You're why this is happening. You ruinous excuses for human life.
You are why everyone will die. Why the rains are coming to wash them all away.
You are God's regret.
- The Goddamned #2
by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra
What if God doesn't like me?
What if I don't like God?
This is a recurring fear of mine. What if I get to Heaven (if I believe in Heaven) and I don't get along with God? What if he's as uptight with peculiar and specific demands as he is in scripture? What if God is humorless, dry, and boring and really doesn't appreciate my sarcasm and wit? Worse yet, what if Heaven is filled with equally humorless, dry, and boring Christians? What if I don't get along with anybody in Heaven?
How's that for social awkwardness?
Now, what about Jesus, that most perfect revelation of who God is? Would I get along with him? Um, maybe? He did have a tendency to be direct, abrasive, and impatient with his close followers. But then, he was also kind, caring, and welcoming to, well, anyone. He liked food, which so do I, but he also liked gatherings and parties, which I find taxing and would get quickly tiresome. However, Jesus also valued his alone time away from the annoyance of other people.
So, personality-wise, would I get along with God or Jesus? Or would we begrudgingly tolerate each other's company like co-workers who cooperate well enough on the job but would never want to associate outside of work?
Would God like me? Of course He would. God is love, after all. And Jesus loves me, this I know.
But what if I'm wrong? What if all those sermons and worship songs about God's wrath are right and he really is a bastard? What if I'm wrong and God is just an asshole with time to kill and a Son to brutalize because of uncontrollable divine bloodlust? Then he would definitely hate me. The God who enacts extreme punishment against those who eat bacon, shrimp, go to church while menstruating, or wear underwear made from a cotton/polyester blend would certainly hate me. By the by, I'm not saying I menstruate, I'm just using that as an example of the peculiarly specific things that piss God off.
God is wrath and judgment. And we pray for that judgment to come down on those we do not like or those we don't identify as Christians like ourselves. And to be a Christian you have to talk like us, walk like us, believe like us, vote like us, screw like us, and hate like us. Jesus loves me, but he hates you. That message isn't so comforting when I realize I'm the one he hates.
Too often I stand in church and I'm struck by an “us versus them” mentality. Those outsiders, those others different from us are inherently bad and evil and we must stop them, ideally by passing legislation to oppress them. Whatever happened to love your neighbor? Love your enemy? Do unto others?
Of course, the church has never been particular good at enacting those ideals, what with Crusades and Inquisitions and millenia of convert-or-die mentalities in various forms. My goodness, we have messed it all up something terrible, haven't we? In Genesis, God laments over how terrible humanity has turned out and he regrets having ever made them.
If God regretted creating humans, how much more does he regret creating Christians?
Well, this is all incredibly dour and blasphemous. But I stand by my usual claim that I do not think God is, in fact, a bastard. For if he is, well, then I don't want to worship Him. Why would I want to? If God really is wrath and He hates me and is pointing a bow and arrow right at me, waiting for his opportunity to release it, well, he might as well go ahead and fire.
Instead of wrath, I believe that God is love. And that is so much more frightening. Love involves risk and vulnerability. If I love you I give you the possibility, opportunity, and means to hurt me. Intentionally or unintentionally, you can hurt me, you can easily hurt me, far harsher than if I did not care for you. The same, according to Jack Caputo, is true of God and God's love. “But love always requires taking a risk—love is exposed to rejection, neglect, abuse—even for God.”1
That's not something I hear much in church. Instead, we preach how God is all powerful and invulnerable, like He's just a bit of wood that just stands there and can't be slightly splintered. But how can such an inanimate God love? Can He experience love? Can He give love?
Love is stupid. God's love is stupid. But it is that stupid love that I hinge all my hopeless hopes on. For only stupid, reckless, ridiculous, risky love can save. My repentance isn't worth crap. I know this. God knows this. If God had a nickel for every time I promised not to sin again and broke that promise, why, he would have enough money to pave the streets of Heaven with gold.
But if love is a gift, a true gift, void of the economies of the gift, which is impossible, then I have that hope that I hopeless hope for. I cannot repay or purchase such a gift, but God gives it freely anyway, knowing full well that I will fail and disappoint. And perhaps God will regret giving that gift of love to me. Elsewhere, Caputo also writes, “The possibility of regret is a condition of the possibility of the gift.”2
God's love for me carries with it the risk of God regretting. Maybe that sounds heretical or blasphemous. But it also sounds scriptural. For, as much as we tout that God does not change, we ought bare in mind that he is known to regret (Genesis 6:6), negotiate (Genesis 18:16-33), and even change his mind if you appeal to his vanity (Exodus 32:9-14). This fills me with hope. I don't want to worship an inanimate, unchanging idol. I need a God that regrets, for then he is engaged, vibrant, and invested in this journey we call life as much as we all are.
I am God's regret.
God loves me anyway.
1John D. Caputo, Hoping Against Hope: Confessions of a Postmodern Pilgrim (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015), kindle location 1590.
2John D. Caputo, The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006), kindle location 1842.