the god box

god box cartoon drawing by nakedpastor david hayward

Purchase the original or a print of this cartoon!

I’m sorry I drew God with a lumpy butt. I’m sure he’s quite fit, since he’s probably on the Bible Diet.

Yesterday I tweeted this:

There is such peace beyond the walls of beliefs. In fact, this is where true happiness is found.

It caused a bit of a stir because belief is such an important feature of religion.

We must agree, though, that the Mystery, the Source, the All-in-all, is certainly beyond the limitations of what we believe. Assuredly! If your god is trapped within your ideas and words then you have nothing more than an idol. Period!

(This cartoon will remind you of another one I did of a guy trying to shove God into his Bible called It’s a God Fit. You can purchase that one here.)

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44 Responses

  1. Pat B says:

    The ‘Bible Diet’ sounds almost as bad as the ‘Purpose-Driven Diet’

    in fact we could probably develop a nice new schism arguing over which is more ‘biblical’ which I guess is also a symptom of what you depict here :-(

  2. Sabio Lantz says:

    Fun drawing !

    But for those of us who don’t feel there are any gods or spirits, what we see is people cramming all sorts of stuff in that box:

    Politics, race, ethnic group, apple pie, church-culture, holidays, family get-togethers and much more.

    In other words: their ain’t no god in the box but it is indeed crammed full. The crammers just think that because their package is bulging, the label is accurate.

  3. James says:

    Interesting though Sabio. Would you prefer a “transcendent ideals” box? I like the idea of exposing the human desire to make God and religion fit our own ideological commitments.

    The brilliance of mature, philosophically sound Christianity is that it reveals that God does not live in any box, he is a free God, not required to perform as our theology or piety dictate!

  4. Is the angle in the cartoon symbolic of Moses getting a glimpse of God’s backside?

  5. Steve Martin says:

    God Himself has given us a pinpoint view of who He is…in Jesus.

    A very specific person who did and said very specific things.

    But we insist on making it all up according to our own generous reason.

  6. Gary says:

    “But we insist on making it all up according to our own generous reason.”

    Then stop it Steve!!

    (Sorry…couldn’t resist) ;-)

  7. faithlessinfatima says:

    It wd’ve helped if Jesus wrote his own story,but then again, he,being human,likely had a theology.

  8. Steve Martin says:

    Nice one, Gary! :D


    My pastor just posted this on his blog a couple of minutes ago.
    I thought the timing was perfect for the post here:

    (from Pastor Mark)

    I make a habit of striking up conversations while standing in line at the grocery store. It helps to pass the time, provides opportunity to meet someone new and, perhaps, share the faith. Not long ago I was chatting with a woman who, upon learning I was a pastor, made the statement, “I’m very spiritual and religious but I don’t go to church.” She went on to describe her spirituality. She spoke quite generally about some sort of god and spirit and feeling and nature. It was rather vague and subjective. I replied by saying that although a pastor, I was not very spiritual or religious. She was rather surpised at this. “Then what do you talk about?” , she asked. “Jesus”, I answered. “Everything we are looking for in what we call religion and spirituality are found in Jesus.” Before she could respond it was time to check out. As she pushed her cart away she looked back at me with a slight smile and a somewhat puzzled expression. I considered it a good days work!

    The essence of the Christian message is this; “For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son…”. This ought to be good news to serious seekers after God. The fact that it is not calls into question just how serious all this talk about seeking God really is. Some sort of god on my terms perhaps, but the True God? I’m not so sure.

    God has taken the guesswork out of religion and spirituality and has revealed Himself with pinpoint accuracy in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the human face of God. In Jesus and His gospel God seeks us. What Jesus says and does are the words and deeds of God. Read the gospels. See for yourself. Here is a man passionate about justice, set firmly against evil, eager to be with the outclassed and the oucast, available to all, full of grace, determined to make all things new, brimming over with truth, so much a part of God they are one, big enough to carry suffering, even death, so committed in love to the sinner that even death could not hold Him. What’s not to like?

    So, you can have a vague spirituality cobbled together out of, well, whatever. Or you can have Jesus. Friend of sinners, Prince of Peace, the Livng Water, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, the One who seeks the lost. I could go on but you get the point. There is nothing vague about Jesus. The faith, hope, love, grace, mercy and forgiveness that are in Him are as real and refreshing as rain. And they are for you!

    “May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

  9. nakedpastor says:

    Steve: You and your pastor sound remarkably the same. Which is a good thing I suppose, him being your teacher and all.

  10. Brigitte says:

    While it is true that faith is more than and different from checking off a list of confessed truths (even the devil knows what’s true)–it has become the favorite thing of many, also in the past, (for their very mature, philosophical, convenient comfort), to call Bible-believing “idolatry”. There is nothing new about this, but it is highly offensive, still. It basically denies all revelation and makes Jesus superfluous and derides believers as “idolaters”. It is something like calling Jesus “Beelzebub”. (Mark 3)

  11. Steve Martin says:

    Thanks, David.

