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Black Lamb


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God in an awful mood

June 1st, 2003


I’d like a head count of how many people get slaughtered in the Old Testament. It has to be in the millions, or gazillions, maybe even infinity plus one. It’s really a murder fest, and if you go there searching for comfort, as I did here recently in a time of need, then what you’re liable to find is a lot of locusts, leprosy, Sodomites, stories like the heartbreaking binding of Isaac, angrygodand in and amongst all of that, people being drawn and quartered, burned at the stake, stoned to death, and generally dying in droves.
It can be a terrifying place to visit.

God just seems to be in an awful mood in the Old Testament, and I’m not sure that I blame Him. I mean, He’s given everybody the great gift of life, and love, and this beautiful blue ball of a world, and yet look what they were doing at the time with that gift.

Same thing that we’re doing now.

The rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Baghdad burning, just a worldwide plague of people breaking one another’s hearts, going at each other like territorial baboons gnashing their teeth, screaming from the tops of trees at one another, our nasty red asses sticking up in the air in a threatening gesture towards anything that looks at us the wrong way, or just looks the wrong way period. Different, in other words.

I recall the terribly sobering words of a theologian some years back. She was on a panel engaged in a round-table discussion of the Old Testament and another theologian had made the comment that civilization had come a long way from its violent beginnings. Much to the shock and horror of everyone present, she replied, “Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have a terribly difficult time even getting through the day without killing someone.” It was utterly disturbing, because it was utterly honest.

I guess when you get right down to it, we just haven’t been that long out of the trees. If the history of geologic time were based on the twenty-four-hour clock, our tails would have fallen off only minutes ago. And then there’s that reptilian knot of nerves supposedly still there at the base of our necks. Some men even appear to have the suggestion of a sagital crest (although it could be a bad comb-over), a cranial ridge bone that ran along the top of the head in some of the more “robust” species of early man. Robust (as opposed to gracile) is a nice way of saying “probably violent as hell.”

I wonder if God is not so much frustrated with us as he’s just lost interest. Go ahead, blow yourselves to smithereens, wipe yourselves off the face of the earth, sin yourself into oblivion, and then maybe we’ll try this again. Or maybe we won’t. Maybe I’ll give whitetail deer a shot at it next time, or crows, or stick beetles. How bad could it be? A stick beetle can’t screw up any worse than you have.

Or maybe God is busy grieving himself. But I don’t want a grieving God necessarily, because everybody knows how crippling that is. Grief sucks the oxygen out of the very air you breathe, till it becomes like one of those choking sandstorms raging in Iraq, to where it gets in your eyes, your ears, your mouth, your blood, your heart, your stool, until you puke up half of what you eat and wake in the middle of the night with your heart racing and your eyes twitching, to where no matter how far under the blanket you crawl, it’s never going to be far enough.

And while we’re at it, I don’t want a crawling God, either. What I want is a God that does something about all of this. I want Him to intercede, stop the marauding baboons of our subconscious from smearing their nasty hemorrhoidal asses around, marking yet another spot for some “smart” bomb to find. After that, maybe He can do something about the children of Somalia, too, and south-central L.A., and the acid rain that keeps falling on our heads, and my suffering marriage that’s been turning my insides lately to blood pudding.

The Old Testament is a story and an astonishing one at that. But is it really so much to ask to open a book and find some comfort there, some words of encouragement, a little hope, some guidance even, and not just chapter after chapter of locusts, billions and billions of locusts? •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Book Issue, Books and Authors, Ryder | Link to this Entry


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