Against God? Whose god? “It is difficult to be against the god of another’s imagining without having the other imagine that you are against them as well.”
It’s ten months since the 2020 presidential election, yet for some it’s only yesterday. Case in point: Walking through our weekly farmer’s market wearing my tan baseball cap with the injunction “READ” on it, a man gestured to my cap and said, “You vote for Biden?”
“I did,” I told him, wondering what it was about my cap that triggered the question.
“Joe Biden is against God,” the man said. “That makes you against God too.”
“How could President Biden be against God,” I said, placing too much emphasis on the word president. “He’s a devout Catholic.”
“He’s against President Trump,” the man said flatly. “If he’s against Trump, he’s against God.” Glancing at my cap a second time and shaking his head, the man scowled and walked away.
Moments later I noticed a pastor friend of mine waiting in line at a vegetable stand. I shared this encounter with him.
“The God this fellow is talking about is the God he imagines chose Donald Trump as his representative on earth. God chose Donald Trump the way God chose Moses. Trump is the Republican Moses: Just as Moses was a stand-in for his God in biblical times (Exodus 4:16; 7:1), so Trump is a stand-in for his God in our times. To oppose God’s chosen leader is to oppose God (Roman 13:1–3).”
I nodded, and as he turned to purchase his produce, we waved each other goodbye.
“To oppose God’s chosen leader is to oppose God.” This is why god—any god—is so dangerous. Anyone can claim to be god’s chosen and in so doing affirm that any resistance to their power is anti-god. Since god never intervenes to challenge the claim, there is no way to reject the claim. The only thing you can do is reject the god who backs the claim.
I reject all gods. Not only Trump’s god, but Biden’s god as well. I do this on the grounds that God—not this god or that god, but God: The source and substance of all reality—cannot be reduced to a theological system or political platform. The only God worthy of being God is Reality Itself, what the Hebrew Bible calls YHVH from the verb “to be.” God isn’t a being, but Being itself. This is why I make a distinction between God—Being itself—and god: A being espoused by this or that religion for the benefit of this or that religion.
It is difficult to be against the god of another’s imagining without having the other imagine that you are against them as well. That’s why it is so difficult to talk with people about religion: It too often devolves into their truth versus your heresy.
So, what can you do? You can, of course, avoid all talk of gods and religion, but this is too drastic for my taste. I love talking about religion and gods. What I suggest you do is substitute inquiry for debate. I never pit another’s god against my god, or another’s religion against my religion. I merely allow my curiosity about another’s beliefs to shape the conversation: What do you believe about god? How does your belief impact your life? What do you do with those whose beliefs about god differ from your own? In this way I learn a lot without having to argue for my god or my religion. If I am asked about my god, I am happy to share what I know about God (notice my not-so-subtle superiority here), and because I was asked, the person asking usually stays courteous and curious. In the end we both benefit and neither loses. Try this for yourself and see what you can learn.
Read more from Rabbi Rami: “Spirituality and the Will of God.”