GOD is not DOG

Interrogative introduction: What comes to your mind when you see here - God and Dog in an associating mood? To be a good follower of God we need to be inquisitive:  Am I ‘strong believer’ in God? What kind of faith do I have in God? Is God only mine, my family, my ethnic race, and my religious affiliation or is God equally belongs to everyone and the whole universe?  Do I obey God or do I let God obey my commands? How have I been using God for these many years? What do I mean by ‘born again’? Is ‘born again’ means that God can use me now because I am fully committed my life to God or that I can use God freely to pursue my desire to the extent of threatening others?  In a simple way, am I using God or is God using me? Is God under my control (like a dog) or am I under the control of God (Hunter)?
I. On appropriation of God: Down through the ages, humankinds (irrespective of religious belief) have tried to limit the greatness of God. The gods of the Hindus are completely at the control of Brahmins who claim that they possess certain mantras which if used makes difficult for gods to refuse their demands or ‘orders’. Many Muslims have used God to fulfil their ambitious ideology –jihad- resulting to the invention of many religious extremists.  The people of Israel tried to privatize God by claiming to be the chosen race and holy nation which exclude all other nations. The name of God has been used by Israel to justified elimination of other people (other nations) physically and to loot their property during the time of exodus event. They even tried to confine God’s dwelling place to Jerusalem Temple. This was against the promise of God to Abraham.  The story of Prophet Jonah testified that God is not for the people of the Jews alone but for whole nations. Unfortunately, later on, Christians step into the shoe of the Jews and tried to appropriate and manipulate God. Church Fathers monopolized God by limiting God to few Creeds and Dogmas. Many theologians continue to restrict God through their research work forgetting that their work is constrained by certain context and time. They unfairly claim that what they found about God is universally and eternally valid. Is it possible for a finite being (human) to know everything about an infinite being (God) - who was, who is and who will be for eternity?    
The European Christians once thought that God belongs to them and that it was mandatory for them to liberate God. This has led them to launch crusade (Christian holy war) against the supposedly infidels (Muslims) - resulting to the death of thousands innocent men, women and children. They also believed that they have the right to colonize the whole world and control over it. Colonialism thus started with the appropriation of God. Today, with “In God we Trust” label in dollar, USA is distributing arms and bombs around the world.
All scriptures affirmed that God created everything and therefore God alone is the creator. Therefore, Bible prohibits human of creation and worshipping of idols. Consequently Christians instead of worshiping idols create god to gratify their petty and selfish interests. They create a god (god-of-convenience) who can be easily lured by flattery, praise, worship, prayers and ‘liberal’ offerings. Why do people continue to create gods? People consider private property as the source of security. Influenced by the same logic, they seek appropriation of God also as their private property and seek security.  
Privatization and monopolization of God became a serious concern today. When God is privatized “I am holier than thou” attitude is developed.   Then people became exclusive stubbornly rolled themselves up in the cocoon of their belief. This can be seen through the life of both individual and groups. Today with each religious group/denomination claiming God to be their own, frequent religious (various faith affiliation/denominations) clashes occur. There are Baptists who feel that only Baptist church members will go to heaven. Members belonging to Revival, Pentecostal, Presbyterians, Roman Catholic might be having the same thought that only those who are in their denomination will go to heaven. Even within the Church, menfolk thought that they are nearer to God and that woman cannot be given equal privileges in the church ministry.  At the same time, there is division with some members or groups (for instance, prayer warriors) claiming to be more spiritual (more manipulative of God?) than others. A person who can stubbornly take fasting for many days (for whatever reason including selfish gain) is considered a very spiritual person. Such pseudo-spiritual-superiority-complex (or say superficial belief) was denounced by Jesus when He says: ‘On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’(Matt.7:21-23).
