God, The Mafia Boss
Few metaphors throw into light the character of the Christian God and adequately frame Christian salvation as a desperate means of survival from a condemning overlord.
Character of God
We can learn some things about the character of God from viewing the gospel in light of God as a mafia boss.
This is the determining factor for how well someone follows. During my time as a Christian, there were countless times that Hell and fear of rejection by God were means to emotionally manipulate people into acceptance of God or following the Scriptural message. The gospel does not draw people on the basis of love, admiration, merit, morality, worthiness, hospitality, friendliness, community, kindness or fun. End of the day, the only reason to accept a new lord, a new boss, is because there is a looming threat of Hell.
Part of my study in evangelism led me to the often repeated signature idea that the understanding and presentation of Hell is essential to the gospel message. Why? Because a savior can only save someone from something. If the person being presented the gospel had no understanding of the danger they were in, they would have no need of a savior.
Even while writing that above paragraph I can recollect and realize the nuanced way that that message was intertwined into conversations around the gospel. The whole concept is warped because–it is God that is the threat! From the Christian perspective, no one else sends people to Hell–only God! I've heard Christians say that God doesn't send people to Hell; they send themselves there, but this has no Scriptural or theological grounding.
Partnered with the above feeling inherent to the gospel and character of God of fear, is also the looming threat I just mentioned. This cudgel, promising swift, deadly and thorough reckoning, is not only present prior to an acceptance of God and the gospel, but even post acceptance.
For example, a crucial part of growing as a Christian is a continued path towards sanctification–reliance on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you to do what is right–and less reliance on self; this is the path towards holiness. A constant threat, found in Scripture, is that your works–while not the means of salvation–are later judged and can be found wanting. Additionally, where I often personally struggled when professing Christianity, was the threat that not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit habitually could mean you were not a true Christian–also called the backsliding Christian, the apostate, the false prophet, etc.
Seeing God as a mafia boss also reveals how bereft he is of any accountability. Whereas a human boss might have feedback from an employee or even input from a equal or superior, God has no such inhibition. He is utterly and totally without a leash. I, for one, resent whenever a authority figure is able to abide by a different set of laws than I.
God the Lawmaker, Judge and Bailiff
God setup the rules for play, expects us to play by said rules, and can enact punishment if we break the rules. Seems a flawed system doomed for failure.
- Given God is omniscient, God must know the outcome and destination for all people, whether Hell or heaven.
- Given God is the inventor and arbiter of the rules whereby people's destination is decided, God must be accepting of the outcome.
- Given both points above, God must be satisfied with at least some people going to Hell.
This system preached by Christianity, of a threat of Hell without accepting God as lord of your life, does not inspire love or worship or admiration. It reflects a vengeful, vindictive, petty God. Just as a mafia boss, threatening to end your life if you don't do whatever, doesn't inspire love and devotion, why would you expect different in a celestial being? Does the offer of a long-running job under his thumb really inspire love and worship? Is the reaction to his offer of saving anything other than a visceral pleading of "please, don't kill me"?
God as the mafia boss, while not inspiring love and devotion, does demand it, and frames the dialogue to make it seem like he deserves it. This is narcissism defined. What he does not inspire, he demands, and what would make him look bad, he compels: fear, respect and sycophancy.
Punishment to Fit the Crime
On earth, lawmakers understand that crime must be met with justice, but not with a punishment over and above the crime. A punishment far exceeding the crime does not allow for rehabilitation, reconciliation or mercy.
Eternal versus Temporary
Hell is eternal. Every crime committed here on earth is still only temporary and limited in scope. Yet, the Christian Hell proposes an eternal torture as punishment for sin.
Sin is also defined as anything, thought or action, that breaks God law, and broaches into the area of thought crime. Not only can you be judged for what you do, but also what you say, listen to, and think. You can be judged while you sleep. No area of your life is private and given liberty.
Equality of Crimes
In the God as the mafia boss model, every crime, whether infraction or barbarism, receives the same punishment: Hell. This means the worst rapist and a young child, absent Christ's forgiveness, suffer the same penalty of Hell. Worse still is the flip side, that numerous atrocities can be committed but wiped away if one asks for forgiveness prior to death.
If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you would resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler–a mafia wife–with the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers.
– Bill Mahrer, mockumentary Religulous