I guess things began to get shaky when I started attending public school, in 9th grade. I can already hear the knowing comments – public schools are cesspits of iniquity and lefty brainwashing, after all. But the challenge wasn’t liberal indoctrination; I was quite set in my beliefs. No, the problem was that I made friends who weren’t Christians, or the right kind of Christians, for the first time, and they were nice people. Many of them seemed to embody real kindness and love better than I or most “bible believers” I knew.
How to reconcile this with the dogma that they were all condemned to eternal torture because they believed the “wrong” thing? I couldn’t. Instead, I found comfort in a theology of salvation cobbled together from Lewis and L’Engle. A loving and just God would want salvation, not hell, for as many people as possible. He would honor a good life, lived in good faith, Christian or not.
Each successive step outside my Christian bubble chipped away at the image of God as judgmental patriarch. My very first night at college, I met someone who was openly lesbian for the first time. Much to my confusion, she was also a devout Christian. Another puzzle. I met all sorts of people I’d been taught were “worldly,” incapable of true good, enemies of the family, haters of God: Muslims, liberals, feminists, atheists…It didn’t take long to realize I had been egregiously lied to about who these people were. And it made me wonder all the more if I’d been lied to about who God was, too.
God’s eschatology doesn’t need you to persuade a rape victim to keep their pregnancy. What God does need you for is to understand and support the suffering, no matter what decision they may make. What God does need you to do is shut up and listen. This is not your battle to fight, except insofar as you can come alongside the one who is suffering. This is not yours to explain. This is not your area and God doesn’t need you to persuade a person to suffer more just so They could eventually redeem. It is disrespectful to God to presume to be someone else’s Holy Spirit in a decision that has nothing to do with you.
In one of my favorite songs, David Bazan (performing as Pedro the Lion), says a line that keeps popping into my head this election season:
“You were too busy steering the conversation toward the Lord to hear the voice of the Spirit begging you to shut the fuck up.”
- Dianna E. Anderson, “Theodicy, Eschatology, and Rape as a Gift”
This weekend, a stranger left a comment on my “I am beloved” post: “I don’t see, or maybe I just don’t recognize recognize the ‘hate’ from Christians toward the homosexual community.”
In his first lengthy TV interview since killing Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman initially said Wednesday night that he did not regret anything that happened that night.
“I feel like it was all God’s plan,” he told conservative talk show host Sean Hannity on Fox News.
Near the end of the interview, he backtracked, saying he would tell the teen’s parents, “I’m sorry,” and that he would be open to talking to them about what happened.
“I can’t imagine what it must feel like. And I pray for them daily,” Zimmerman said.
The teenager’s father, Tracy Martin, said later in a telephone interview with the Associated Press: “We must worship a different God. There is no way that my God wanted George Zimmerman to murder my teenage son.”
LA Times, “Zimmerman says he’s sorry, but Trayvon Martin’s shooting was ‘God’s plan’”
I am absolutely horrified by this. I think Jesus would have some words for you, Zimmerman, and they would not be nice ones.
I hope the prison chaplain has met and will continue to meet with George, because no matter what happened that night, “it was all God’s plan” betrays a seriously un-Christian view of God. Zimmerman needs some serious pastoral care, and a good hard look at the image of God he’s willing to call on.
1) “It’s all in God’s plan…”
That you lost your baby. That your sister was murdered. That you got cancer. That your life is in shambles.
I really can’t think of a worse thing to say to someone, especially when they’re in pain.
We cannot use God to fill in the gaps between events and the people they effect. We want to give solace, to promise that there is a purpose behind madness, but if there is one thing that the cross shows us definitively, it’s that God takes the pain in the world and makes resurrection.
But we should not think that this means that God makes the world’s pain, or the specific pain in a person’s life. It’s an important distinction.
One of the reasons I left faith for a while was because I had heard too many times that God was flipping switches on people: causing children to die, cancer to spread, poverty to happen, etc.
Not only do I think that saying this to someone is adding hurt to hurt, I think it breaks the second commandment. When we say such things, we use God’s name in vain; we use it “uselessly” as the word is better translated.
So when you’re confronted with the news of your friend’s tragedy or a relative’s pain, stand in solidarity with them and scream, “Dammit!” I’m a reluctant Christian at times because I think that those who call themselves Christian don’t think enough about their words.
Frankly, I wish they’d just curse more.
“And it’s not about the giving up but it’s about the fidelity to the call to be faithful to the Gospel and have that so unseen and to have this edict never mention the Gospel, never mention the responsibility to be God’s arms and hands with people who are poor and suffering, the people at the fringes, people who suffer injustice, to have that not at all seen is extremely painful.”
Campbell added that she wished she knew “what was in [the Vatican’s] mind.” But she surmised that what was happening is that the “leadership doesn’t know how to deal with strong women and so their way is to try and shape us into whatever they think we should be.”
Eyder Peralta, “Sister Simone Campbell: Vatican Reprimand ‘Like A Sock In The Stomach’”
You go, Sister. You fight back.