When I went to daily mass yesterday I heard for the millionth time a very typical sickly-sweet treacly insouciant homily on how our God is a loving compassionate God and not a bad judgmental tyrant father type. We listeners in the pews had to be treated like scared children or wounded victims who need treatment at a field hospital like good Pope Francis insists rather than lessons in warfare like the old church used to preach. Pope Francis was cited approvingly by referring to the Pope’s recent book whose title is “The name of God is mercy”.
For decades now the homilies I have heard at all the masses I have attended have been similar in tone: God is not a judgmental god, God is loving, God is like the Father in the parable of the prodigal son, God is not wrathful, God is not a tyrant etc etc…Certainly all the Popes since Vatican II have adopted this tone to varying degrees of assuring the faithful that God is NOT this judgmental tyrant Father in the sky. The most recent Pope seems to hold the most extreme version of this sanitizing theme for the church. This “pastoral” note was sounded first at Vatican II and it has been adopted with fanatical dedication since then. Its as if the church has decided that it MUST repeat ad nauseum how loving God is in order to prove to the wider world that it is not an oppressive, backward, moralistic Church interested only in scolding people to serve God – or else!
Perhaps Vatican II and the post Vatican II pastoral church was justified to some extent as a reaction against the heretical tendency of seeing God as a tyrant that came to the fore with Jansenism back in the 1600 and 1700s. Whether or not there was any justification to the pastoral turn back in the early 1960s there is certainly no justification for it now. On the contrary I see the current trend to repeat the “God is mercy mantra” ad nauseum as indicative of heresy. Heresy always takes one true attribute of God and makes it God. The modern heresy of exalting the merciful name of God at the expense of God’s justice and wrathful attributes is a renewal of an old heresy. The old heresy was called Marcionism. Marcion was a rich man in early Rome who hated the wrathful god of the old testament and claimed that the merciful loving God of the new testament was the only true God. Like our modern, tolerant, liberal rich elites, the elites of the old Roman empire wanted an easy loving God to relate to…. not a judgmental, demanding God who can be moved to wrath at the disobedience of his creatures.
So in my view what is wrong with the modern church is a Marcionism-redux. We have lost the fear of God in the west. There are no consequences of disobedience to the church or to God if the church is relentlessly merciful. The church is engaging in idolatry if it elevates only the merciful side of God at the expense of God’s warthful side.