Deprecatory Talk

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Ann Pederson, in her book God, Creation, and All That Jazz, offers this quote from Dorothee Soelle:

Many Protestant denominations deny human beings the power to imitate God in doing justice. Instead of celebrating our participation in creation, Protestantism emphasizes the unchangeability of the world and human sinfulness. Many Protestant theologies have concluded that we cannot change because we are so evil and because we have no power. This deprecatory talk cuts us down and severs us from faith and participation in God's good creation.
I say that it is time that we stop all the "deprecatory talk" and instead celebrate our participation in God's creation. The theological doctrine that claims that humans are "totally depraved" acts as a poisonous rot upon Christian theology. Our imperfections, our finiteness, our failures, do not mean that we are utterly incapable of expressing the Divine spark that lies within us all. Carried to the point of ridiculousness is the notion that nature itself is somehow "depraved", a meaningless concept in the light of what we know about the evolution of the cosmos. The natural world that we inhabit is one that God lovingly and patiently evoked into being as the result of 14 billion years of creative processes.

The negative impact of all this deprecatory talk is immense. Imagine parents for whom their children were never good enough, parents who always had something negative to say about their children. We recognize how damaging such a form of parenting is, and yet we are to suppose that our Father who art in heaven is just such a parent, a kind of "Daddy Dearest" in the sky. Like Mary Tyler Moore in "Ordinary People", whom her despairing son Timothy Hutton wanted so desperately to please but who was never satisfied by anything he did, we are told that God cannot be pleased by anything we do. I'm sorry, but I don't consider such a God to be worthy of human worship.

Let us recognize the human capacity to sin, but let us also not focus on it to the exclusion of the beauty that lies in other human beings as well as that which lies within the the created natural order. I like to think of God as constantly giving us little transcendent hugs, at each moment telling us that God accepts us, warts and all.

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