God’s love qualifies God’s power, not the other way around

It’s a mistake to equate God with absolute power. This sets up an authoritarian view of God, based on hierarchy and control. Which in turn teaches humanity that authoritarianism, hierarchy, and control are virtues instead of vices. When this is the case, God doesn’t just condone authoritarianism, hierarchy, and control, but models such things. **This is wrong. This is bad theology.** It leads to horrific abuse in religious circles and the valorization of authoritarian hierarchies in family and society. When authoritarianism and hierarchy are prized, powerful people take advantage of their position and harm others, especially the most vulnerable. A God (or institution) that sanctions such things is not worthy of worship but of condemnation. It’s little wonder that throughout history powerful people have appealed to an authoritarian God to justify all kinds of problematic hierarchies, saying they are just part of the natural order, whether it be slavery, patriarchy, segregation, homophobia, etc. This has to stop.

When we imagine God, let’s not begin by associating God with absolute power, for that is to chase a demon that destroys. If we need to speak of God, let us instead imagine God as one who comes in solidarity, mutuality, compassion, and love — which is a threat to authoritarian power and hierarchy (as Jesus was a threat to authoritarian power and hierarchy). From this perspective, God can be understood as a weak force with an affective appeal, coming from on low not on high. Here God is not imagined in terms of some sort of supreme omnipotent supernatural being residing somewhere above the universe controlling all things (enough with that image of God), but rather as the cry for justice that rises up from the ground, from below, leading us to question and challenge all things that harm rather than heal.

Simply put, any God that does not conform to the image of love cannot save. Such gods harm rather than heal. If we wish to practice theology that gives life rather than takes life, let’s begin with the premise that God’s love qualifies God’s power, not the other way around. It’s past time for the church to get this right, lest the church fail yet another generation.

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