Who’s a Better Parent than God?

Having raised a daughter and observed parents do all kinds of “interesting” parenting over the years, I have a few opinions about what “good” parenting is.  It’s not that hard to identify “bad” parenting, is it?

Which leads me to a long-brewing reflection I’m mulling over again.  I think this is especially appropriate now, during a world-wide pandemic, since billions of people believe that a Divine Parent is lovingly watching over them and hears their prayers.  The question that must be asked is this:

Who’s a better parent than God?

Like many, I was raised on religion, a faith that described God as our Loving Father in Heaven who watched over us day and night.  I outgrew that view, but the image sticks with you.  At one stage I imagined the deity as female … Mother God … or Goddess.  Then, a more androgynous divine, a Mom-Dad Parent.  That evaporated too.

I think we need to re-think any notion of God as Parent.  Here’s why:  any “good” parent who truly loves their child(ren) could do, and probably already does, a better job than the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus.

In biblical religion, the “Loving Father” destroys entire villages, regions and, at one point, all of His children (humankind) out of anger.  He “teaches lessons” by sending plagues or by punishing his children in various terrible ways.  He is always disappointed with his children and their “sin” (willful disobedience) ready and willing to hit them in some manner (physical, mental or spiritual punishment).  The Judge of the World is constantly displeased– “a jealous God.”

God’s parental role supposedly gets better when He sends His Son to fix the problem–that is, to fix or “save” His other, disobedient, children.  He’s so angry with His kids that He sets it up for His Son to be tortured and executed in the most horrible manner.  This makes The Father feel much better.  He’s “well-pleased” with His Son and his violent death.

Even after The Divine Parent carries out His bloody plan, He still isn’t satisfied.  The rest of His children have to “accept” and “believe” and “follow” or the sacrifice won’t be counted in their favor.  He knows that most people won’t accept and believe, so The Loving Parent carefully designs and constructs an eternal torture chamber (hell) where these disobedient children will suffer forever.

Ok, you have the image?!

Add to this awful story the fact that, if all people are members of God’s Big Family, He doesn’t show much love toward anyone beyond His Favorite Kids.  The best examples would be all the Egyptian children slaughtered at the first Passover and all the babies slaughtered in Judea at the birth of Jesus.  Where are they in the Nativity scenes?

Now, here’s the obvious yet astounding truth: any good parent (hell, even some bad ones) could and would treat their children much, much better than that.  When your child disobeys, you might punish them, but not by torturing or killing them!  You would never demand that they love and serve you, holding bloody punishment over their head–“There’ll be blood to pay!”–threatening to make them suffer the worst kind of death if they chose to ignore you.

A good parent would never do what the biblical Parent does.

I can’t resist mentioning God ordering Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  Yes, he “proved his faith” by not killing his child, but the mere fact God would test him that way and that Abraham was willing!  No parent would ever conceive of doing that.  Abraham would be in prison and Isaac in therapy due to child abuse.

Those who choose to read and believe only the “nice” peaceful and sweet parts of the biblical narrative are free to do so.  But taken as a whole text, the story reveals a strict and brutal Father who finds sadistic pleasure in terror, suffering and bloody retribution.  When my own dad used to spank me as a child, he would say, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”  I understand that now that I’ve been a parent.  But he never told me to follow his every word or be tortured.

Ask yourself:  would you have sent your only child to die a bloody and brutal death, just so you would feel better?  What a horror, what a crime, that would be!

Well, we can take heart in all this.  Those who are parents can know that even though they will never be “perfect” parents (whatever that means), they will always be better in their parenting than God.  Needless to say, this is a good reason for not going to the Bible for guidance in parenting.

Who’s a better parent than God?  Just about anyone, in my opinion.


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  1. Well said Chris. The image of Father is one that under scrutiny shows a very callous and selective father not like any parent I would want to be or idolize let alone worship. I have been re-reading some of my writing on Theodicy and your remarks are very similar to my conclusions that I came to in Grad School at Fuller 50 years ago. I think the Christian orthodoxy to answer the universality of suffering has led to the heretical view of other theologians Barth included that universalism is the best way to deal with this selective and cruel Father narrative. Fortunately for you and I we can let go of Bronze age herder morality and causality answers and look for more humanitarian and humanistic approaches.

  2. Always appreciate your perspectives, Marty. Those of us with extensive experience with these issues can follow the threads, or bread crumbs, to the sources–often those ancient myths that send religion off in “cloudy” directions. We could hope that more people would consider those archaic connections and images, choosing for something more rational and meaningful for our day. Be safe and well!

  3. Chris you do a great job. I would love to see what you would write about that vindictive divinity who created angels in full knowledge that some would become rebels and after he won the “battle” he made them into devils send them to the Hell created for them. Those devils are allowed to tempt us humans so that we could be sent to eternal punishment. Don’t you think that after thousands of years being punished the devils should be released from Hell. divine “justice” is far, far worse than human justice.

    • Ah, yes, the mythology keeps unpacking for centuries, doesn’t it? There is no rational way of addressing these archetypical images except to see them for what they are: stories meant to stir the fires of faith, told around campfires, and probably never meant to be taken literally. Yet, in our world, they are told and sold as true to fact. I agree, we have designed justice systems that are far from perfect, yet often much more humane and sane than what the “gods” designed. Thanks for the comment.

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