Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Dependency on God

Once in a subway a friend of mine sat next to a woman with a young child. The woman was reading a bible. The young child tugged fruitlessly at her mother for attention: "Mummy, Mummy..." The mother finally turned to her child and said, "Be quiet! I'm reading my bible."

Has anyone ever had the sense when talking to certain kinds of religious people that God is in the room much in the same way that a bottle is the the room when you converse with an alcoholic? How do we guard against a commitment to God that becomes substance abuse?

Use of God to avoid personal relationships would seem to be an exploiting of religion. When people put God in place of kindness and generosity, are they not making an idol of God?

Grey's Anatomy on Sunday night had an example of this. A husband is unwilling to limit his child breeding acitivities with a fecund wife who has already been hospitalized twice for exhaustion and who has now entered the hospital for a cesarean section delivery of their 7th child. The wife persuades the ob-gyn to tie her tubes during the c-section but to do it in a way that will not show up on insurance records so that her husband cannot fault her. She insists that he will not participate in her plan and that he will reproach her on the evidence of his past behavior. The husband learns what has happened and proposes to sue the hospital.

The husband places his relationship to God ahead of his wife and family. The wife places her relationship with her husband ahead of her own integrity. She jeopardizes the livelihood and ability of a doctor (her gynecologist) to serve a whole host of other women. The husband's selfish concern for his own salvation is placed ahead of any other consideration: the health and well-being of his wife and her ability to care for their children, the ability of the hospital to serve others, the costs incurred by any suit that he might bring against the hospital etc. All in the name of God...

2 comments:

Rev Dr Mom said...

Excellent reflection! I love the subway story, and sadly I think this kind of idolotry is all too common.

I do have some sympathy for the wife in the Grey's Anatomy episode, though. Perhaps she sacrificed her integrity...but did she have any other real choices? Refusing sex seems unlikely to work with that sort of man, surreptitious use of some other form of birth control might work for a while, but would certainly be found out eventually. Should she leave the husband? I might argue that would be her best recourse, but what about her seven children? Could she support them and care for them? I think the husband's behavior is abusive as well as idolotrous. How else might the wife protect her integrity witout sacrificing someone else?

Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, and I didn't see the show! Your point is still well taken.

Marshall said...

I didn't watch Grey's Anatomy; that and ER are too much like work, and even then they generally get it wrong. (Where are the chaplains, or even social workers? No doctor, and almost no nurse, has the time, even if the interest, to get involved intimately in the lives of patients. But then we'd have no show....)

However, where I grew up we had a saying: "Some people are so heavenly minded as to be no earthly good."