An imaginary conversation with Diana Butler-Bass, using quotes from her book Grounded
Me: As a Baby-Boomer, I had long understood that I was a part of a large group of children, born in the post World War Two years, when the men came home from war. But I never really thought about what effect the war had had on our parents, and how the war had affected our upbringing, our culture and our view of God. How did people’s belief in an all-powerful God survive the trauma and devastation of the war?
Diana: “There had been so much death, it was too awful to consider that God was a wartime casualty as well. Soldiers wanted to get home to their sweethearts, back to houses with picket fences in small towns, back to family, church, and business. Getting back to normal was the key task for mid-twentieth-century people, even if normal was irretrievable gone.
Me: Wow – that made so much sense. A traumatized generation returned home seeking comfort, familiarity, security and affirmation. Women were sent home from the workplace and the men set about building the homes and families that they dreamed of during their tortured days and nights of the war. That was their safe place, and it included church and an all-powerful patriarchal deity.
Diana: “Revivals of religion swept through Western nations to restore order and familiarity, first in the 1950s and then again in the 1970s. The faithful baptized legions of postwar offspring, built bigger and taller temples than ever before, and exercised more influence and political power that Christianity had know since the days of Pope Innocent III – all as a testimony to God’s victory over the forces of evil and the triumph of true religion.”
Me: Yes, I can see the connection now.
I was born into the revival of the 1950s. I attended Catholic School and weekly church where I learned the about order of the universe. Then, just as I was establishing a healthy skepticism about the church, the revival of the 70s came along. I was in high school and university during that time. I was eagerly swept up in the Jesus Movement. Now I had a new sense of security and purpose.
Suddenly I can see myself as a product of world history. That’s powerful! When I look at my own life and spiritual evolution against this backdrop of war, recovery, discovery and cultural revolution, I feel a part of something larger.
What I considered my own very personal journey of discovery was a common journey for many of my generation. We were all looking for meaning, healing and connection.
Leaving the traditional church felt frightening and risky at the time. I was leaving behind my roots, my psychological safety net and my community. I was also leaving behind the cognitive dissonance that was causing me a lot of moral distress. My silence about the Church’s teaching on issues like same sex marriage was implying agreement. I did not agree. Looking back, I could see that much of my fear was actually generated by the system I was trapped in.
I saw that the Church’s interpretation of the Bible was a mug’s game. No wonder the different denominations could not agree. Scriptural passages were picked over and chosen to support the social and political agendas of the day. At that time, and in that particular church, they had chosen to overlook scriptures regarding women not speaking in church, divorce, and many others edicts that do not make sense in today’s context. They also chose to interpret and teach literalism regarding texts about heaven and hell, homosexuality, sex before marriage and creation. Who is making these choices?
Who indeed! Who were these people? Who wrote the Bible? Who chose the documents that were included and not included? Who decided that their own thoughts on paper were THE THOUGHTS OF GOD, not just their own thoughts about God? I found that once I started to question these things, the whole house of cards began to tumble down.
The Bible tells us “Man is made in the image of God.”
Maybe- God has been made in the image of man. Maybe this is the biggest and most powerful example of anthropomorphism ever!
Is there really a God? If so, it is not like man, or woman. All bets are off!
To be continued…