“To be the father of growing daughters is to understand something of what Yeats evokes with his imperishable phrase ‘terrible beauty.’ Nothing can make one so happily exhilarated or so frightened: it’s a solid lesson in the limitations of self to realize that your heart is running around inside someone else’s body. It also makes me quite astonishingly calm at the thought of death: I know whom I would die to protect and I also understand that nobody but a lugubrious serf can possibly wish for a father who never goes away.” — Christopher Hitchens
Religious people, especially Mormons, often talk about how God as if he is like our father. Our “spiritual” father. He loves each and every one of us. He cares for us, watches our progress, and is either proud or disappointed in us and our choices. That does sound fatherly, doesn’t it?
Except, is it fatherly that He never tells us what He wants? Rather, God told people He knew before we were born to write down what He wants in a language we don’t speak?
Is it fatherly that He doesn’t give us those writings? Rather, we, His children, are supposed to stumble upon those writings, or be told about those writings, and buy those writings, and somehow know that they came from Him?
Is it fatherly that Our Father punishes or rewards us, in this life or the next, on whether we found those writings, then somehow knew that they were His inspired transcriptions, and were somehow able to live up to His demanding expectations?
Is it fatherly of God to utterly ignore us when we ask hard complicated questions? Is it fatherly to answer, “It’s complicated and mysterious” rather than “Jerry lied on his resume. That’s wrong, so to teach him a lesson I gave him cancer” or “Elaine got HIV by accident. She’s largely a good person.”
Was it fatherly of Our Father to violently drown thousands/millions of our brothers and sisters, even the children and infants and pregnant women, because He was mad with most of the adults?
Is it fatherly to allow thousands of our brothers and sisters die horrifically in a natural catastrophe like an Earthquake when God has the power to prevent it? Or miraculously save them? Or even create a planet without tectonic plates in the first place?
If that is what it means to be fatherly, then I am a more terrible father than I first imagined.
Because, when my daughter asks me a question, I answer it as best I can, even if it’s over her head. I don’t ignore her entirely, say nothing, and let a friend who believes he knows what I want her to know tell her that the answer is a book written cryptically in Klingon.
When I want her to clean up her toys, I instruct her, “Clean up your toys, please.” I don’t write my instructions on a Post-It and hide it amongst a pile of other possibly related, but mostly unrelated and historically insignificant Post-Its and expect her to find it, and, if she doesn’t, severely punish her in an obscure way at some point far in the future.
I would never move her into a poorly constructed house prone to causing death and dismemberment and, when the inevitable accident occurred, write on a Post-It, “It’s just a test of your character. I think you’ll do fine with one arm. You can thank me and love me, but blame me or question my motives for this latest hardship and I’ll punish you more.”
God doesn’t act fatherly. He acts exactly as if He didn’t exist.