Before I entered Seminary, the sitcom “Seinfeld” was my favorite thing to watch on TV. (It still is, by the way. Re-runs of Seinfeld are better than anything current…although I keep hearing about this ‘Downton Abbey’ phenomenon).
So last night Christine was, for some reason, finding youtube clips of Seinfeld, and came across this gem of a scene. I find it hilarious on a number of levels, but once you get over the initial hilarity of the scene, a deeper truth remains.
Kramer, in the first half of this clip, represents an understanding of God that I think many of us in the Christian Tradition have grown up with (I am thankful I seem to have been spared this image in my own childhood).
Kramer expertly illustrates this understanding of God; pacing back and forth, spewing judgment after judgment and heaping his criticism upon the unsuspecting viewer. I think it is too easy to uncritically accept this image of God (this is called ’embedded’ theology), when what’s needed is the courage to examine our beliefs together.
In the second half of this clip, however, we encounter an image of God that is more like a sniveling, needy child, begging for our love and affection. This is the image of God I think we too often promote in our churches when we uncritically engage in ‘outreach’ with so much focus on bringing people in, that we lose sight of what it is we are inviting people in to. (This is an image of God I can’t find very attractive, can you?). (Although I think the best part of this entire clip is the way he wipes his eye at the end).
“Seinfeld” was such a hit, precisely because the show was able to tap into the shared human experience in 21st century North America. I have to admit, if I were God, I fear I would be the kind of God represented by Kramer in the first part of this clip.
Since I am not God, and since I am human, I fear that the God I represent looks to others more like Kramer in the second part of this clip…that is, whiny, pleading, and so needy for affirmation that he loses all self-respect.
So Lent is a time where I invite myself to perceive and hold this tension within myself, and I invite you to do it with me. How can we best step outside ourselves in order to perceive the reality surrounding us? Should our goal be in avoiding the extremes represented by Kramer?
Or should our goal be to hold these extremes in creative tension, aided only by the deafening silence that comes in the wake of the crucified God?