The Relational God

How Western Christianity turned God into a bad version of Santa Claus

The early Eastern Christian church was based in people’s homes and centered around dinner tables. It was a faith rooted in deep relationships, open invitations, communal living, and caring for those in need.

It wasn’t about getting together and worshipping a male deity in the sky. This is the kind of religion that early Christianity was trying to get away from. The central ritual of the faith at the time was the agape feast where human souls were gathered by the Holy Spirit to strengthen the bonds and the spirit of harmony, goodwill, and congeniality, as well as to forgive past disputes and instead love one another.

And then the West got a hold of it. Western rationality demanded a God that we could look at, point to, prove, mold, shape, and ultimately have control over (so as to ultimately wield control over other humans). This woo-woo dinner love nonsense was too airy-fairy for us.

So we created another anthropomorphic booming male God that was a precursor to the most terrifying version of Santa Claus imaginable. The focus shifted from simply loving, forgiving, and caring for each other to concocting the most elaborate ways to get on the good side of this dualistic ‘naughty or nice’ deity. You know, Jesus’s angry ‘daddy’. The one who could only find appeasement through the blood sacrifice of his son because we were so naughty. Yeah, that’s the God.

This played in perfectly during the enlightenment and the rational God and his kingdom became even more intricate. The disparate poems, stories, parables, testimonies, and accounts of scripture — each book written separately over a span of thousands of years to various audiences and faiths — was framed as a start-to-finish divine3 logical rule book that fell from the sky.

Just as we were figuring out the way the planets move and designing the printing press, we might as well figure this God thing out God too, right?

Western Christianity took God, ripped her away from the table, placed him in the sky, and fought for control over him.

We made God into a distant being that could be figured out and manipulated.

But God is not a being. God is the relationality in, outside of, and between beings.

When the Western mind got a hold of the grassroots Christian faith, God went from being the relationality of humans helping other humans enfolded in a spiritual blanket of love and mercy to… Santa Claus (on his worst day). And if you’ve raised kids, you know that people stop believing in Santa Claus at a very young age (especially when they find themselves on the naughty list more often than not).

Which is why dualistic Western Christianity is directly responsible for creating atheism. Because who, unless they’re in an environment of constant indoctrination and fear, believes in this God for very long? I seriously don’t blame atheists who don’t believe in Santa Cl… — I mean, God — anymore. Because I don’t believe in that ‘God’ either.

But I’m also aware of the human yearning to commune with a ‘Moreness’ to life. I respect the human hunch that points to the idea that there’s more to life than what’s figure-outable. Even if we can’t believe the Santa Claus God, I think a lot of us long for a Relational Personalness that lives both inside and outside of the human individual.

These, I fear, are the babies that have been thrown out in the bathwaters of the secular postmodern world. And I pray that this relational God emerges from the rubble of the Western Christian church.

All Rights Reserved for Jonas Ellison

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