. And when I do wrong, when I miss the mark, God is there to forgive me, to comfort me, to guide me back to the right path, to love me. I join the Jewish mystics in wanting to find a way not just to love God but to cleave to God, to become one with God.
Do I fear God? No. I saw those signs and I laughed. Fear God? Who would want to belong to a religion that wants you to fear God? Not me. The group was rather small. No wonder.
I much prefer a God I can love. If their signs had read, “Love God,” maybe I would have gone over to hear what they had to say. It would have mattered little to what religion they subscribed; most spiritual or religious people want to or do love God. They might have had a larger group and attracted more people to hear their message with signs with that message.