Christianity is big on metaphors, and when I was a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian, self-denigration was just part of the package. Every sermon or prayer was sure to be punctuated with helpful reminders of how our righteousness was as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6), and how He never really needed us, but chose us. We were intrinsically worthless, but being children of God is what gave us purpose.
So when it comes to the metaphors of SDAism, I’ve heard ‘em all, and they’re always insulting. We called ourselves everything from tools that we just wished so badly that God would use to accomplish His will, to bondservants of the Most High (i.e. slaves who don’t get paid) (1 Peter 2:16). Sometimes God Himself would come and bully us about how infinitesimal we were in comparison to Him and His majesty (Job 38). And when you started thinking too hard about God, you were compared to a child who asks far too many questions, who has neither the capacity to understand the mind of God, nor the right to, because His thoughts were not your thoughts, and His ways were not your ways (Isaiah 55:8). You were told that when trying to understand God, His will, His timing, His design, His character or His judgment, you were not to lean on your own understanding. I’m not sure who else’s understanding you would lean on, but it seemed that “your own understanding” was code for “anything that leads you away from God.”
Stop doing all that thinking while I’m trying to indoctrinate you.
And this line of thinking leads to one of my favorite metaphors for the Christian people: sheep. Christians are encouraged to think of themselves, not as people, not as acting agents, but as sheep in relation to the Good Shepherd. Sheep are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible, and here are a few.
And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. (Genesis 4:3-5)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)
All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:32)
Out of these three different understandings of sheep from the Bible, three distinct themes emerge, and they have profound consequences for how people view the world, and even if no one’s willing to admit it, what you believe matters.
Sacrifice – From the first verse, we can see the endorsement by God, very early on in the Bible, of the barbaric practice of slaughtering an animal to appease a god or rid oneself of the imaginary curse of sin. Not only this, but this idea carries so much weight that it somehow gets transferred to human beings, and in books like Isaiah 53, you can see the idea evolves somehow into a human sacrifice that can atone for sin. And then Jesus Christ Superstar waltzes in in the Gospels and we’ve got a crowd favorite. He is crucified, a horrific means of extermination, and instead of being horrified by this, you’ve got some dude with a bass guitar and a tambourine 2000 years later, talking about how that human sacrifice was the best thing to happen in his life, because it allows him to not feel bad for having watched porn. Get it together.
Christianity is pretty much like Jennifer Lawrence throwing up on a porch being judged by Miley Cyrus.
Subservience – The obvious theme of the second verse is subservience, ownership, and submission. Jesus is my shepherd. He leads me where I need to go. Well, why would God give us brains in the first place if He was always going to be there to tell us where to go? Not to mention that sheep are dependent upon their shepherd in every way imaginable, and any claim to independence would be laughable, but still, Christians, truly the Johnny Cochrans of religion, manage to get God off the hook for natural disasters and diseases that we face today. Is it possible that Christians do not understand this mental castration in which they take part every week? I think so. Thinking that you are a sheep in need of a shepherd produces low feelings of self-worth, as well as cultivates a certain mental immaturity.
Why would we need brains if we’re just sheep needing a shepherd?
Separation – But at least it’s the right Shepherd. Thank God. Growing up, I watched videos by nutbags like Jan Marcussen, talking about how Daniel and Revelation both pointed to the Roman Catholic Church as the bringer of the end of the world. All of the nations would unite under Sunday law and then the people of God would be persecuted for standing up for God’s intended Seventh-Day Sabbath. I wish I were joking. We were urged to memorize Bible passages, because there might not be Bibles available in the “time of trouble” (Daniel 12:1). And crucial to these kinds of ideas were the underpinnings of difference. Our church emphasized that it was to be different. We were called to be “a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9), “in the world, but not of the world” (John 17:13-16), and God’s chosen remnant. We were the wheat, they were the chaff. We were the light, they were the darkness. We were the sheep, and they were the goats. These themes of difference run rampant throughout theology in the church, and characterize, I think, the way that many Christians tend to conceptualize themselves.
There is much more to be said about the sheep mentality, but for now, I think an invitation to leave the fold would be a good place to start.
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