Father God - Sylvia Browne
“I find it interesting that the earlier we go to what religious writings or history call ‘pagan’ times, the more loving the god(s). Could this be because politics and money hadn’t entered into the picture yet? Yes, there was a fair amount of fear during these times, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to what we’ve heard from the theologians over the past 2,000 years.” – From the book

Prolific bestselling author Sylvia Browne says that Father God has been maligned as a petty, cruel, and vindictive deity. In an attempt to paint a picture of a loving—although nebulous and static—male God, Sylvia presents numerous quotes from websites, other authors, and her own experiential logic. However, the result is a contradictory, disheartening, and shallow book intended to convince readers that “God is perfect and God is nice.”

Other than serving as a counterpart to her book Mother God (which I enjoyed), I don’t really get the point of this book. History and formal religion has taught most of us the “facts” on male deities from around the world, especially the monotheistic “big three” (which none of us in the Western world, especially the U.S., can escape).

If Sylvia wanted to convince readers of God’s “niceness”, then she didn’t do a very good job. She says that Father God is hazy and static, rarely showing his “face” in heaven. (Apparently, Mother God is the one that intervenes on behalf of humanity.) While she tries to offer numerous examples of Father God’s “kindness” from various religions, the same areas of citation (such as Old Testament books or mythology) show a capricious, jealous, vengeful, God. She says those portions are slanderous lies by patriarchal control freaks (my words, not hers). I agree, the Divine has been misaligned and many have done cruel acts in Father God’s name. But picking and choosing Scriptures to support God’s kindness when his apparent nastiness is in the next verse isn’t convincing. (I say throw out the baby AND the bathwater.)

Sylvia is obviously affected by her upbringing, which includes an abusive mother that she calls a “dark entity” (ad infinitum in most of her books). She espouses, at times, the familiar all-or-nothing dualism of religion. Perhaps in the attempt to explain suffering, she has concluded that God is “all good”, and Satan/Lucifer exists to tempt and torment humanity. So, really, how is this different than most formal religion?

To her credit, she does provide excellent spiritual insights such as “Each of us has to figure out what gives us passion even if it’s just being with our families or talking to God” and “We all have our ‘demons’ of injustice to fight, but we can’t let others interfere with the charted mission that’s written on our souls.” She encourages individuals to fight the good fight of faith with perseverance and courage, especially with the confidence that we’ll go onto our “reward”. But again, other than the hellfire line, how is this different from fundamentalism? To “reward” implies that you have to do X, Y, and Z here on Earth to get something.

Yet, Sylvia makes up the rules as she goes along saying that unconditional love is not required. She says “However the one universal law that governs us all is to love one another. I’d like to add my own codicil: IF THEY ARE LOVABLE.”

What?! She claims to follow Jesus, yet she makes those kinds of statements? Has she forgotten what Jesus said in Luke 6: 31-33?:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.”

She has said in other books that forgiveness of others is optional, apparently reflecting her own unforgiveness towards her “dark” mother. If she’s as logical as she professes, hasn’t she discovered the SCIENCE behind forgiveness? That it’s one of the most beneficial (and gloriously selfish) things we can do for ourselves? Forgiveness isn’t condoning ____ actions nor is it remaining in a place to be abused; it’s about not allowing someone to live in our heads rent-free—forever tormenting us with their alleged transgression!

Considering this is a rather short book, I have seven handwritten pages of notes of the contradictions and problematic portions of Father God. I won’t bore you with upteen examples, but suffice to say I was scratching my head more than once! You know, there’s a saying that goes “you can take a girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of a girl.” In this case, I get the sense that “You can take the girl out of Catholicism, but you can’t take the fear-based dualism out of the girl” (despite Sylvia valiantly declaring that God is not to be feared, that fear-mongers are awful, and that God is all loving and kind.).

She even criticizes a life of prayer, saying “Life can (and should) be active prayer for God, while to sit for hours with our eyes closed and hands folded has always seemed so passively selfish to me.” What about the scientific studies (which there are many) showing the power of prayer, even on cities (such as crime level)? What about those called to a contemplative life, such as nuns and brothers in Catholic or Buddhist orders? (Let alone those individuals who are called to be “intercessors” or have strong Monk/Nun archetypes in their psyche.)

Even on a purely informational level—never mind the spiritual—there is a lot to be desired. Sylvia quotes extensively from other sources, and, despite this being a book about Father God, never mentions the “sun gods” (such as Apollo or Mithras)—let alone male Norse heathen deities like Odin, Thor, and Tyr. Odin has had incredible influence on the modern rise of neo-paganism, never mind that the sacred Runes—now used by many for contemplation and divination—were supposedly imparted to him when hanging upside down on the Yggadrasil (tree of life)! Instead, we get a lot of info on the monotheistic big three that most of us know more than enough about—and, admittedly, it was hard to stomach her claims that “Islam is one of the most—if not THE most—tolerant and peaceful of religions.” Mmmmmkay….

So while Father God attempts to give the masculine Divine a makeover—showing His loving, but distant, nature—it fails on all counts (especially since the verses and examples she uses glosses-over or ignores the not-so-nice portrayals found in the same ideology.) Some of the stories she shares are beautiful—such as Richard Selzer’s “Mortal Lessons” and wisdom from Taoism—but I was left feeling the same old icky duality that I experience when seeing the likes of someone like John Hagee or a message of condemnation on a church billboard. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I AM a former Pentecostal Christian minister, so maybe I have my *own* projections to deal with! Still, the fuzzy logic of the book is still there…)

If you’re fed up with traditional Christianity (or other monotheistic patriarchal paradigm) and long to have a revelation of a loving, accepting deity, may I recommend (very highly) Jason Shulman’s book The Instruction Manual for Receiving God instead.

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Content copyright © by Janet Boyer. All rights reserved. This review was written by Janet Boyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission.

Content copyright © by Janet Boyer. All rights reserved. This review was written by Janet Boyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission.