If you are just joining us, we are working through a series on Dear Princess. The first post is here.
I'm guessing that that title got your attention.
Today we're going to be examining the conservative Mennonite view of God, as expressed through Chapter 15 of Dear Princess. This chapter begins with a girl becoming a Christian, and asking her mother, "Just how can I please the Lord?"
The rest of the chapter is their discussion. Mother starts with what are probably the sweetest words in the entire book.
'Since you are born again, Betsy,' Mother said, 'you are now a child of God. He is your heavenly Father.'
And if only Mother could stop there, and not ruin it, this book would actually have one paragraph of true value in it.
But she doesn't.
Mother goes on to explain that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all the heart, mind, and strength, and not long after that, things start to get a little weird.
'Your first responsibility is to love your heavenly Father with this fervent, all-inclusive love. There is no part of your heart that does not belong entirely in love to God. God wants all your love.'
'But, Mother, shouldn't I love you and my family and friends, too?' Betsy was puzzled.
'Yes,' smiled Mother, "because God told you to love us.'
Now, besides the fact that Mother can smile words, this exchange raises a few eyebrows.
Don't try this at home!
"I love you, Sweetie. You know, 'cuz God said I'm supposed to."
It won't end well, I promise!
And this kind of thinking is super messed-up, because even good, wholesome human emotions are put in terms of religious obligations.
In this view, you don't love your family because they're wonderful, and you love to be with them because it's FUN. That would be humanistic. That would be carnal, self-pleasure. You love them because you're obligated to.
And that, boys and girls, is how you suck all the air out of the room.
Mother goes on to give a tedious discourse about how people who love God trust Him, and believe He means what He says in His Word, especially the .2% that it talks about clothes. (She doesn't come right out and mention clothes, but you know that's what she's getting at.)
Mother waxes eloquent about the connection between love and obedience.
Because we love and trust the Lord, we obey Him.
First John has many verses telling us this - that our obedience is a result or evidence of our love for God. Those who truly love the Lord have a fervent desire to please Him.
We do not obey simply because we have to or because we must. Rather, we obey the Lord because we love Him and trust Him, and with all our hearts we want to please Him.
Once again, there is nothing wrong with anything Mother is saying. Loving someone means that you want to make them happy.
Make no mistake, if I truly thought doing all the stuff that they want me to do would make God happy, I would do it all in a heartbeat. But I don't, and they don't either. They just think it will keep Him from getting mad.
You see, there's a difference between "making someone happy," and "not making them mad."
And when Mother is saying she wants to do things that please God, what she really means is that she wants to do things that will keep Him from being angry.
Taking your wife on a date makes her happy. Leaving your clothes all over the bathroom makes her mad. (These are in no way examples from my personal life. I'm a bitter old
spinster left-over jewel, remember?)
(As a side note, I have actually heard the term "left-over jewel" recommended as a more suitable substitute for the term "old maid.")
(Because being called a left-over doesn't hurt
if you're being called a jewel at the same time, right?)
Betsy asks, "Shouldn't I also fear the Lord? How can I love and trust and fear Him?"
If this blog had a soundtrack, here's where the music would turn ominous.
'Yes, you must fear the Lord,' Mother agreed. 'That is a vital safeguard in your relationship with Him. Your standing with the Lord as His child is on the condition that you continue to love, trust and obey Him. In other words, you must meet the conditions of being his child.'
Have you ever heard of a father placing conditions on his children to continue to be his child?
"Son, if you truly loved me, you'd have picked up your toys like I told you to. You aren't meeting the conditions of being my son. If you keep this up, I'm putting you up for adoption. Also, I love you."
That characterization is absolutely one of the most monstrous caricatures of my Heavenly Father that I have ever had the displeasure of reading.
Ironically, the only meme strong enough to accurately
express my feelings is yet another heretic with hideous
views about the Father.
And it gets worse.
Because you know that God cannot lie and will keep His Word, and that He is holy and must therefore punish all wrongdoing, you know that eternal punishment will be yours if you disobey Him. This puts a fear of Him in your heart.
Mother fails to remember that "perfect love casts out fear, because fear hath torment" and that "he that feareth is not made perfect in love."
I know you love and trust your earthly father.
And yet, you fear him because you know that he will discipline you, should you deliberately disobey him. This fear of him produces a desire in your heart to please and obey him always.
So which is it, Mother?
Does Betty obey God (and Father) because she loves Him, and wants to make Him happy? Or because she is scared He will hurt her if she doesn't obey Him?
And what makes all this really mind-warping, when you realize that loving God is a command. And we should keep His commandments because we fear Him. So we fear not loving God.
Mother, you don't love God. You're just scared to make Him mad because He'll set you on fire if you do. Everything you say about "pleasing God" could be better phrased "appeasing God."
And this, my friends, is why so many people are trapped in mind games, trying desperately to feel like they love God, because they're so scared of what will happen if they don't.
It's like a battered wife desperately telling her drunken husband not to hit her again, because she loves him, she truly does.
And that is why Mother and the author of this book, and thousands like them have an abusive Heavenly Father, rather than the loving God of the Bible.
It's pathetic, and evil, and unbiblical. And it's nothing like God whose name is Daddy.
P.S. The Bible is very clear that the wrath of God is revealed against the ungodly.
This post is not intended to address all the theological implications of that. If that's what you see in this post, you are missing the point.
The point of this post is that the God that is depicted in this book, and in so much of conservatism, is an abusive, schizophrenic, psychopathic god, and the cognitive dissonance generated by this belief is driving people away from the true God, both inside and outside the church.
To read the next post in this series, click here.