“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do…” ~ Anne Lamott
I have to admit, my faith has been shaken up a bit recently….well, more than a bit. I’ve been engaging with another blog, the author an atheist living in South Africa. He’s an interesting guy, pretty straightforward, and sometimes just a downright ass in his remarks. (But aren’t we all from time to time?) Honestly, his arguments against religious faith/organized religion/God aren’t anything remarkable – it’s pretty typical of Atheism. However, he’s got me thinking….why exactly do I hold fast to religious faith, and a Christian one at that? Why do I need God anyway?
Then it dawned on me. I don’t need God as an idea, a concept….a set of ideologies to fashion and set my life by. I don’t need God as an ideology that proves who I am, what I believe in and stand for, and how I live my life is correct. I don’t need God as a concept that is proof I am at heart, “a good person.”
That god – is a nothing more than a human idol.
Look at how we “talk” to (or should I say “at”) each other these days: blogs, social media, and even professional media. Sure, we have a yearning and longing for justice, reconciliation; for love, forgiveness, grace and mercy; for liberation and salvation. The problem is, when these things exist only as well-constructed and adhered to ideologies and concepts, they fall short. We worry more about following, building up, and protecting the concept and ideology more than anything else – a sort of “brand loyalty.” We look for those who are quick to join the cause; who buy into the same ideology. We’re quick to distance ourselves, and even condemn those who oppose our concepts of how society and life should work. And whether you consider liberal/progressive or conservative/traditional arguments, both sides are guilty of idolatry – and that’s the real threat, not immorality, to Christian faith and witness.
What I think we’re losing in our witness is that God is a god of ACTION – God loves, God forgives, God judges, God sacrifices, God serves, God saves. In Jesus, God acts: God puts flesh on these notions of meaning and belonging humans seem to long for so much. We call this the incarnation – and that is the core of what the Gospel is all about: the reality of what it means to be human…in God’s view. And many of the times, God’s action is a mystery, one that goes well beyond proof or conceptualization. My atheist counterpart would say that just proves God is a delusion, and a worthless one at that. And I agree with him – when it comes to God as human idol; God as concept. We don’t need that. We need a God who acts for us in light of our humanity – our limitations and weakness. And we need a God who in that action will kick us off our insider butts from time to time, and along with it, destroying our well-constructed idols.
And being human is also to know the consequences of our words and action – and our inaction. (*Gasp* God’s Judgment!) The world is full of such realities…and they highlight the need for action to bring about any real transformation. We hope for a God who acts; who loves, who heals, who reconciles. And as people who place faith in the God of action, we are also called to be people who participate with God in that action.
Maybe this is too simplistic, but as I’ve heard a couple of my wrestling colleagues say, “Words don’t win championships. Actions do.” There’s a whole world watching these days, and honestly, they’re watching more of what people of faith do, seeing if it’s in line with everything we say we’re about. As God put on flesh in the form of Jesus Christ and came to ACT, minister and serve in the world, so we too are to put flesh on our faith through action – loving, liberating, healing and serving others – not just talking and thinking about it conceptually. Such action reveals the very presence of God in our midst.
Perhaps the notion today that Christian faith and the church is threatened, even under attack by society isn’t so ridiculous. But the real threat isn’t so much from the outside…it’s from within, fueled by our own idols…and by our worship of a self-constructed, ideological God. And only action that participates in God’s action, and humbles itself to God’s action, will be able to meet it head on.