My thoughts belong to me alone, and I refuse to feel guilty about how they might hurt others. My words and my actions can and do have consequences, but my thoughts are how I sort it all out. And I believe the guilt I feel over what runs through my mind in any given moment is, perhaps, the last trace of God in my life.
But I am letting it go.
The idea that God knows our thoughts is one of the most damaging details of Christianity. What is the likelihood that a creator would know our thoughts, really? I enjoy looking at photos from NASA; and every time I see our planet from outer space I wonder: why did I ever think God knew my thoughts? It seems so silly from that perspective.
But the Bible says our God knows. He knows when we feel lust, jealousy, anger, hatred…. and those thoughts make us guilty whether we act on them or not.
In many ways the puzzle fits. After all, haven’t we all felt at one time or another that someone is listening in on our innermost secrets? Especially when we are not particularly proud of what we are thinking. Some would say it is our conscience; and Christians believe our conscience comes from God.
There were times as a Christian when I wondered if God did not know my thoughts in a literal way, but rather gave me a conscience which worked with the Holy Spirit to keep me on track. Maybe God himself wasn’t paying attention to every momentary lapse in thought purity. He could tap in, of course, because he is God—but why would he? Except, the Bible says anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and anyone who looks at another lustfully has already committed adultery. So I was guilty either way.
God knows hate and lust are thoughts which directly lead to those actions, and in that light we can see how it makes sense. But no matter what Christians believe about what we would do in the absence of God’s moral imprint upon our hearts—those thoughts do not always lead to actual murder and adultery. And how can we ever work a thing out in our head if we are always shutting those thoughts out to
avoid being murdered by Orwell’s Thought Police stay right with God? And why did God create brains that are able to think this way in the first place?
(That’s not a real question. I know the answer now.)
Christians don’t appear to be too concerned over feelings of hate, but messages against lust are a never-ending distraction for them. I wrote a post over at Patheos a few months ago called “Everything Under the Umbrella of Lust.” It offers a little history on biblical lust and more than a few anecdotes on the evils of masturbation:
Maybe God isn’t thrilled with the amount of imaginary sex the average person is having with celebrities, fictional characters, and boy bands. Maybe we’re not thrilled that he’s watching. But the real crime is that Christianity is far too limited by its specific interpretation of God. They have taken a handful of verses about lust and turned them into a culture of rules designed to set themselves up for failure.
It may seem like an obsession within the Christian culture, but we create thought rules in the secular world, too. Always believing in the “slippery slope.”
But if thoughts can get us into a mess, they can also map out our escape. And I think it is far better to spend time mapping out a plan than it is to just hope the thought doesn’t get past the “God goalie” and cause an unplanned incident. (I think we have all seen that scenario play out.)
I am done apologizing to myself for daydreams of cruelty, jealousy, self-doubt– and yes, even lust. There is no one else holding me accountable for what I need to work through in my own head. My thoughts are not right or wrong, they are simply the way I filter what comes in and out. And for the most part, I am pretty responsible with them. I cannot see how allowing a judge and jury to analyze the process would benefit me in any way. The good news is that I no longer believe the judge and jury have access to those records.