Again, “We adore God Who is love, who in Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, Who offered Himself on the Cross to expiate our sins, and through the power of this love, rose from the dead and lives in His Church. We have no God other than Him”
(Pope Francis, 6/21/14).
Since a person’s image of God is so intertwined with his or her self image, from where does a person acquire his or her image of God? It is not just the First Commandment; it is a fact of human existence that God is beyond imaging. God is imageless, beyond description, beyond understanding, invisible and incomprehensible. The best that reason alone can do is to say, “God is.” Whether God is love, as Pope Francis proclaims above, or loveless, whether God is a father or a terrorist, whether God supports homicidal violence or finds it an abomination, all this and everything else is beyond human capacity to know by reason. All that can possibly be known is God is–IAM. Other than this, what kind of God God is and what God expects of people is beyond human comprehension. People can pontificate with a passion that God is this or God hates that, but on the basis of reason alone it is all gossamer, 100% pure conjecture. That’s fact, not opinion.
So the images people have of God in paintings, films and literature are just the imaginary products of reason brought to bear on their dreams or nightmares, their loves or hates, their self interests or sufferings, etc. Such image, whether pictorial or propostional have no reasonable theological or moral validation even if a billion people accept them–because the quantity of people agreeing with a picture or proposition about God cannot validate the truth presented by that picture or proposition. When Noam Chomsky, a world renowned academic authority in the field of linguistic, is asked, as he often is, “Do you believe in God,” his answer is always the same: “Tell me what you mean by “God” and I will tell you whether I believe in God or not.” I suppose if someone did tell him what he or she meant by God, Chomsky’s question to them would be, “By what method have you validated as the truth your description or definiton of God?” If they say “By reason,” the ball game is over. If they say, “By faith,” that is acceptable for them. But it is then a subjective understanding of God, which they experience as true but for which there are no means objectively available to others to validate its truth
Of course, if God is incomprehensible beyond mere “isness”–IAM–and if people, because of the structure of the human brain long to know, “Where did I come from? Why am I here” and “Where am I going,” then we have the greatest market that ever existed in which to make a buck or a billion bucks–and it is wide open to every flimflam artist, every con-man, every huckster, every entrepreneur on the planet generation unto generation. At which point the word “religion” becomes synonymous with “a den of thieves.” No image of God, pictorial or propositional, is beyond sale, if the need for that particular image exists in a person or a group for some reason. The amount of loot to be raked in for proclaiming, marketing and selling a particular image of God is in direct proportion to how desperate the need is in those who buy it or buy into it.
If a religion is receiving millions of dollars a year from the government or the military or the economic elites of a society, it better not be marketing, or start marketing, an image of God that undermines the moral validity of what the people in those institutions are about–even if it is mass murder.
In most institutional religions, and Christian institutions are no exception, money, its acquisition and its maintenance, is a major, if not the primary, hermeneutic for interpreting the meaning of “God” and of any Sacred Scriptures they may believe that they possesses. It is, for example, the hermeneutic by which Jesus’ teaching, “Love you enemies,” is interpreted as including moral permission to terrorize, torture and slaughter enemies. When Jesus states, “You cannot serve two masters, you cannot serve God and money” (Mt 6:24), did He ever hit the nail on the head! Did He ever put front and center the temptation and the malignant, life destroying, spiritual cancer present within most religious institutions, including Christian institutions, down to this day.
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy (To be continued)