Mark Morford, SFGate.com: You know what God loves? Meddling. Meddling and poking and adjusting and maybe, just maybe, forgiving. Sometimes.
OK wait. What God really loves is meddling and poking and maybe forgiving, and also psychoanalyzing and scrutinizing and prying, gossiping and complaining and moderating, sighing and punishing and condemning, all while He shakes His big, shaggy head in your general direction at your various petty sins and misbehaviors every single day regarding pretty much every single thought you have.
Did you know this about God? Of course you did.
After all, if much of organized religion and nearly every conservative/fundamentalist adherent thereof are to be believed -- and they most definitely are not -- God is essentially the most obsessed, niggling micromanager of all time. He is all about being hugely, nay downright obscenely interested in the trivial minutiae of modern life, from the food eaten on a particular day to the touchdown made during the Big Game to the brand of TV you watch it on, right on over to what book you're reading and where you live and if you have the right guns and foreign policy and facial hair, and of course whether or not you judge gay people and demean women and nonbelievers in just the right way.
Because only then, when all preposterous criteria are met, might God absolve you, or lead you toward happiness, or grant success to your new laundromat, or forgive you your trespasses and your recreational drug use and your pornographic thoughts about your massage therapist, or even how many soft, cooing sounds you made over the body of a sexy Argenitine female. Isn't that right, Gov. Sanford?
Let us ponder. Because once again and for the billionth time, a deeply sad and hypocritical conservative is now claiming that he will be turning to God not merely for forgiveness for his lusty irresponsibilities, but he is also claiming that, in order to set things right, God will now be actively stepping into his life to help put him back on track, fix his mangled moral compass, tell him the what-what and the don't-stick-that-there.
Isn't that terrific? Isn't it wondrous to hear that God cares so much, so specifically, for Gov. Mark Sanford? Is it not heartening to hear that God will now happily jump into the rather wretched role of Sanford's own personal therapist, helping the wayward governor bury his heart and nix his one true love so he may return to his unhappy marriage and unhappy job and unhappy life? Yay God! So good of Him to take the time.
I, for one, am utterly delighted at how Sanford has effortlessly reduced the grand concept of timeless, universal divine metaconsciousness down to a bit of a tool, essentially making God his own personal knave. What a fantastic conceit! What glorious gall! We should all try that someday.
In fact, most major religions encourage exactly that. I find I am in a constant swoon of giddy amazement at this universal phenomenon, the fabulous, hubris-loaded idea that God is not actually an unfathomable river of cosmic energy to be supped from like liquid light, while you still take complete responsibility for your own life and choices. Nor is God simply the idea of universal love and compassion, coursing through all things at all times everywhere. How silly to think.
No, God is, apparently, actually far more like some sort of heavyset, hectoring grandmother who reads your email and pokes through your underwear drawer and hates your girlfriend and is, for the most part, very, very disappointed in you. Great!
Really, it almost does not matter in which God you believe, what sect or major denomination. Nearly all are of the same idea, offer up the same unquestionable truth: Of course God cares what you do, who you screw, upon which sliver of dust-choked holy land you live, how high you raise your flag and which statue you kneel before. This is the greatest wonder of all: In the impossible vastness of time and space, God cares most desperately, most fanatically about this particular swirling blue dot of inconsequential dust we call home. Hey, we invented God, right? We can do with Him whatever we want.
Now, you may say, if you have some broader understanding of matters religious and spiritual, that the point is not that God is literally a human-like micromanager -- which is, obviously, a rather childish anthropomorphization of an abstract theological construct. Most Jews, for example, do not try to observe 10,000 impossible, arcane regulations and proscriptions and kosher Coca-Cola because they actually believe God will be furious if they go for the ham on rye on a Friday.
Rather, you can say most religious rules and rituals merely exist to reinforce commitment and membership in a given club, to give your ego some sort of reliable identity and shape, to bind the believer more devoutly to a given faith -- and sometimes, if you're lucky, deliver a lovely means to personal transformation. It's easy to say that what most God-is-watching-you beliefs and behaviors do best is solidify our allegiance to whatever tribe we believe gives us our identity. It's all merely a series of elaborate, profoundly felt secret handshakes. God could not really care less.
Put another way, the notion that this eternal divine consciousness, this grand and unquenchable, vibrating pulse of existence spanning all spheres and organisms and dimensions for all time everywhere, gives a flying communion wafer over the fact that you, say, enjoy sodomy on Sunday mornings? Well, that's just all sorts of hilarious, dangerous reductivism. It is and has always been, throughout history, the most glorious conceit of man.
No matter. We do it anyway. Mark Sanford and his ilk will never cease in reducing divine consciousness into such shallow and sad dimensions, to serve their particular needs and egos and power struggles. Which is, perhaps, the greatest human tragedy of all.
Because really, we do the divine no favors by making it our bitch. We only keep God in this little box, taking him out when it suits us, our political goals or our need for redemption and meaning, and to assuage our ego's trembling fears. You know, like a psychotherapist. Like a crutch. Like an excuse. Like a vibrator. Like milk. Like a gemstone. Like a flowerpot. Like a drug. Like a gun.