Saying that the concept of Imago Dei is not unknown to Christians is an understatement on the order of saying Custer and the Seventh Cavalry had a bad day on the Little Big Horn back in 1876. It’s all over the Bible and has come up in more than one Sunday Sermon. But, for all the hype over the idea, I can’t help but think that most of us Christians don’t really believe it. We certainly don’t act like we do.
The history of Christendom is filled with examples of man’s inhumanity to man; wars, inquisitions, witch hunts and more. Lest you think that’s all in the distant past, The Troubles in Northern Ireland have claimed thousands of dead and injured. According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency estimates that this conflict has affected as many as 500,000 people. You don’t have to look overseas to find examples of the shitty way Christians treat others, either. Earlier this month, World Vision announced that it would no longer discriminate against LGBTQ individuals in its hiring practices, which caused evangelicals to threaten to pull their support from the agency. Essentially, for these folks, World Vision’s doctrinal purity is more important than feeding starving children. This is not how we would treat God, so why do we treat those made in God’s image this way?
Is it so surprising that we don’t see the image of God in others when we don’t see in it ourselves? Each and every one of us have aspects of our personality that we hate. And, all too often, we allow those aspects to carry more weight than the things we love about ourselves. This is the Devil and his demons, not some fellow with horns and a pitchfork tempting us to “lie with mankind, as with womankind” or any other “sin” we lay at his door. Self-hate blinds us to the fact that we are, indeed, made in the image of God. That blindness allows us say and do terrible things to ourselves and others. If there are degrees of sin, then hate (especially self-hate) has to be at the top of the list because, like English 101, it is the pre-requisite for all the other ones.
We would do well to remember these words from Doris Betts’ Everything I Know About Writing I Learned in Sunday School:
“The Bible doesn’t concentrate on one-sided, goody-goody characters. Career thieves get redeemed at the very last minute. God seems to love human beings, warts and all. A trickster like Jacob and an adulterer like King David are of great interest to Yahweh; doubting Thomas and cowardly Peter are important to Christ. Will Campbell once stated it bluntly: “We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.”
I can’t help but believe that when stop hating ourselves, we’ll stop hating each other. When we accept that we, ourselves, are made in the Image of God, we will begin to accept that others are also made in that image. And, then, maybe we can start doing this Christian thing the way we should.