God on our side?
There is a kind of religious adherence that leads people to take on the self-appointed role of judge. It claims to be God’s spokesperson and to mete out God’s judgement and punishment. It condemns sinners and relegates them to the outside of the community. And it claims that God is on their side. We would all be aware of the sad situations where life-long family break-ups occur as family members’ choices, lifestyles and actions are judged by those claiming to speak for God. Communities have been torn apart because of this. People have been ostracised and have lived lonely lives cut off from those who have judged them harshly.
You may know that wonderful TV series, set in the early 1960s, Brides of Christ. Set in a school, it tells the story of a few young women who entered the convent at that time, and it portrays many of the attitudes and practices of the day as well as the confusion and inner turmoil for some as the changes made by The Second Vatican Council began to be implemented. There is an unforgettable scene where the divorced mother of one of the girls turns up at a sewing bee in response to a request for help in making the costumes for a play the girls were putting on. As she walks into the hall the whole room falls silent as all the other mothers, the ‘godly’ and ‘righteous’ women, turn and stare coldly at her as she makes her way to the front. And the most ‘godly’ of them all steps forward and says to this mother that her help is not needed. A cutting and cruel judgement on her ‘less than perfect’ life.
Sadly, a mark of too many religious people seems to be their self-appointed role as judge. They believe they have God on their side. And this ‘God’ who is ‘on their side’, they have all neatly wrapped up, boxed up, and more often than not, made in their own image and likeness. And they claim to speak for God. Perhaps it is all too easy for any one of us to go there at times.
So can we ever speak for God? Well, the answer is yes, but with an important proviso. Intimately linked to that ‘yes’ is a great humility and, at the heart of that humility, the ability to get ourselves out of the way. What is needed is that we turn that phrase around – ‘God on our side’ – and instead we go over to God’s side. To be on God’s side requires of us that we really do let God be God. It is about surrendering to God and letting go of the foolishness and the arrogance that would have us give divine sanction to our judgements of others.
Ms Kerry McCullough
Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator