The various small sections of Your God Is Too Small each highlight a particular unreal God that might trouble the believer. At each reading, a different two or three jump out at me. Perhaps I am just most eager to point fingers at the temptations I am not bothered by, falling silent on the ones which stab me more personally.
I still think this would make a good adult Sunday School class or book discussion group topic, discouraging the reading of the short book at one go, focussing on but one or two unreal Gods for discussion each week.
Why “MILD”? Of all the epithets that could be applied to Christ, this seems one of the least appropriate. For what does “mild,” as applied to a person,conjure up to our minds? Surely a picture of someone who wouldn’t say “boo”to the proverbial goose; someone who would let sleeping dogs lie and avoid trouble wherever possible; someone of a placid temperament who is almost a stranger to the passions of red-blooded humanity; someone who is a bit of a nonentity, both uninspired and uninspiring. This word “mild” is apparently deliberately used to describe a man who did not hesitate to challenge and expose the hypocrisies of the religious people of his day: a man who had such “personality” that He walked unscathed through a murderous crowd; a man so far from being a nonentity that He was regarded by the authorities as a public danger; a man who could be moved to violent anger by shameless exploitation or by smug complacent orthodoxy; a man of such courage that He deliberately walked to what He knew would mean death, despite the earnest pleas of well-meaning friends! Mild! What a word to use…Jesus as actually recorded in the Gospels is an alarming figure, frequently frustrated or angry. Commanding, scolding, seeming at times to be unsympathetic or a little inhuman (which is what we would expect for a Person who is more than human, I suppose).
The alarming Jesus is not all of him either, of course. He wishes to gather Jerusalem like chicks under the protective wings of a hen. He pours out what earthly energy he has to the point of exhaustion in the times that healing is central to his ministry.
…experience shows that it is operating beneath the conscious level of many Christian minds, particularly in those whose childhood has been coloured by a sentimental attitude toward “the Lord Jesus.” Such people find their actions, and even their thoughts, inhibited by a false consideration of what is “loving.” They can neither use their critical faculties nor speak the plain truth nor meet their fellows “naturally” for fear they sin against the meek-and-mild god. To non-Christians they thus appear unreal or even as hypocrites, while the “love” they attempt to exhibit toward others is all too often a pathetic travesty of the real thing. For, like other sentimentalists,the meek-and-mild god is in reality cruel; and those whose lives have been governed by him from early childhood have never been allowed to develop their real selves. Forced to be “loving,” they have never been free to love.
There is a further offshoot of the worship of this false god which must be mentioned. It is the sentimental Christian ideal of “saintliness.” We hear, or read, of someone who was “a real saint: he never saw any harm in anyone and never spoke a word against anyone all his life.” If this really is a Christian saintliness, then Jesus Christ was no saint.
Yet I think it is the idea of sainthood which is foisted on us by outsiders, and one which we too willingly embrace. “For, like other sentimentalists, the meek-and-mild god is in reality cruel.” That is a wonderful Chestertonian expression – but what does it mean, really? I am curious what others think of that.