Cheating: A Metaphor for Spiritual Infidelity

I had a dream that I was cheated on last night. It was terrible.

(Dreams, I think, are particularly interesting occurrences. They seem to allow me to experience something as I would if that thing actually happened, even though I’m not actually experiencing that thing. Could this be a part of the reason why we dream? We have anxieties and our mind prepares these anticipatory scenarios for us to experience that will help us cope if or when we go through those experiences in real life?)

Its difficult, I think, to put my finger on exactly why it sucked so badly. Maybe this is because it was a dream, but I imagine that something similar would occur in real life if I found out I had been cheated on. It seems likely that there would be no discernible cognitive reactions, but instead, an immediate visceral and emotional reaction. This, perhaps, is a good thing. If the suckiness of being cheated on is indeed some ineffable experience, then maybe that’s why it is used in the Bible so often to convey relationship between worshiper and (an ineffable?) God.

Numbers 15: 38 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. 39 You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. 40

1st Chronichles 5: 25But they were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them.

Isaiah 1: 21 See how the faithful city  has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice;  righteousness used to dwell in her— but now murderers!

It might be a little anachronistic to project the feelings of a modern man who lives in a culture where marriage is more about “love” and less about economic gain and honor (as opposed to back in the day) onto the reaction of the ancient people to whom this text was written, but I’m not exegeting here. I’m using the text as a spring board.

If cheating is truly a metaphor for spiritual infidelity, then my sin is like the betrayal of a love relationship. It is a slap in the face of a faceless God. Here, I have to make a decision about the kind of God I’m talking about. If I’m talking about Yahweh, this is an easy concept to understand. If I’m talking about the God of theism, there’s no problems in gleaning meaning from this metaphor. But if I’m talking about the God above god, then I don’t know how I can understand this.

Its a bit crazy that I don’t know which god is the real deal. I think I’m falling somewhere between the God of theism and the God above god. It could, of course, be none of them. That is, I guess, what this project is all about: to figure out who (or what?) God is.

Can I understand this cheating metaphor without making a decision? Obviously the practical import is the same either way: don’t be a unfaithful wife of God. (Such an odd metaphor, that is! It is quite different from the disciple metaphor that we often embrace as Christians. It seems more intimate and a more ultimate relationship.) What I’m mostly interested in is how my feelings may translate (or not) to “feelings God has” when I cheat on God.

Ahh…I don’t have to make a decision about the God of theism vs. the god above God. All I need to know is that “this [my feelings is being cheated on] is like that [God’s response to spiritual infidelity].” Sadness and anger were the feelings I experienced, and its likely that these feelings in some important sense resemble the response of God. What are these feelings born out of? They are born out of a valuing of the individual qua a person in a relationship who has betrayed one’s trust.

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