Thursday, October 14, 2021

Beyond God the Patriarch

In my Hebrew Bible class, we've just finished Genesis (we're reading the Hebrew Bible, but not reading the Bible in the Hebrew language).  Our discussion thread prompt has prompted me to keep thinking.  Here's the prompt:  "What/who was Jacob wrestling with at the Jabbok River? Please make reference to the assigned readings and videos in your post. In your relationship with God, do you tend to wrestle like Jacob or quietly accept? Why?"

As I thought about the question, I realized that I don't see my relationship with God in either of those ways.  I don't feel like I wrestle or quietly accept.  I don't see God that way at all.

I wrote a longer discussion post, but I don't want to paste it here, because my work hasn't been graded yet.  I don't want the anti-plagiarism software to flag my work, which it might, if it finds something similar out there, even if the something similar is my own work.

Yesterday morning, I woke up thinking about how many of our stories in the Bible have the hero, usually male, wrestling with God.  There's Jacob, the obvious choice.  Others come to mind:  Moses, various prophets, Job, Paul.  How many chosen ones quietly accept?  We might list Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The quiet accepters don't command our attention in the same way; it's not the same kind of compelling story.

Yesterday morning I was wishing that I had a friend who was a rabbi who could meet me for coffee and analyze this pattern.  I'd like to get a Jewish take on these stories, from someone who's been trained in theology.  I have a sudden vision of a book club, one with people theologically trained in different traditions.  I would never want to leave that coffee shop!

What if we had a different story about God?  What if we saw God as the best kind of boss, the kind who knows how to bring out our best qualities?  What if we saw God as the best kind of teacher, the one with skills that we didn't even know we needed, until we were taught them?  What if we saw God as the patient, kind, and wise type of animal trainer, the one who knows how to help us move beyond our fears?

I thought about how our societies might have been so different if we had these kinds of different theology.  It's too late to change the past--can we change the future by adopting a different theology?

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