Morning Everyone! I have mentioned before that I am going to Community College so I can get a few credits cheap before moving on to my Master’s program. Well, right now in my literature class we are reading a lot of texts from early America, which tend to have a lot of religious overtones. Yesterday, we had to read a sermon titled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Reverend Jonathan Edwards. I started reading it while also looking at the discussion board on the text, and man did I start to get flustered. I must be in a class with a bunch of religious people because they were all about this.
Or, perhaps, the students in my class don’t understand that you don’t have to agree with each and every text that we read in class. The teacher had us read it to get us thinking, not because it’s his favorite book! Maybe it’s because I’ve already been through University, but I no longer feel the need to kiss my professor’s boots because I know they’ll give me a good grade as long as I am able to make arguments and back them up with facts. They’re trying to get you to expand your mind, not learn how to be a yes-man.
So, we had to write a one-page essay based on a text we’ve read and I picked Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, which I realize now was dumb because it’s a LONG sermon and I couldn’t go over one page of text. We were supposed to do a close reading and, from what I understand, a mini-literary analysis and damn I could have made this into a 30-pager easily. Sadly, I probably won’t get to unless it’s on my own time because Community College isn’t normally that crazy.
I thought I’d share my essay with you here:
Controlling the Creator: A brief look into how God is used as a tool for manipulation
By Lauren Hippenstiel
God has always been used by the church to justify any action that may be looked upon as controversial by the general public. In the 19thcentury, it was God who gave settlers the right to expand into the Americas and begin to manifest the destiny he had written for them. Before that, The Crusades became the cause of death for thousands as people fought for control of holy sites that was controlled by Muslims in 1095. But how could an establishment that teaches not to kill or lie justify such horrific actions while also convincing thousands to murder their fellow humans? By using God as a scare tactic to ensure obedience in all endeavors. Reverend Jonathan Edwards uses his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God to frighten those who hear his word, thus making them obedient to him as he is the interpreter of the word of God.
The main argument of his sermon is that those who choose to walk in places of temptation and damnation will eventually fall into hell because God has decided it is time. Edwards implies that the wicked are predestined to feel God’s wrath, it just takes time for God to get around to punishing them. He states, “Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth; yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell”. Basically, at all times, we must walk on eggs shells, ever watchful for potential sins or run the risk of God’s eye moving towards us and casting us into the pit of despair. Those who heard this word would then have no time to question that what was being told to them. They had to feed their children, protect their families, and praise God in order to ensure the survival of their flesh and their spirit simultaneously. There was no time to pick apart each word of The Bible. That hobby was reserved for the wealthy, educated man of the time who, more often than not, was a high-ranking member of the Church and would therefore benefit from a more easily manipulated flock.
Far from the all-loving God we see in the current era, he is portrayed within the text as somebody who looks upon humans as filth and not as his beautiful creations full of potential. Edward states that “The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours”. This goes against the normal image of God as the protector. We often see him in positions of power, saving humanity from the pits of Hell rather than dangling us over it much like a petulant child would cast an ant that has bit his finger into a campfire. This would cause the members of the congregation to quake in fear, always wondering if they’re doing enough to keep God happy.
These portrayals seem to cast God as more of a devil than The Almighty Savior of humanity. It was the sin of loving God above humanity that caused God to cast Lucifer from Heaven, which means at some point in history the Church decided that a benevolent, human-loving God was more lucrative for them than a malevolent one. This switch can be seen today as God-adorers use their faith to justify turning away those who seek asylum within our boarders in a bastardization of manifest destiny. As society changes, so must God, as must the men those who control him, if they are to survive.
Let me know what you think on this Freedom of Religion day!