Preaching God’s Conditional Love

Example of contemptible preaching.

Primitive and savage cultures of the ancient past were certain that the creative power which became personified as “God” had to be constantly praised and appeased (flattered) if one desired to experience favorable conditions.  That concept is also implied a startling amount of time throughout the chapters of “revealed word.”  Such a concept of I will love you only if you do such and such is not exactly a strong example of divine omniscience.  Overlooking this accidental implication of shortcomings in a divinity’s personality, the faithful then see no reason to question the assertion that God could actually hate something that he had created within his diverse and immeasurable creation.  Accepting such incongruity the blindly faithful dare not ask, Why would an omniscient being be troubled with such a colossal ego problem that requires constant flattery?  Certainly the concept of God offering his creations only conditional love—that I will love you only if you do such and such—as well as the alleged weakness of lapsing into hatred does little to inspire people to conduct themselves in a moral manner that is superior to the Creator’s.

These observations have been triggered by a recent California daily newspaper that actually printed a full sermon by a Catholic evangelist who also happens to conduct services in prisons.  Much of what was utilized in his reported sermon pivoted on verses that stressed the conditional aspect of God’s love, and of course God dumps curses on those things that God supposedly hates.  If, as the book of Genesis suggests, God can create anything by simply saying, “Let it be so,” why would that deity ever allow the continuance of things or conditions that he is said to hate?  That these downbeat characterizations attributed to the Creator/God happened to have been written by covetous priest-scribes some 2-3 thousand years ago tend to arouse suspicion in thinking persons.

Some examples from the evangelist’s newspaper sermon.  He started by utilizing what he termed “the last prophetic book of the Old Testament, Malachi.”  Not considered by this spiritual representative is the meaning locked in the Hebrew name Malachi, which means “my messenger.”  It is therefore unclear from the title of the “holy” book Malachi whether the character is actually a “prophet” as promoted, or if the name implies a description of the character’s administrative duties at the Temple.  The references to a “governor” in the text, and the revelation that the Temple was then standing at the time of the writing shows that the plotline is placed in the postexilic period, which encourages a speculation that the character dubbed Malachi was most likely involved in Temple administration.

That the book Malachi is simply another treatise written by a priest who was trying to protect his source of income is exposed in the alleged disapproval of God over the amount and quality of tithes and offering brought to “the house of the Lord.”  The Catholic evangelist then quoted the priest-author from chapter three, verse eight of Malachi, “Will a man rob God?  Yet ye have robbed me.”  Then in verse nine God allegedly said, “Ye are cursed with at curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house…”  In other words, the “messenger” wants to be sure that he kept well fed.

The newspaper sermonizer continued to cherry pick from chapter one, verses 6-7 of Malachi where it says that God held people responsible for not giving him the reverence of a father, and for offering polluted food such as blind and lame sheep.  Unexplained is why an ethereal God should need edible sustenance like some mortal.  In chapter two of Malachi, quoted by the sermonizer, God was portrayed as continuing his tirade, allegedly telling the priest-scribe (verse 16) that he hates divorce.  Then in chapter three, verse 7, the Catholic evangelist points out that God again accuses the people of robbing him of tithes and offerings.  This is considered prophecy?  But verse five is then quoted, “I will be a swift witness against sorceress, adulteress, perjurers, those who exploit wage earners, widows, the fatherless, against those who turn away an alien, because they do not fear me.”  Since this is claimed to be a prophetic book, these obvious faults of character so detested by God seem startlingly close to the characteristics and political policies indulged in today by the religious right Republicans in the USA.

At this point the sermonizer sought to explain God’s meaning to his gullible audience by again using cherry picked verses back in chapter one of this alleged prophetic book: “I have loved you, I loved Jacob.”  Huh?  The preacher refers to Genesis (book of beginnings) and the mythic account of Jacob receiving what the sermonizer calls God’s “correction;” in other words, when God’s conditional love kicked in.  But to earn it Jacob had to indulge in a wrestling match with god—or did he wrestle with an angel, or maybe it was with his own conscience—until he received his blessing (Genesis 32:22-30).  At that point in the Genesis plot Jacob allegedly became divinely transformed into Israel.

And it was at this point in the newspaper sermon that a divine transformation was attempted by the sermonizer by using the New Testament book of John 3:5 where it is averred that a man must be born again.  To explain this requirement the Catholic evangelist was again compelled to cherry pick, this time from the New Testament book II Corinthians 5:17, which explains that old things must pass away so all things can become new.  In the earlier chapter 1:5 of II Corinthians, God had indulged himself in a lot of self-promotion, adding in chapter two, “Give glory to my name and the curse will not come upon you…”  More curses from God?  Sermon attention then shifted back to the book of Malachi, verse 10, which he quoted, “Bring your tithes into the warehouse that there may be food in my house, prove me and I will open the windows of heaven to pore you out a blessing there won’t be room to contain…” etc.  We are expected to forget that authentic history does not support such an elaborate outpouring of blessing upon the postexilic Hebrews as “prophesied.”

Prophecy was again implied in 4:1-2 of Malachi: “For behold the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yea, all who do wickedly will be stubble and the day which is coming shall burn them up that will leave neither root nor branch.   For those who fear God’s name the Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings…” Note: it does not say my son.  There is nothing offered by either the author of that text of by the sermonizer that would teach seekers how to achieve spiritual enlightenment.

Neglected by the newspaper sermonizer was the final verses of Malachi, which promise to send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”  Is this alleged threat to smite the earth, supposed to be the holy method for inspiring love for god?

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