“I was a stranger, and you did not invite me in ...”
— Matthew 25:43
A few words on creating God.
Last week, Right Wing Watch, the liberal watchdog group, flagged online video of a recent interview with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene by one Michael Voris of Church Militant, a far-right Catholic organization. In it, the Republican congresswoman, whose website touts her “strong Christian faith,” unburdens herself of an opinion that is, to put it mildly, startling.
“Satan’s controlling the church,” she says. “The church is not doing its job. And it’s not adhering to the teachings of Christ. And it’s not adhering to what the word of God says we’re supposed to do and how we’re supposed to live.”
Maybe you wonder what precipitated such harsh criticism. Was it some act of fiscal malfeasance? Some new scandal of pedophile priests?
Actually, Greene’s ire was stirred by the idea of Catholic bishops rendering aid to undocumented immigrants on the Southern border. “Oh, we have to love these people and take care of these migrants,” she says in a mocking singsong. “Yes, we’re supposed to love one another, but their definition of what ‘love one another’ means means destroying our laws. ... The true meaning of loving one another ... means that you also have to uphold the law.”
It’s a bizarre exegesis supported by no Bible. To the contrary, Greene’s take invalidates generations of Christian activism, thousands of believers — Martin Luther King is only the most prominent — arrested in every cause from racial equality to climate change to nuclear arms to the death penalty. Further, it ignores that the very founder of the faith was a refugee who was later executed — spoiler alert: it didn’t stick — for supposedly breaking the law.
The congresswoman’s misapplication of the faith she claims to uphold ought not surprise anyone. The Bible says God created mankind “in his own image.” But many alleged conservatives invert that. They create the deity in their image, a God who thinks and acts like them, who bears their limitations and biases, their solipsism and illogicality, their mendacity and abiding fear.
And they hold to that false deity with ferocious vigor. Author Eddy Harris once described a conversation with a white woman in Mississippi whose mother belonged to a whites-only church in the 1960s. The older woman was asked whether Jesus would have allowed African Americans to worship in his church. “Of course he would have,” she said, “but Jesus would have been wrong.”
In other words, asked to choose between the prime directive of her faith — “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind ... love your neighbor as yourself” — and the miserly nature of her own heart, she chose the latter. As does Greene. As do millions of other putative Christians on a daily basis.
It’s not hard to understand why they create God in their own image. If God is just like you, it makes life a lot easier. If God is just like you, you already are everything you need to be. So there’s no cause to work, challenge, stretch or pray yourself into becoming a better, humbler, gentler, kinder, more liberal and generous soul. You don’t have to care about the plight of the stranger, the hungry, the broken, the unhoused, the immigrant at the border. If God is just like you, you can be self satisfied and judgmental instead.
Why not? If God is just like you, you are, by definition, correct in all your biases and fears.
But what if God is not?
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. email@example.com