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  • Writer's picture Brian E Pearson

A Less Human God

Sigmund Freud postulated that the Person we call "God" is in fact a projection of our psychological need for a father figure. We feel more secure when we think someone is in control, even if we are not, and that the world is monitored and managed by an all-seeing, all-powerful, parental figure who, we imagine, has our best interests at heart.

But what if our real fathers were poor role-models for such celestial parenting? What if, in fact, our fathers were brutal, frightening, and anything but loving? What if our fathers were cruel tyrannical abusers who, like the Titan god Kronos, fed on his own children? What then of our precious faith?

This is the problem with anthropomorphizing God, of making God seem human, like us. We're not fit role models to begin with, even the best among us. "God's ways are not our ways," says the prophet Isaiah, and we should believe him. Whatever, or whoever "God" is, we're not likely to comprehend it in this lifetime. Wonder and awe, but not comprehension, create the extent of our relationship with whoever put us on this earth. The rest remains a mystery.

In fact, not knowing or comprehending the nature of God, we are granted a different path than that of believers. We get to be explorers. We get to figure things out as we go along, everything remaining provisional, as we lurch from insight to insight. We can say, "in my experience," or, "as far as I know," or, "in my opinion," but prudence and humility dictate that we stop there. What we actually "know" is, well, not very much at all.

Jan Handy was an Anglican priest with a deadly secret. As she prayed to "God the Father" on behalf of her congregation, she had to fight the images that threatened to rise up and put the lie to those words. Her own father, also an Anglican priest, had abused her physically, emotionally, and sexually throughout her childhood. She thought she was free of him by the time she launched her adult life and followed in his professional footsteps. But the pain was too great, the damage too deep. If God truly was like a father, we were all in serious trouble.

The story Jan tells in her memoir, "The Secret Tribe," is a monument to spiritual resilience. She eventually left the ministry when she realized that the church was incapable of accepting, much less celebrating, her sexual orientation. But she has pursued a lifelong "ministry" anyway, helping those who, like her, experienced abuse at the hands of adult authority figures who ought to have been offering love and protection.

As horrific as Jan's childhood abuse was, her journey of recovery leads us ultimately to a more realistic spirituality, a more grounded faith, and an active determination never to give any authority figure--human or divine--that much power ... ever again. This week's episode of The Mystic Cave tells her story.

On this week's episode of The Mystic Cave: 'The Secret Tribe': A Story of Resilience. Just press the Play button below to listen to the episode.

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