“To suggest that God and one’s own understanding of God are the same is not only to stop growing, it is to die to the quest for truth.” – Bishop John Shelby Spong
Unless you’re the principal of a Christian High School, you may not be aware that in 2014, the fearful Christian fundamentalist camp put out a feature film called “God’s Not Dead”. I have not seen the film yet. Ok, I will never see the film, but I can only imagine its 100+ minutes is made up of circular logic, weak apologetics, and desperate offensives toward breaking down the rising revolution that is “New Atheism”.
Recently, I saw an internet ad that was for -wait for it- “God’s Not Dead 2”. Lemme give you a minute to soak that in.
Yes. TWO. Somehow, it was necessary to drive that point home again with yet another feature film that preaches to the choir. I wonder who they’re trying to convince?
Propaganda of this nature is rarely viewed by the supposed audience. Frankly, it all sounds a little “Weekend At Bernie’s” to me. Don’t we all already know God is Dead? Aren’t we finally all ready to admit that the emperor has no clothes?
That word isn’t God. Its a metaphor. It can only point TO something beyond itself. And the problem with words is that we all tend to fill them with the meaning WE have ascribed to them. For instance, when your great-grandma says she’s having a “gay old time”, you probably know that word is loaded a little differently for your own generation.
But for the last few thousand years, I think its safe to say that the word “God” is rooted in what’s called theism.
Oxford defines theism this way: belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in one god as creator of the universe, intervening in it and sustaining a personal relation to his creatures.
This is the classical monotheistic or polytheistic view of supernatural deities that exist somewhere “up there” separate and distinct from humanity and creation. These theistic gods are usually connected in some major way with getting creation going and then are prayed toward so that we puny humans can convince them to intervene in our little mortal world to do our bidding, go out before our armies, or heal our sick children.
Unfortunately, the way our tragic history plays out (or even our own short lives) reveals that the gods aren’t really controlling much, or much worse, (s)he/they are controlling all of it.
It continues to make my skin crawl to think that there is a religion out there full of marginally educated people who think that a God of love “allowed” the Holocaust, the murder-spree of Ted Bundy, and the AIDS epidemic – not to mention 25 combined seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
Seriously though, if this God of love WON’T intervene to stop priests from molesting children in his own church buildings, what makes the average youth group senior believe this God WILL intervene help her pledge the sorority of her choice next fall?
If thats true, this “God” is an ass and his priorities are fucked.
Take another bothersome example. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been asked to pray with a group of people for the healing of someones diseases. The belief that lies behind this request is that somehow, God (again the theistic Being that exists outside and separate from the universe) has the power to intervene and heal this child’s leukemia, however, instead of just doing the good and beautiful thing (healing a helpless child), this sick narcissistic deity needs us to grovel and plead (to what degree we remain forever unsure) in order to possibly heal the kid.
And in the unfortunate event that the child dies, everyone reverts from their ‘believing for healing’ to quickly excusing God from any liability as we “trust that God’s ways are higher than our ways”.
C’mon. Can’t we leave this superstitious baloney behind along with the old practice of women putting dog piss on their faces to prevent aging? (yes that was a thing) Don’t we know enough now to let this be one more embarrassing old habit we no longer return to?
It is the unwillingness to confront this madness that has reduced Christianity to the ridiculous sideshow it has become. I think that without a reformation in our conception of God, the rigor mortis that has already begun to set into Christianity will be complete.
Buddhist master Lin Chi is supposed to have said, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” In Zen, the phrase “killing the Buddha” means to extinguish ideas and concepts about the Buddha in order to realize the True Buddha.
I think its time we finally put a fork in the God of Theism. Or a bullet, or whatever your pleasure.
Perhaps its time for people of the Jesus Path to instead get more familiar with the God that some of their own scriptures talk about. Like St Paul who describes God as the container of existence itself…
“In God we live and move and have our being”
Or as Tillich called God “the Ground of all Being”
As the saying goes, “we become what we behold”. And I’m not just concerned about what theism does to indict the character of God, but also what it does to people who see God as distanced and disconnected from the universe and from their suffering. Will this not produce a people who become more and more disconnected from the earth, its wellbeing and the wellbeing of humanity? For far too long we have operated with an image of God as Supreme Ruler, high on a mighty golden throne, far above what He (of course, its a he) has created. Are we surprised that an ancient book depicts a God who looks a lot like the royalty class of the ancient near east? We must move beyond this dusty old images that no longer serve us. In many ways Atheism is often the most healthy response to the Celestial Threatener that many of us grew up hearing about.
It was Thomas Kuhn who popularized the term “paradigm shift”, saying that these are necessary then the plausibility structure of the previous paradigm becomes so full of holes and patchwork “fixes” that a complete overhaul, which once looked utterly threatening, now appears as a lifeline.
This is where the world is at today with the current religious systems. The crusty doctrines and dogmas of yesterday are shattering in the light of new evidence, breakthroughs in cosmology and deep exploration of the inner world of the human mind.
I for one see it as a wonderful time of imaginative innovation, where the creativity of our species is needed to help us weave a metaphor for Ultimacy, for Reality, for “God” that speaks in a language we can relate to and the evidence we live among.
Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God again and again. A clear metaphor or mythic language for the movement of God in the world. Jesus said that it was “here”, “at hand”, “now”, and it is “within you”. Somehow this man Jesus could see that this animating power that he called the Kingdom of God, was ever expanding, unending, and that you can live in the flow of it and surrender to it.
You don’t have to use the word God, and I’m not entirely sure I even CAN anymore. But I find it incredible that a dude thousands of years ago could give language to the same phenomenon and realities that we are observing through the new scripture of scientific evidence.
I think science and specifically quantum physics, cosmology, and psychology have much to offer us here, if we dare to open our minds to their wisdom.