According to a just released survey undertaken by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, nine out of 10 Americans say they believed in God, but identified four distinctly different types of Higher Being they worshipped.
1.) Authoritarian God, who is highly involved in their daily lives and world affairs, is quite angry and quite capable of meting out punishment to those who are unfaithful or ungodly (Clearly, the old fire & brimstone tossing, Sodom and Gomorrah sacking God).
2) Benevolent God, who is active in our daily lives, but less willing to condemn or punish individuals. (This one sounds like a classy God, who would probably be welcome at most cocktail parties).
3.) Critical God, who does not interact with the world but, nonetheless isn’t pleased with what he sees and will express his displeasure in the afterlife (Watch out for this God. He’s taking notes and clearly prepared to kick some butt down the line).
4) Distant God, who has set the laws of nature in motion and gone on a long, extended vacation. He’s not active or angry. (You can almost picture this God downing Red Stripe and grooving to some Reggae on a Jamaican beach).
I find it fascinating that so many people have so many different images of God. In looking at the horrific state of the world around me, I’d have to classify myself as a "Distant God" advocate. I mean, how could an active God permit what’s happening? But, then again, when the Mets won and the Yankees lost on the same day, I temporarily switched to believing in a Benevolent God. So, who knows?
When the Baylor survey was sliced and diced, it turned out that most people believed in an Authoritarian God. The biggest gender gap came with Benevolent God believers, where women were twice as likely as men to believe in a good guy upstairs. The poorest people believed in Authoritarian God while the richest ones opted for Distant God. As for not believing in any God at all, only eight percent of men and three percent of women nixed any idea of a supreme being (probably Yankees fans).
Whether he’s (or she’s, for that matter) Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical or Distant, God clearly needs to shift into second gear. If he’s authoritarian, show us some muscle. If he’s benevolent, we could sure use some TLC. If he’s critical, ok, help us with some constructive criticism. And, if he’s distant, then it’s time to check out of that beach cabana and get more engaged. Note to Jehovah: "The world you save may be your own."