The story of the Gold Calf in the book of Exodus has to be one of my favorites. It is a story of an incredibly jealous god and a ridiculously stupid group of people, which ended up raising a ton of red flags for me about god and Christianity.
It starts off with a group of people waiting around for Moses to return to them from the mountain conversation he is having with god. They are getting a little antsy and are starting to think that Moses will not return. They clearly have no other purpose in their lives but to praise and blindly follow anything and everything because, after a while, they approach Aaron begging him to make them a new god since this one is taking so long. Aaron, who is one of god’s newly appointed priests, says, “Sure” and tells them all to break off their gold earrings for him. They do so and Aaron then proceeds to melt it all down and shape the gold into a calf. The people then immediately start praising this calf, dancing, giving it burnt offerings and proclaiming that it is the savior of their people.
If these people are so easily persuaded into praising anything that comes their way, what does that say about god at this point?Clearly he is no more impressive than a little golden calf or any other god for that matter. Most Christians will look at this and say that this is not a reflection of god’s power but a reflection of the stupidity of people- and I would agree. However, I would take it a step further in saying that the stupidity of people is also to blame for the praises given to god as he “exists” today. These people were so ready and willing to offer their praises to anything because they were desperate and needed something to look up to and something to believe in. This part of the story says to me that god is interchangeable with any and everything. The only common denominator is a group of desperate, weak, like-minded people ready and willing to listen to anything anyone has to say- anything that will make them feel better, or give them an excuse for being or acting a certain way. Which is why there are so many different factions within Christianity.
Are you really inspired by the Virgin Mary? Join Catholicism! Do you sort of like Catholicism but don’t love the idea of all those saints? Well then perhaps Lutheranism is the religion for you! Or, do you enjoy the Old Testament and finding a good sale? Give Judaism a try! Maybe you really hate celebrating your birthday, or any holiday for that matter, and you could see yourself talking to people door-to-door? Jehovah’s Witness would be perfect for you! Or, perhaps you believe there was more to the Bible and you are thankful that Joseph Smith discovered those missing parts? Well then I think Mormonism is for you! Whatever your fancy, feel free to choose your religion and your god. And don’t let that pesky religion you were raised on get in the way of your choice; what do your parents know anyways?
Ok, back to the story. As these people are praising this calf, god sees them (of course) and it infuriates him:
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.’ ” Exodus 32:9-10
God is a very jealous god and now he wants to kill them all- after he insults them first. Sort of like when your ex finds out you have a new boyfriend/girlfriend and the jealousy consumes them. They have invested so much time into you and now you have just simply moved on? No way Jose! (Jesus??)
Well, Moses sees that god is angry and is going to kill all of these people and he’s like, “Woah. Wait a minute! I just dragged these people through the desert and the sea for christsake! And now you just want to wipe them out? Hell no.” Well, actually he says it a little more like this:
“Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: ‘Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” Exodus 32:11-13
Basically, Moses uses the old, ‘What will the neighbors think?’ number on god to talk some sense into him and to not let all of his earlier efforts go to waste and it works! Really?! The supposed omnipotent, all-powerful, all-knowing god just listens to Moses?? Couldn’t he have come up with that reasoning himself before he let his anger get to him? Wasn’t it Jesus, not god, that was supposed to bear all the human characteristics so that we could relate to him/it? And, what good is a god if he has no sense of reason? It seems to me that god is the hot-headed, jealous type. The type you can’t break up with because you might end up in a battered women’s home. (But, he loves you!)
The story continues with Moses returning to the people and dividing them up, asking those that are with god to join him and those that aren’t to leave. Then, with the group of followers, proceeds to murder thousands of people.
“And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion and every man his neighbor.’ So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day.” Exodus 32:27-28
Then, to add injury to insult after they just murdered everyone they knew, Moses tells them that they still have not satisfied god and that they will need to atone for their sins. Moses summons god and ask him to forgive them and god says something like, “Fine. You go and take these people to the place I told you to take them, as planned.” But he adds this,
” ‘Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.’ So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.” Exodus 32: 34-35
Is that a threat? It sure sounds like a threat to me… If you are a god, why threaten at all? Why not do something? And, more importantly, isn’t god supposed to be all-loving? Or, is it just that we haven’t gotten to that part yet? How can I believe that god “loves us” when he goes around acting like that? Why the crazy jealousy, the temper, the fits of rage, the controlling, the anger, the threats if you leave and the threats even when you stay? Again, I refer back to the angry ex and the dangerous, jealous relationship- If we are taught that when humans treat us this way it is bad, then why is it OK for our god to do the same?