My fear of dogs comes from when I was attacked by a German Shepherd when I was a kid. As in the big scary dog. Not a Bavarian farmer. That incident has lived long in my mind. It sets my default reaction to all dogs that they will, this time or another, attack me.
Because that is what dogs do.
As a runner who likes the solitude of cross-country or woods, this pre-determined fear of canine treachery does not bode well. But my experience tells me I am right. So when I hear stories of dog attacks, it backs up my theory. No matter the hundreds of dogs I pass who do me no harm. No matter my old flame Sasha, the borrowed black labrador I used to take to Tilgate forest to run with me. Dogs like that don’t fit my prejudice, so I can ignore them.
But here comes the rub. Maybe it’s a confession. The dog attack I mentioned earlier. Did I mention it was a dream? A nightmare really, but it wasn’t real. I was a child, and I had a bad dream about my leg being bitten by an Alsatian. But it wasn’t real, although my leg did hurt.
But the fear of dog it gave me was very real. From an imaginary event. Backed up by prejudice and conjecture.
It got me thinking. About people’s experiences of god. Their fear of him. The very real fear that he is out to get them. That he will find them out and punish them. That he might look all friendly but maybe this time, maybe the next. He will attack.
Because that is what gods do.
I would love to shatter the myth of the attack-god, to show people when their perceptions of God are created from dreams or fantasies or things they’ve heard from someone who once said that God will burn everyone who doesn’t behave themselves and sing falsetto in the choir. A sort of Dante-esque horror story of eternal punishment that some Christians get off on. Backed up by prejudice and conjecture. And, of course, fear.
The myths we carry in our minds about God can be so dangerous because they block us from experiencing the real thing. Like a fear of dogs that forever blocks us from relaxing in the presence of the friendliest of canines, the misplaced fear of God can forever block us from relaxing in the presence of God.
Who, as CS Lewis famously said of Aslan (not a dog), is of course not safe. But he is good.