I wondered out loud a short time ago if Christians should be more apologetic in their faith. Not in the “apologetics” or argumentative wording…but literally, if we needed to ask forgiveness more. Part of that question has to do with the millennia of being God’s PR agents, and getting it all wrong.
It’s been a hardcore track record, with the obvious offenses getting mentioned first: the Crusades–and lest we lump all of them into one generous term, let’s just reference first “The Children’s Crusade” where upwards of 20,000-30,000 children or poor were led towards the battlefields in hopes of defeating the infidel. The sanctification of war, first elucidated by a pagan emperor named Constantine, but quickly picked up by countless generations of the powerful, the noble, the strong, and the cunning who felt the ends justified the means. The orthodox Christology of the KKK on the eve of their execution style slayings of case workers in the 1960’s. The passivity of so called good men and women on the eve and then eye of the Holocaust in Germany, Lutheran and Catholic alike–evil has never had such a domesticated face as those who did nothing, least of which to speak out. The genocide in Rwanda, the “most Christian nation in Africa”, 800,000 men, women, and children slaughtered in the span of a month. On and on the hit parade comes. For me, at least, the worst part is not the events themselves–though they are atrocious enough–but rather the self forgiving tip of the hat excusing of wrong doing, the lack of lament. And all this has led to what a recent author has called “Searching for A Better God“. I admire that the book forgoes the pedantic argument of “does God exist” and goes straight to the heart of the matter, “What kind of God exists…can He be good?”
The author, Wade Bradshaw, asks several questions:
1) Is God Angry?
2) Is God Distant?
3 Is God a bully?
These questions, which I think are legitimate ways of evaluating the history of Christians, give a real opportunity for an apology–the discovery of a “better God” than the presentation we’ve known previously. I can imagine being the author and saying, “Yes, God’s testier side has seemed to be emphasized” or “It’s true, there have been bullies who have claimed to be working for God…their God has looked like a bully.”
Sadly, the author can’t bring himself to say it. He invites us to revisit and rediscover God but, from what I received, not to reimagine or even recover a God that’s bigger than the caricature publicity he’s received thus far (certainly Bradley acknowledges the atrocities that people have laid at God’s feet are actual tragedies…NOT God…fallen, foolish creatures who lack a depth of encounter with the Divine–I don’t mean to suggest otherwise). I feel that Bradley, along with many Christians might, answer his questions by saying, “yes, God is angry…yes, God is distant…yes, God is a bully…but give him another shot–he’s really a nice guy if you get to know him…well, at least most of the time”. I could be wrong on that–and I actually appreciate the idea, still I imagine something a little different.
It might be high time for a repackaging of God. Rather than hear him elucidated from the podium of privileged European dominance perhaps we should sit back and let other PR agents take over for a time. Maybe its time to listen to feminist theologians, South American saints, African liberationists, Native American philosophers, Chinese church planters. Maybe their cultural reinvisioning has relevance to our search for a better God. Maybe we need their balance. It is perhaps the greatest of all sins that the church is guilty of…it allowed the mutual excommunication of cultures perceived as lesser than one another. Culture fragmented the corpus Christi and because of it…well, we may have created a cluster of events that we might just need to apologize for.
I for one am game.
Filed under: Book Review, confession | Tagged: apologizing for god, Book Review, crusades, feminist theology, genocide, god angry, liberation theology, rita brock, searching for a better god, sinners in the hand of an angry god, the holocaust, watchman nee | 4 Comments »