We even feel that since ours is a Christian state or Christian majority state/region we are more privilege than others in getting salvation. Unfairly superiority complex on the basis of one’s belief is developed and put into practice. When God has done something good, it is for them only (e.g. Salvation) and not for others. When some ills/troubles affect them, they are positively interpreted as preventive measures of God. They said that God out of love send ills/troubles to keep them spiritually strong. If the same ills/troubles happen to their neighbours (others), it is considered a curse from God for their disobedience and wickedness. If natural calamities hit Gujarat and Odisha(Orissa), it is punishment(curse) from God. If earthquake or hailstorm hits Nagaland or Mizoram or USA, they would say, “it is out of God’s love”.  So the self-righteous people keep on searching others’ sin - as if they are much better than others. This is not a new thing anyway. So often Jesus was asked for whose ‘sin’ a person was getting sick/blind/lame or misfortune befalls on a person. Jesus told those seekers of ‘sin’ that everything has purpose in life and that they should love and accept one another as they are instead of searching each other’s sin and condemning one another.
II. On Bribing God: At one point of time, I thought that those who obey church rules and regulations sincerely are the only people who believe in God. But to my utter surprise, I came to realize that there are people like murderers, thieves, extortionists, black marketers (drug peddlers, ganja traders, wine sellers), are all believers in God. These people even pray more than others so that they are not killed by others, they are not caught by police while involving in unhealthy business and so on. Once they succeeded in their business, they give generously (huge amount of money) to church so that God might protect them even in the future (I often hear many Christians saying sarcastically that the pitch of prayers of church leaders depend on the amount of money its member gives). They might have been influenced by distorted theologies that says ‘the more one gives, the more one is rewarded.’ Expert thieves do the same. By thieves I mean those officers, contractors, politicians, or any other who live luxuriously with government fund meant for the poor and the common people. Their actions have created and are creating many ‘robbers’ in our Jerusalem-Jericho road today.  However, many of these people are sponsoring missionaries, theological students and donating huge amount to theological institutions as if such ‘appeasing policy’ would please God. Many rich people are lavishly offering Christmas feast.  Others sponsored different programmes such as father’s camp, mother’s camp, youth camp. Huge donations were made for church buildings, Jubilee memorial Hall etc. How many lives have they spoilt and how many people have been killed through their dirty business? Can we bribe God (like we bribed a minister, a political leader or a government official) in order to fulfil our favours? I do not know what God would be thinking about them. But to my understanding, this is how we try to placate God. This is how we have been playing with God. This is how we try to lure God with money as much as we lure a dog with a morsel of rice. It is wrong to assume God as bribe-taker. God will not forsake justice for the sake of money.   
III. On Prayers: Our prayers are full of petition: ‘give me that’, ‘give me this’, ‘do for me this”, ‘do for me that’ etc. etc. Our prayers are most of the time ‘order’ - forcing God to obey us like a Dog and are hardly a prayer of submission: ‘let your will be done’. Ours are not prayer of humbleness or willingness to sacrifice for God. We do not seek the will of God. We wanna God to fully submit to our needs. Even lazy students ask God to help them pass their exam. Jesus did not force God to do his will because that would tantamount to controlling God.  Think, God must be getting thousands, may be millions, of prayers all the time, from all over the world, in a host of languages, asking for all manner of things. But we are not feeling shy at all to force God to do something for us (good or bad). We became a very ‘impatient being’- craving to get things done within a short period of time.  Jesus must be interceding for us “forgive them for they do not know what they do.”    
Many of our churches often pray at the beginning of the worship service to chase away ‘evil spirit’ or ‘satan’ in the name of God.  Interesting as it might be but why bother about such ‘spirits’ because God (who is in control of everything) is with us in the midst of our worship. Is it not trying to chase away evil spirits evidence of our lack of faith?  Many Christians are threatened to hear the presence of evil spirit in such worship. We come to Church to worship God and build good relationship with everyone including, I believe, ‘evil spirits’- so that they might repent. Evil spirit may be able to create a situation/atmosphere for committing sin but they can never force us physically to commit sin. We should not blame evil spirit for all the sin we commit. Human beings are responsible for uncountable sins. As long as we blame evil spirit we may not get time to repent.  Although beyond our comprehension, God as the creator of the whole universe, might have set provision for all beings including what we assume ‘evil spirits’. Why not give chance to God to let things happen in God’s own time?