    He is a bulldog for Christ and I would hope to try and echo him whenever I’m able.

  12. Gary says:

    Wow Brigitte…this comment of yours was an outrageous attack in the context of masquerading as the one being attacked.


  13. faithlessinfatima says:

    LOL…”a bulldog for Christ”….that’s a good one Steve.

  14. Richard says:

    I am convinved that we cannot place God in a box and say ” He will do this” or ” He won’t do that” . You are bound to find somewhere in scripture an example to the contrary. It is the same with people of faith. There should be no “rubber stamp” on the forehead saying “approved”. so that we fit in some defined box. There are however certain rights and wrongs that we should try and live by.

  15. Hausdorff says:

    “I’m sorry I drew God with a lumpy butt. I’m sure he’s quite fit”

    Of course he’s fit, he can just snap his fingers and look however he wants. He could eat whatever he wants and never gain an ounce, what a lucky guy!

    If I was God I would eat so many nachos.

  16. nakedpastor says:

    how do you know he doesn’t Hausdorff?

  17. Hausdorff says:

    You are right, he probably does! If anyone is in a position to know how awesome nachos are it would be God.

  18. nakedpastor says:

    of course. but i make the best nachos.

  19. Hausdorff says:

    Maybe the best that can be made without heavenly cheese. I’m sure God’s ingredients would knock our socks off.

  20. Christine says:

    I think Jesus is unlikely to be looking for attack dogs to represent Him.

  21. faithlessinfatima says:

    Must’ve been a Target store….

  22. Steve Martin says:


    A bulldog is NOT an attack dog. But it is tenacious.

  23. Steve Martin says:

    Read the story (I posted above in the comments).

    Does it sound like my pastor was attacking the woman?

    I think not. He was proclaiming, without hesitation or apology, that it was Jesus who was the center of what he believed in.

  24. Carol says:

    Needleman is one of my favorite authors. He is a purveyor of wisdom, not just knowledge:

    Why is it that our popular established religions are so shaken in the face of the visible problems of our civilization: drugs, war, crime, social injustice, the breakdown of the family, the sexual revolution? Is it not because somewhere along the line belief took the place of faith for the majority of Jews and Christians? Faith cannot be shaken; it is the result of being shaken. And we can see in the writings of the early Fathers that the primary function of the monastic discipline was to shake man’s belief in his own powers and understanding. This was not done simply by visiting upon men situations they could not handle or which caused them pain. Such experiences by themselves are useless, and even dementing, unless they are met by an intention to profit from them in the coin of self-knowledge. Mere belief that one has already found the way and the truth is the exact opposite of such an intention and was recognized by the early Fathers as a weapon of the devil.
    ~Jacob Needleman, The New Religions

  25. Christine says:

    I didn’t even read the story. Nothing against your pastor. I just think “bulldog for Christ” is a pretty terrible phrase.

  26. Christine says:

    “The fact that it is not [good news] calls into question just how serious all this talk about seeking God really is.”

    No, I think it calls into question how much what the church is pushing is anything like Jesus. People don’t usually have a problem with Jesus, it’s the message of His followers they don’t welcome with open arms.

  27. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ James,
    You asked if “would you prefer a ‘transcendent ideals’ box?” — I must say, I don’t follow — especially since I don’t have ‘transcendent ideals’ — nor do I know how we should know what that is.

    You said,
    “The brilliance of mature, philosophically sound Christianity is …”

    I don’t think there is a mature, philosophically sound Christianity since Christianity (like all ideology) is created by people who are immature and there is no such thing as “philosophically sound”.

    Every Christian (you included, apparently – no matter how progressvie) wants to boast that their Christianity is philosophically sound and mature. That tells you something right there.

    [treading carefully cause I hear there are dangerous bulldogs in this yard]

  28. LouiseM says:

    I wonder if Jesus chalked up another tally on his “good days work” achievement list when he looked up to see The Chief Tax Collector in a tree, called him by name and made plans to get together with him later to chat and “stay” with him at his house?

    While I appreciate Steve Martin and his pastor’s zeal and certainty about The Jesus They Proclaim and Know by Name as “Friend of sinners, Prince of Peace, the Livng Water, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, the One who seeks the lost., I’m not at all clear from their description what all those names and good stuff looks, smells, feels, tastes, and sounds like in my present life, right here and now.

    Maybe I’m wanting to make friends with the bull dog under the tree, or better yet, hear someone call my name and tell me they’d like to get to know me more and spend some time talking, laughing, eating and staying together.

    Today’s reading brought this:

    So the Kingdom of Heaven is the reality of a person’s life that causes the whole personality and the outer fabric of life as well to achieve completeness John A Sanford

  29. aDK says:

    Looks like God is either going to have to suck it in, or we’re going to have to amputate something.

