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If I have to be terrified of God, then I don’t see a difference between God and Satan…

- Sonya D. Fowler, Posted on Twitter, July 29th, 2012

South Park

It’s a funny thing, even unbelievers typically assume there is a difference between God and Satan. It seems so obvious. After all we don’t confuse our friend Mike with our friend Chuck, but such friends are there to remind us of the difference between them on a daily basis. Entities such as God and Satan operate under no such constraints. Their traits change from one faith to another, even from one believer to another, or (truth be told) sometimes from morning to noon out of the same mouth.

Satan has certainly made a few significant changes in the years, graduating from a mere servant of the Lord to a principle nemesis for the Lord. For his own part, God has taken on a range of different faces over the course of human history. He still keeps an awful lot of them handy, even within the same tradition. Indeed the Christian world keeps its pretension to monotheism only by ignoring a likely case of multiple personality disorder. He is at the least bipolar.

And of course a trace of projection runs through all of this, right down to the most specific details and sources. You can tell a lot about people from what they say about their gods. And that is precisely why the quote above gives me such pause. To hear some folks talk about God, they might as well be speaking of the Devil.

When I was younger, I used to hear this phrase a lot; “The devil made me do it!” This usually came after someone had just done something they shouldn’t have, something they knew was wrong. Seems like these days people are more likely to lay their sins off on Jesus. Whenever their actions cannot be defended in reasonable terms, it is because Jesus wants it that way.

I’m not just being facetious here, not JUST anyway.

All to often, Jesus is the reason someone must suffer some indignity at the hands of a believer. Every enemy of Christendom, every native forced to endure abuse at the hands of his more forceful missionaries has certainly borne the brunt of this gambit. Yet they are not alone in learning that the Prince of Peace has ugly designs on their health and happiness. Jesus, we are told, is the reason that gay couples cannot marry; he is also the reason those of homosexual orientation must endure any number of indignities from ‘Christian’ circles. Jesus is the reason for compromising women’s health care. He is often the reason you cannot find certain books at the librar. He is the inspiration for a good deal of pseudo-science (some of which is genuinely harmful), for a good deal of pseudo-history, and even for the occasional cold cereal mishap. Jesus may or may not be responsible for some novel forms of corporal punishment and parenting practices, but if sundry Christian organizations are to be believed, he certainly approves of some highly creative approaches to that practice. Time and again, Jesus is the reason someone supplies for actions that are manifestly dishonest or demonstrably harmful to other people.

It really is difficult to tell just how far the Lamb of God is willing to take his lust for violence and cruelty, but it seems that he likes to do the really nasty work himself. To hear some folks talk, he is the reason for one or two great disasters; 9-11, earthquakes and Tsunamis ravaging Thailand or  Japan. I remember when Jesus demanded a ransom to spare the life of Oral Roberts, one of His most trusted servants. But of course, such divine temper tantrums are nothing new; just ask Lot’s wife.

Has it escaped anyone’s notice that the witnesses to Jesus’ greater crimes are the ones who so consistently inflict suffering in his name? Can it be a coincidence that the same people who speak approvingly of god’s greater acts of cruelty would be so quick to commit the mortal equivalent in his name?

Jesus is not just a source of terrible headlines; he is also the source of myriad petty cruelties which will never make it far into the public discussion. I expect most of us have learned in one form or another that Jesus has taken sides in some personal dispute with friends, family, or coworkers. Lord knows, he is certainly the reason given for most of the dick moves made by the moderators on sundry Christian message boards. Indeed, Jesus seems to be implicated in all manner of grievances great and small.

One wants to say to some of these people; “dude, your Jesus is a dick!”

But of course, the real point is that Jesus could never have been anything else but a dick to some of these people; he begins and ends in their least admirable qualities. And if there is anything more to the story of Jesus than a sort of malice to be inflicted upon others, you would never know this from the words and deeds of so many who claim to be doing his will.

There comes a time in all of this, when Jesus can no longer be distinguished from Satan. For some people, He is in effect little other than a name they give to their own vices.