Not too long ago I was in a conversation with a Christian co-worker about life challenges and struggles. She’s a very genuine person and often has well thought things to say about life from a Christian perspective. In this particular instance, she said something both interesting and disturbing. She suggested that God gives us challenges and struggles because if we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t need “Him.”
The idea stuck with me, not because I agree with it, but because I found the mindset disturbing. If we’d been talking about a relationship with another person – say a boyfriend, spouse, friend, or even a relative – the reaction would be “This person keeps you down so he can feel better about himself and to keep you hanging on and ‘needing’ him? You need to get away from that relationship or at the very least go through counseling together if the relationship is important.” Since this is God, the omnipotent ruler of the universe, of course this is different. It’s okay. I don’t actually buy that, but many Christians are willing to accept behaviors and conditions from their God that aren’t acceptable from people in their closest relationships, let alone from a mortal ruler. If someone ruled by keeping their people down, there’d certainly be a rebellion and in Christian mythology there supposedly was. If one is to accept Christian mythology as fact (as many Christians do), it makes one wonder about the other side’s version of things, since history is usually written by the victor and demonizes the opponent – in this case, literally. I’m not going to go down that line of reasoning, but I will leave it as food for thought.
Of course, being a co-dependent ruler who needs human worship and approval is not the only image of the Christian God. In fact, this idea of God is very medieval and feudal, coming from a time where feudal lords ruled, protected, and likely exploited the common people, and the people were happy to give up some freedom and perhaps even dignity because the system was still better than going it alone. Modern conceptions of God are more that of a loving parent, though often a strict disciplinarian. God wants what’s best for us, though we don’t always know what’s best for ourselves and we often have to accept His judgment. We are children, after all, or perhaps sheep. The loving shepherd is also a Christian God archetype. Still a parent who loves us, but keeps us down for his (or her) aggrandizement or to keep us needing them, doesn’t mesh with the concept of unconditional love, and again, I think we’d question that love if it was all about the other person and left us wanting.
For the Christians out there reading this, you’re welcome to justify your life challenges and struggles in a context that makes sense to you, and I know there are other ideas on this matter. As a Pagan and a polytheist, I feel free to pick and choose Gods, Goddesses, and even other spirits that resonate with me and with my conception of the world. I wouldn’t willingly choose a deity who kept me down, abused my trust, or exploited my struggles. For you monotheists out there, Christians and others, you only have one choice. You have to accept or to justify, your One deity’s actions and commands. If you don’t like it or it doesn’t mesh with your beliefs or your view of the world, you’re the one who has to adjust, adapt, and accept, or else risk going to Hell. I don’t believe in Hell. I actually believe in reincarnation. For me, struggles and challenges are part of a learning process. My struggles and challenges weren’t put there by “the devil” to trip me up nor were they put there by any god or goddess to keep me needy. If they were put in my path, it is so I can grow and so I can learn to fish for myself as the saying goes, rather than relying on handouts from the fisherman. Teach a man to fish… and all of that. In the grand scheme of things, struggles and challenges teach us and test us. I’m learning to be the best soul I can be, though it may take me several lifetimes to get there.