Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Life Under God

This is part 2 of a series I began earlier in the week, "Conversing "With" Sky Jethani.  Today we take up his posture, "Life under God."  

Jethani, states that a life is dangerous, people naturally live in fear of that danger, and that in order to feel safe we seek control over the more unpredictable elements of life.  This cycle of danger, fear, and control feed the first posture, "Life under God."  Throughout history many have claimed this posture to be the primary reason for the existence of religion in general.  The idea that a deity must be appeased in order to avoid calamity.  And very near to it the idea that if you obey a set of religious laws, rules, traditions etc, that said deity would reward you with blessings of food, good weather, health, children, a parking spot close to the store entrance, whatever your particular need may be that day. The counter is of course if you do not receive such blessings then you have somehow offended the deity or failed to obey all the laws correctly.

This is the most basic understanding of what "Life under God" looks like.  The irony of this position is that we seek to gain control OVER an unpredictable God/world by placing ourselves UNDER the rules, rituals, and practices that will make God do our bidding.  Through our faithful worship, daily bible reading, and righteous living we expect to place God in our debt and thus to do our bidding.  Much like a marionette trying to control God in order to control our unpredictable world, this "Life under God," seeks to get God to perform like a puppet on our stage of life.

This type of theology has been taught, preached, and given examples of timeless numbers of times in our churches.  The rub comes when a young Christian follows every law, restriction, and moral code and they don't get what they want. Their attempts to control God through a strict adherence to Christian rules and practices still leaves them single into their late twenties, not getting into their college of choice, not getting job they wanted or the promotion they needed to pay the rent, or still have a child with a handicap.  Or worse yet they realize they have no chance of fulling living out the laws and rules so they just give up all together.  This posture has left many tasting a version of Christianity that tastes bitter and requires a lot of work for very little in return.  The quid pro quo has failed.  So they leave the church or fall into another weak version of Christianity.

Like many of you, I have had seasons where I viewed God in this way.  For me my most "Life under God" season was during college.  I came from a pretty conservative background.  College is a time to not only grow academically but to develop as an adult and an individual.  However, my view of God was skewed.  The main area of ethic that was emphasized of course for college students is sex and academic integrity.  Don't cheat and don't have sex.  Don't think about either.  If you obey these rules then you will have a rewarding college experience, develop friendships that last a lifetime, get a great job, find a hot wife and [insert your dream here].  Of course this is completely false.  I have a friend who never even kissed another girl before he met his college girlfriend who became his wife, only to have her put him through a painful divorce seven years later.  I know people who were examples of academic integrity and mental acuity only to be jobless and broke even now 10 years after college.  I also know of cheaters and horny students who have families and successful businesses.

God is unpredictable...think everyone's favorite C.S. Lewis quote from the Narnia tales. God is not safe.  Jesus even turned this belief on its head when he pointed out seemingly blessed people like the wealthy and said they were far from the Kingdom of Heaven.  For me this posture only led to guilt. Guilt I could not live up to God's laws and standards.  Guilt about being mad when I didn't get something I wanted even though I had a quiet time everyday for a month and didn't have sex. Guilt when I sinned and a feeling like I could never do enough to make it up.  It is a wonder I stuck with my faith for so long living under this posture.   Life under God is a narrow and one dimensional and useless way to look at the Creator of the universe.  But many young adults believe this because it is what has been taught to them.

Jethani was once asked to think on this question.  What if your system is perfectly designed to achieve the results you're experiencing?  Maybe it's not an anomaly but rather the way you [teach, preach, lead, think about God] is achieving their natural ends.  It would seem to me if this is the primary view of God, the Church, and Christianity, that others have been exposed to, it is no wonder they are walking out the door as quickly as possible.  There is no life, no relationship, and no hope in such a posture.

No comments:

Post a Comment