MythBusters #2: "God-Myths"

People view God differently depending on the region of the country they are from.

As we continue our Mythbuster series, I want to thank everyone who made comments both in support of, and disagreement with, the article last week. By and large there was vigourous debate, and if nothing else, it made each one consider where they stand on their perception of who God is. 

I seems that a number of people are turned off by God and religion for any number of reasons. A survey done by USA Today a few years ago tracked American's perception of God. They found that those perceptions can be based on many things including culture, upbringing, religious background, traditions, and geographic location. It was interesting to note that people’s view of God actually varied from region to region, but was generally consistent within that region.

Please understand they're not saying EVERYONE in a particular region thinks a certain way, only that there was a consistent view of God that pervaded that area. As concerns Christianity, here are a few of the findings:

#1  God is Angry – predominant viewpoint in the south

People growing up in the Bible Belt, generally heard preaching about what was wrong with them. It reminds me of the scene with Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion shaking in fear as they were being yelled at by the Wizard of Oz.

God does have emotions, and though He does exhibit anger at times, the Bible tells us in Micah  7:18  the He delights in forgiveness. "Where is another God like you who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of His special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. Once again you will have compassion on us."

We're also told in Psalm 103:8 that: "The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love."

Angry? Sometimes. Merciful? His mercies are new every morning...even this morning.

People in the West have a different view of God. They’re more carefree and individualistic. The tend to have an “I’m on my own” mentality…

 #2 God is Distant – predominant viewpoint out west

In reality, the Bible tells us God is…and that He’s placed purpose and destiny in each of our hearts. Acts 17:26, 27 says:  

"From one man He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and He determined their boudaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find HIm - though He is not far from any one of us."

You’re not here by accident! You’re here because God has purposed for you to be here! Luke 12 in the Message Bibles says this: "What's the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail - even numbering the hairs on your head! God’s involved in your life…even if you weren’t aware of it!

 #3 God is Critical – predominant viewpoint in the northeast

In the larger cosmopolitian cities of the northeast, life is fast paced, and people tend to be a bit tougher and sometimes more cynical and less trusting. To them, God is not mad, or distant… He's just critical!

There's a tendency to read the Bible as just a book of rules – all about do’s and don’ts, will's and won'ts. Get your act together, then you’ll get to God! Ephesians 2:8, 9 busts that myth.

In reality, it's actually reversed… Get to God, then you’ll get your act together!
 "God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." Salvation is a free gift - we can't earn it and we certainly don't deserve it. God doesn't have to point out our faults, we live with ourselves every day and are well aware of them. He just wants to point us to the one who is fault-less, Jesus Christ.

So what about our region - the midwest? This one is actually partially true.

#4 God is Benevolent – predominantly embraced by our region
It's partially true, because God is benevolent, but midwesterners tend to take it too far.

The attitude in the midwest tends to be this:

“Do the best you can, God will see your effort, and in the end He’ll circumvent justice, and schmooz you into heaven by giving you a get-out-of-jail-free card."

It's fueled by logic that says it's just not reasonable for an all-loving God to send people to an eternal hell. My question is this:

Would we apply the same logic to a just judge that has standing before him/her, a person that has been convicted of serious crimes, and now needs to be sentenced?

If a just judge would do what is right and fair, how much more God, who is just in all His ways?

The Bible tells us in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus…

God who is all-loving I'm sure would rather not punish sin, but because He is also completely just, He must do so. To solve our dilema, His Son Jesus Christ willingly came and took the penalty for your sins and mine which is death, and now offers us forgiveness and eternal life with Him in exchange.

So…where are you on your spiritual journey? Are you in the north, south, east, or west?

 I’ve busted some common myths with scriptures, but maybe you’re not convinced…test it yourself. Mythbusters always find out for themselves.

Here are three ways you can know God's intentions for sure:

1) Understand that God’s done His part, you're part is to come to Him in an attitude of faith. "Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him."  Hebrews 11:6

2) Your need to accept God on His terms, through His Son Jesus.
The beloved physician Luke tells us in 17:33 that: "If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you'll lose it, but if you let that life go, you'll get life on God's terms."

3) You need to believe that He is for you, and not against you.
The prophet Jeremiah 29 says: "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." 

Lyle Ruble June 16, 2011 at 03:52 PM
(continued) My conclusion to the questions concerning life after death is that the grave is where we all will end up and I don’t believe in an afterlife. Therefore, I live my life as if it will end in the grave and I must live each day morally and ethically, treating others as I would want myself to be treated. (Hillel) Judaism and generally accepted views on life after death are as varied as there are Jews. Some believe in life after death, some don’t, some believe in the purifying of the soul to be reborn, however, nearly all Jews reject the concept of a hell as purported by Christian theology. One issue that is divisive for Jews is the role of a coming messiah. There are a number of Jews, myself included, that reject the notion and need for a messiah. On the other hand there are a number of Jews who are committed to the coming of a messiah.
Lyle Ruble June 16, 2011 at 03:53 PM
(continued) Throughout Jewish history a redeemer or anointed one has been looked to as a mechanism to rescue G-d’s people. Although Moses wasn’t a messiah, he did fulfill the criteria of redeemer. Saul was the first anointed one followed by David, followed by Solomon, etc. but did not fulfill the criterion of redeemer. From my study the modern concept of messiah began to creep into Judaism during the Babylonian and Persian Diaspora. From this input a whole new form of Judaism was created which I call Messianic Judaism. It is no coincidence that when Jews are under stress, that they look to an outside entity to rescue them. The lesson to be learned by Jews is that the last 3000 years has not brought a supernatural entity to redeem and rescue us; we must do the job ourselves. In the narrative that the tribes wanted a king just as other peoples, has resulted in disaster for the people of the covenant. It was no accident that when the nation of Israel was recreated that we did not go to a theocratic monarchy; creating a social democracy instead. Judaism has had to remain flexible to survive. We have adapted ourselves to the outside world, while remaining true to the covenant at Sinai.
Lyle Ruble June 16, 2011 at 03:54 PM
(continued) From my studies, what we call Christianity is an outgrowth of a number of sources present from the 2nd century BCE. The Jewish roots included two main streams of thought; Messianic Judaism and Apocalyptic Judaism. This provided the foundation for this Jewish fringe group. The Jesus Movement did not gain much of a following until Paul became involved and changed the requirements of who could join the movement; convert to Judaism first and then join the group. Saul was a member of the Jewish Greek Diaspora and was well acquainted with those who considered themselves as the Friends of Judaism. He understood that he would not be successful until the requirement for circumcision was dropped, waiver of the Jewish dietary laws and other forms of Halakah that would prevent practical living outside of Judea. This is the beginning and most significant schism that occurred between the mother religion of Judaism and the emerging daughter religion of Christianity. From that moment on we have taken separate paths and it is difficult to find much Jewish influence in Christianity. The heavy reliance on the Christian covenant as outlined in Christian canonized scriptures has driven us even further apart. Christianity’s general historic hatred for Jews, as Christ killers, has been the justification for Christianity’s inhuman and genocidal treatment of my people.
Lyle Ruble June 16, 2011 at 03:56 PM
(conclusion) Therefore, I view Christianity as a danger to all of us who do not follow it and in particular fundamentalism. If you would like to continue this conversation in person, I would be open to that. Best regards, Lyle
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