One of the many books I am currently reading is called God against the gods: The History of the war between Monotheism and Polytheism, by Jonathan Kirch. In the first chapter, he quotes some passages from Ezekiel to illustrate the extreme fidelity the Old Testament Yahweh requires of the Israelites, and the pretty uncontrollable rage and resentment he feels when he doesn’t get what he wants from them. As most people know, lots of different imagery is used to describe Israel’s “waywardness” in the Old Testament, but one that is very common is that of a husband and his bride, a bride who eventually turns into a “whore”. The passages quoted in Kirch’s book are from Ezekiel 16.
Here is a brief breakdown of the chapter:
1. Right at the beginning of the chapter, Israel is likened to an abandoned baby, a girl presumably, left to die. God (who I suppose can be likened to a rich, noble man) finds her and takes care of her, much like a father. But things get creepy because when the child matures, this father-figure all of a sudden wants to marry her. In this culture, at the time, most women had little to no choice in whom they married. And men with means saw most women and girls as potential wives or concubines. Using that imagery makes sense in historical context; but it is disturbing as hell.
2. So the girl complies when offered marriage. But she is strong-armed and manipulated into the relationship. This rich man (God) saved her (Israel) from a perilous fate and made her beautiful and attractive (by his standards). Never mind that she didn’t ask to be saved or beautified. Or how questionable it is to do something for someone and use it as a means to control them. But in his mind, she owes him. And the payment he wants is her total fidelity to him only, no matter what. However, what happens when one is under someone’s complete control is that eventually, you get tired of it and start asserting your independence. That is what Israel does. But that independence is interpreted as “whoring”.
3. So because of all this “whoring”, he punishes her. By causing her lovers to jump her and hack her to death. Metaphorically, of course. But when she is down and out again, he’ll come back to her. What a gentleman.
In a relationship with anyone: it’s not normal to do something for someone and then expect them to be in a constant state of owing you. When someone asserts their individuality, unique personality and tastes, it’s not normal to shame them and force them, by emotional manipulation (remember what I did for you???), to conform to your personal or preferred standards.
But, this is totally normal if God is doing it.
This is one of the problems I have with Christianity: total abdication of “self” is seen as a virtue. Your wants and desires have to align with God’s wants and desires. You have to “be like” Jesus. You are commanded to love him. You are, in effect, expected to be a robot.
In addition, this “gift” of salvation being offered to you must be taken with love and gratefulness. Declining it is not an option, because you will be punished if you do so.
To me that seems tyrannical and controlling, not loving.