    Makes me think of people who cut off aspects of who God has revealed Himself to be to make Him fit into what they feel like believing at the moment. Like, God is our Healer, and then some people say “nope, I don’t believe God does that.” Or God is our Lover, and people say “nope, I don’t believe God relates to us like that.”

  30. Beth says:

    Or the others who know that God is a murderer and just deny it.

  31. Gary says:

    Nah…God is not a murderer. He has just been portrayed that way by people with murderous hearts.

  32. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Gary,
    I get wanting to protect your god, but I think the OT god, like others of those times was pretty murderous — righteously so, of course — but murderous.

  33. Beth says:

    I’m with Sabio on this one….just read the OT and it can’t be denied. (and a ‘murderous heart’ is not required to come to that conclusion)

  34. Carol says:

    Perhaps the OT is not only a Revelation of Who God is; but also a Revelation of Who the people of God thought he was. I doubt that the tendency to envision God in our own image is only a contemporary heresy. My own personal rule for interpreting Scripture is that God will never be less merciful and loving than I and I would never countenance the some of the actions that the Israelites attributed to God’s will.

    If God created man in his image, we have more than reciprocated. –Voltaire

    You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. ~Anne Lamott

    Ideal Christianity doesn’t exist because anything the human being touches, even Christian truth, he deforms slightly in his own image. Even the saints do this. ~Flannery O’Connor

  35. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Carol,
    “the people of God” <– what an obnoxious phrase. As if everyone else isn't as special as the Israelites. Indeed that is how the OT god treated others. Submit or die.

    We must reject the notion of "People of God" <– it is an inherently violent notion.

    You can interpret any scriptures or poem as you wish, of course, but that may have absolutely nothing to do with the intent of the person writing it.

    Why can't people just speak for themselves — they use gods or quote something else to add sanctity to their own voices.

  36. Carol says:

    Sabio, the phrase “people of God” has nothing to do with the universality of God’s love for all people. It references people who consciously and willfully seek to know God and conform to his benevolent will for the universal good of man(kind). The agnostics and atheists that I know would not take kindly to being included in this definitive theological phrase.

    You seem to be inclined to put the worst and most negative interpretation on what others say without reflecting on what they might have intended. It is almost impossible not to unintentionally push one of your “hot buttons” which makes it very difficult to have a civil dialogue. Frustrating! >8-(

  37. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Carol,
    Sorry you are frustrated — thanx for no quotes this time.

    There are no “People of God” — only people who want to label themselves as such. Historically the phrase has been used very divisively. I get that you want a more universal approach, but I wanted to show that even universalists have habits of using old, dangerous exclusivist jargon.

    You want to tell us that there is a god who has benevolent wishes for mankind and that some seek to conform to that and some don’t. I am hoping that perhaps you can you see the exclusiveness there inside your otherwise inclusive universality. (or maybe I am wrong, and you aren’t a universalist or an inclusivist – you’d have to let me know)

    If you feel there are good actions people should take, why not just discuss them instead of pretending that the actions you value are those of some universalist god. You then read Hebrew scriptures as if people are really just wrestling with that. Well, what if that is not what they were doing. If not, then you are being arrogant in telling them what they really did or what they should have been doing.

    Being offended when people question a sweet, syrupy god has its own irony.

    No matter how much sweeter and nicer and more inclusive your god, if you keep exclusivist manners of talking about him/her, it can ironically still reinforce the nasty exclusiveness of those with narrow visions.

    That was my point. I think “People of God” is violent language.
    But perhaps you don’t because you consider yourself in the in-group. I am asking you to consider that — no matter how much that frustrates you.

  38. Carol says:

    Sabio, I am not going to get into a discussion of symantics or spiritual one-up-manship with you. That is one of my complaints about ecclesiatical parochialism, it’s always about majoring in the minors.

    I cannot look into your mind or heart, so I have no theories on why you think and speak the way you do; but I do know my own mind and heart and I can say with certainty that I often experience your replies to my posts as psychological abuse.

    I am not a silent sufferer and so whenever that is how I feel, you will hear a protest from me. Take it or leave it, that’s up to you; but, know this, you are not the only one who has “hot buttons.” Tread lightly, or suffer the consequences.

  39. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Carol
    “Tread lightly, or suffer the consequences.”

    Wow, that is ironic. I often find the sweet ones to very incredibly venomous when challenged. And I am the one who does “psychological abuse”. Who is fling the personal attacks in each comment?

  40. Beth says:

    Sabio, I get what you are saying. The idea of folks – ‘people of god’ – using god or the bible to discriminate, harass, or abuse others occurs over and over again. I have met very few people who call themselves christians who don’t apply the bible for their own agenda. The bible then not only becomes meaningless, but it also becomes dangerous.

  41. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Beth,
    Thank you for understanding.

  42. BW says:

    Sabio, I understand and agree with a lot of what you say on here.

  43. Eric Funston says:

    David: Great image! I used it this morning to illustrate a sermon on the Book of Job. Thanks for the help!
    Eric Funston
    St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
    Medina, Ohio

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