Dobson’s God is a Feckless Narcissistic Thug. Now What?

god-of-the-gapsMy Facebook feed is ablaze with righteous anger and defiant opposition to the god preached by James Dobson and others. (Google his remarks if you want.) The sentiment is rather consistent, at least among my gaggle of mostly mainline Protestant/Episcopal friends:

This is not the God I recognize and not the God I pledged to serve as a minister of the gospel.

It is good and right to shout No to the Dobsons and their distorted god. As I said on Sunday morning:

No, by the way, to the idea that God let this madness happen because we no longer pray in school. Like clockwork, the political and religious pundits have suggested exactly that. Imagine what kind of a god that is. A narcissistic thug who would allow such carnage because we don’t pray in the time and place and manner that god specifies. No.

And if I were ever to find out that that’s the kind of being god is, I think I’d have to renounce my ordination and go sell insurance, because that god and I would be finished.

So, No to that.

But what do we say Yes to?

The answer I’m hearing, and affirming myself, is that God weeps with us in the wake of what happened in Newtown. That God’s was the first heart to break that blood-soaked day.

But that’s not enough. Not near enough.

God is more than the Chief Griever.

So what are we willing to affirm? I hear loud and clear the god we reject. But after Friday, and after so many other tragedies that we can’t even name them all… who is the God that we preach?

This is what I’m thinking about almost constantly.


Here is the thing that has come into focus for me since posting this.

Many people are rejecting Dobson’s comments altogether by saying, “God did not allow this to happen.”

And yet, if God is an omnipotent deity—if God has the capability to intervene in human history and in our individual lives—then technically, God absolutely did allow it to happen. It’s just that we reject that God allowed it to happen for the reasons that Dobson et al put forth.

But God allowed it to happen.

Unless we’re also willing to reject or mitigate God’s omnipotence.

Which is what I’m pondering so strenuously, and have been really since little E died three years ago, and certainly since his brother J died in September.

22 thoughts on “Dobson’s God is a Feckless Narcissistic Thug. Now What?

  1. I lean very heavy into eschatological hope. I believe that Christ has died, Christ is Risen, and Christ will come again.

  2. Jeanny House says:

    Of course, God is too big to describe in a comment.

    Part of it comes from this week’s Lectionary Gospel: “[God’s] mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”

  3. Grace says:

    What Katherine said. The God I worship, serve, and preach (to the best of my human ability …) is a God who WILL NOT rest until creation is made new. Who NEVER lets death be the end of the story.

  4. I affirm that God acts primarily incarnationally and that God was present at Sandy Hook. Present in every teacher who hid children, in every first responder who rushed in at personal risk, in every person who has raised prophetic questions about our societal failures that made us all complicit in this tragedy and so many others.

  5. Thank you for saying “no” to that load of BS! I knew the storm was coming and said “no” this weekend before I even had a chance to hear Dobson or Huckabee or whoever else has gone insane. Thank you for taking a stand w/ your congregation.
    Here is my response to whether or not God “allowed” this to happen.

  6. the projection of James Dobson? a god made in his own image

  7. Rachel Heslin says:

    I see the Divine as wisdom beyond human comprehension. Yes, there is Divine sorrow for our suffering, but I believe there is also faith in our ability to rise above. God does not cause or allow human actions, but He shows us the way, should we choose to follow.

  8. sherry says:

    At the risk of being blasphemous, God is like pornography….I know It when I see/feel/love/worship/follow It. I don’t understand God, I never will.

  9. MaryAnn says:

    I added something to the original post.

  10. “Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. Their tongues were hanging out,
    swollen and bluish. But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing…
    And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes.
    And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still
    red, his eyes not yet extinguished.

    Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
    “For God’s sake, where is God?”
    And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
    “Where He is? This is where–hanging here from this gallows…”

    That night, the soup tasted of corpses.”
    ― Elie Wiesel, Night

  11. MaryAnn says:

    Here’s another response:
    God is neither present nor absent, but hidden.
    Eh… I don’t know.