Our society has been divided more than ever before. There is a huge gap between the rich and the poor. The rich families gather together and give thanks to God at the dining table for the provision (table-filled-delicious-food items) without really asking how their food comes to their table (I mean through whose labour). The prayer usually is, “we thank God for the daily food provided for us although there are many people who goes to bed with empty stomach. May you continue to provide our daily needs so that we may continue to praise thee.” Today many people are getting sick: some because of over-eating and others out of starvation. If the rich people’s prayer includes sharing of God’s blessings with others, there will be rice in every plate and every one will go to bed with something in their stomach. The rich man’s table may be filled with food items but if their neighbours go to bed empty stomach, prayers may not reach God. All riches and wealth are not blessings from God. Who knows the neighbours might be poor because the rich people have snatched away their share. God is for everyone. God wants everyone to live a dignified life because all of us are God’s children.  Rich people should not use God to legitimize the misery of others.  
IV. On Fasting:  On many counts I find the observation of fasting as a tactic forcing God to fulfil one’s desire which can be very dangerous. We must be aware that fasting is important in so far as it helps one to discipline oneself spiritually and physically to be a better person even as Jesus did. The time of fasting can be made use to meditate and reflect upon the word of God. It is also a means to break injustice of political administration as in Esther’s story. It is also time to build good relationship with God and fellow beings. But, today fasting has been used to fulfil an individual or group’ desire. If a drug peddler fast many days seeking God’s help to let his/her vehicle passes through safely at Police Check gate, is that genuine? Whether we are right or wrong we want God to be in our side and use God for our interests. For instance, during the Naga-Kuki ethnic conflict (1991-1992) in Manipur, I was told that many Poumai Naga women were observing fast and praying to God to strengthen the force of the Nagas and their weapons, so that the Naga fighters might shoot straight at the Kuki forces without a bullet went missing the target. The Kuki people might be saying the same kind of prayer! Many Nagas are praying for the safety of Naga underground from Indian armed forces or for particular faction. Do we believe that God will be on our side all the time (whether we are right or wrong)? Is not God belongs to everyone? Is it right to use God to serve our own interest? It is unwise on our part to force God to fulfil our desires through employing different tactics because God knows each of us and all our needs in detail. We need to be patient and humble before God.   
 Concluding Remark: Well readers, do not think that I am against observation of fasting, or prayer, or worship or to say ‘being’ a Christian. Not at all. What I want to question here is: are we forcing God through different tactics to do what we want rather than seeking God’s will with humility? Have we gone beyond from ‘a person (nation) after God’s own heart’ to ‘a person (nation) after one’s own heart’? Let God be God. It is absurd to think that God can be bribed with offerings and placated with praises and adoration.  When we give tithes and offerings or praise God, we should not expect anything in return. Genuine worship/devotion comes out of selfless love for God and having concern for unfortunate ones in our society.  Let’s worship God in reverence, in fear and in humility. Let’s live a life in such a way that people might see the greatness and goodness of God in us.
It will be too dangerous to think God in term of Dog - domesticated, tamed and put on a leash. We cannot draw out Leviathan with fish-hook (Job 41:1ff). God can move high mountains and stir up mighty ocean to fulfil God’s plan. In the same way, God can perform miracles through small and insignificant things such as a ‘stick’ (Moses), a pebble (David), a fish (Jonah), fire (Elijah), Jaw bones (Samson), Oil (Elisha), bread and fish (Jesus), etc. God can do anything with anything. We can feel the presence of God in our life and also see the wondrous act of God through the whole universe but cannot express fully in human language.  God is immeasurable by any standard. Privatisation of God limits God’s greatness. Therefore, let the greatness, the immeasurable knowledge and the unfathomable love of God hovers the whole universe for all creation (human, birds and animals, trees and plants, fish, air, rivers and mountains). Blind faith restricts God to ‘self interest’ resulting to disharmony, violence, hatred and at last bring bad name to God. Human beings should not try to be God or to possess God. As long as we remain ignorant about God’s sovereign power there will be problem in our relationship with our fellow-beings, with nature and with God. It’s time to change caution note from “Beware of Dog” in our Gate to one of “Beware of God” – in our heart.      
For discussion: zkpahr@gmail.com