There’s nothing as disarming as a mirror. Especially when the reflection is a different race, faith and operating system…
Over time, my line of inquiry had steadily progressed from the casual “What do you think God is like?” to a less filtered, knee-jerk “Wait, you don’t celebrate Christmas at all?” During the six months of weekly Skype conversations that occurred between the two questions, the camaraderie and closeness of bible study had barely kept up with the canyon of inexplicable differences that had emerged. You might think that a Christian and a Jehovah’s Witness would find more in common than opposed, but then again you could say the same thing about a Protestant and a Catholic. Same bible right? Nay, I say.
I had just finished sharing about my previous week, complete with tales of my recently-survived Christmas, and was passing the mic to hear about his holidays. I knew birthdays weren’t a big deal, but wouldn’t Jesus’ birthday at least be worthy of a carol or two?
Instead of tales of happy holidays and family cheer, I was reminded that Jesus most likely was not born on December 25th (accompanied by biblical evidence), then given a story of his family’s insular alternative to Christmas, and a question that I approached as rhetorical for the sake of civil conversation. As a final argument, he asked “If you were God, would you want people to celebrate your birthday on the wrong day?”
While I have the term anthropomorphism in a holster from grade school, I have to give it to Rousseau for adding a bit of flavor to it: “God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor”. In all my years of formal and informal apologetics, as far back as I can remember, the “If you were God…” question didn’t hold weight. Of course, simply saying “I’m not” was never a satisfactory reply, but an oblong smile and a slight nod always seemed to be a neutral enough reaction that they felt satisfied in their marvelous reasoning. I say this sarcastically because I have my own cringe-worthy memories of playing that card to bolster an argument.
Of course, the ability to see the world through the eyes of another, and empathize, is fundamental to what makes us human, and enables us to battle the unfortunate biases of race, faith, gender, background, sneaker brand, tooth count, preferred french fry condiment, and pretty much any other thing that can make me different from someone else. The most beautiful thing about God, in my opinion, would be this though: He can COMPLETELY relate to me, while I, even if I were a Highlander and drained centuries of life from weaker mortals, could still only hope to sympathize with a fraction of Him.
But why would God make himself so complicated? I really wanted for a long time to believe that God was ultimately simple; that with time, with growth, the mystery would give way. Nowadays, the only proof I need that I am not and should not be God (or make arguments on his behalf) is that I find Japan weird.
Think about it. No one is gonna fault me for having preferences; for example, choosing Cookies and Cream over Basashi Ice. But let’s up the ante. If you were given the choice between two people, who would you save: your closest friend or a Thai child trafficker wanted for the kidnapping and possible murder of hundreds of children? I’ll cut to the chase: our own deeply ingrained, potentially innocent preferences are only valid in a world governed by our values.
If I had my way, poodles would finally get their chance to earn their stripes in the wild, unsweetened tea would be a thing of the dark ages, dodgeball would be a standard part of every middle school curriculum, and the credit song from Resident Evil would be the National Anthem.
Someone else might do something as heinous as canceling professional wrestling and forcing McDonald’s to reduce their serving sizes.
If the existence of 34,000 denominations and hundreds of religions all convinced both that they are right and all others are wrong isn’t proof enough that none of us should claim to speak absolutely for God, I don’t know what else to say.
So there I was staring into the mirror, both remembering and relearning how easy it is to forget that “What Would Jesus Do?” was moral rhetoric, not the heading to a list of moral judgments for me to hold over the head of everyone else while lavishing forgiveness upon myself.
And asking “If I were God…” honestly should do nothing but remind me that I most certainly am not, and am no more “god” than any other self-defensive, prideful, broken soul out there.