  12. I reiterate the part of my above comment that references Divine wisdom beyond human comprehension. I admit that I see God from a Taoist standpoint:
    God allows what appears to be tragedy because, to Him, it is not tragic, but part of Life.

    Robert Braxton was right in pointing out that we create God in our own image. For myself, I have been working very hard to reconcile allowing people their inner narratives — the stories they tell themselves that they believe give meaning to the events in their lives, even if those stories seem to hold unnecessary pain — with choosing to not validate those stories. The phrase I have come to love is “bear compassionate witness.” Each of us has our own road to travel, and I can respect that and have faith that, if given the space to hurt, to rage, to be, people will find their way. And because that is my perspective on life, that is how I, personally, see God.

    • Do we *want* a God who grieves as deeply as we do? Bear with me on this one, because I know there are many who will misunderstand and think I make light of true grief, which is *not* my intent.

      Let us take as an example a child who loses a cherished lovey and is heartbroken, wailing uncontrollably, unable to sleep. Would the child want a parent who shares the child’s belief that all that matters is the lost lovey and that they are a terrible parent because they allowed the lovey to be lost? Or would the child be better served by a nurturing, strong, and wise parent who holds and consoles them, murmuring soothing and sympathetic words, a sympathy that is made possible because the parent knows that there is more to this life than a lost lovey?

      I am *not* comparing the loss of a child to the loss of a lovey. I *am* questioning if perhaps God has a larger sense of what we see as death and loss truly is on an eternal scale.

      • sherry says:

        This makes sense. So many times I have watched parents suffer pain when their children are ill and I *know* that they will come out of it and learn that there is a “larger sense” of what they will experience as parents that will one day put this grief in better perspective.

        I have thought before that must be a tiny glimpse of what an omnipotent God knows…that in the sense of the eternal and the life beyond this life, this horrible horrible grief fits into something with Blessed and Eternal perspective.

      • To expand on the analogy:

        I do not believe that God grieves for the deaths of children.
        I believe He grieves for our pain.

    • Bill says:

      This is a very interesting and thought-provoking comment. Thanks for it. I’ve been pondering this–the reality that suffering, death, even chance, seem to built into the very fabric of the process of creation. I just deleted the balance of a much longer comment, deciding instead to leave it at this. It is something that I think we must try to take into consideration as we ponder it all.

  13. maryngale says:

    I’m germinating the idea of God as Chief Griever. Does God *have* to be more than that? It feels like that is the central metaphor of the scriptures since Eden. Even the prophets display God’s righteous anger in the framework of God’s grief.

    It is quite painful to wrap my brain around God ‘allowing’ losses to happen, even though I completely agree with you. I just fall back on “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”. Working though the grief process myself, I would have kicked someone in the face if they told me God allowed my suffering, but coming out the other side, I can see how I was re-formed and reshaped. Sadly, that’s only helpful in hindsight.

  14. Bill says:

    Wow. I just came across this post and it speaks to exactly what has been troubling me lately. I too wonder if we haven’t misuderstood the meaning of omnipotence. I reject the comments of Dobson, Huckabee and others, but I also reject the notion that “God is in control,” “his ways are not our ways,” it’s somehow part of “God’s plan,” etc., which seem to me to be some attempt to attribute this event to God by suggesting that if we only had his perspective we’d see that it all works for the good in some mysterious way known only to him.
    I just blogged about this today myself. In my post I link to something Bart Campolo wrote a few years that has been helpful to me. If you have a few minutes, I recommend it.

  15. MaryAnn says:

    So thankful for the comments here…

  16. sherry says:

    Unfortunately, I read these follow up comments as my office prepares to take a break this morning and stand in honor as the funeral procession of a local young man who died in Afghanistan last week passes in front of our office.

  17. John Porter says:

    Never did think very highly of Dr. Dobson…

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