Tuesday, May 21, 2013

in the name of god

We lived in Oklahoma for a mere six-ish months and in that short time the area sort of worked it's way into our hearts. More specifically, the people worked their way into our hearts.

I mourn with them, from afar, and will do the small things I can with my effort and money to help them in their time of need. Because they are people, and all people are my people. Because my parents experienced the terror of children in the path of tornados while distance separated them.  Because horrible things are horrible, and there are no platitudes or answers.

Of course, some (many?) Christians think there are answers. Or platitudes. Or prayers that make everything okay. Or that belief in God means - without exception - hope. Our only hope. 

Pat Robertson says insensitive crap. As always. And since it's Pat Robertson, you can lay his crazy at the feet of his own ridiculousness, his own self-absorbtion, his own need to decide when and for what other people are punished.

But John Piper, my least favorite famous pastor, from my own hometown, tweets Job 1:19 - "Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house and it fell upon them and they are dead." And I watched the retweets add up (at least 65, and 23 favorites) during the short time before backlash drove him to take it down.

The always gracious Rachel Held Evans chronicles a fraction of John Piper's insensitivity to anything other than God's feelings here, and she does it with much more grace than I can muster toward Piper on a good day, let alone a day when he writes that about a place I love, for and about people who are hurting.

RHE, along with others who share her theology, are Christians I can like, who interpret the Bible in a way that can be beautiful and kind. And they have Scripture to back them up. Rachel says "What does the Bible actually teach about suffering?
That we don’t know exactly why suffering happens in every situation, and we shouldn’t claim to,
That we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep,
That when God wrapped himself in flesh and walked among us, God suffered too.
The great irony of Piper using the book of Job to support his theology is that the story of Job stands as an ancient indictment on those who would respond to tragedy by blaming the victim. That’s exactly what Job’s friends did, and the text is not kind to them for it, because Job is described as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” "
rit A year ago or more, I would've found great solace in the above - and said myself that the Bible, the book that most informed and guided my life, supported RHE's theology. I would've done my research, made the exegetical argument, gathered Scripture passages and maybe written a twenty-five page paper on exactly why the Bible is the way I want it to be, why my theology is the one that is correct.
But. I. Can't. Do. That. Any. More. 
I agree with RHE that John Piper's theology is abusive.
But I can't seem to get to a point where I can ignore the Bible passages that support it. They exist. Not that passage in Job, no. But his idea/theology of God's sovereignty is not some ridiculous construct that has no basis in Christian thought, or in the Bible. The idea of God using nature as punishment is not crazy. The thought that the only good thing is God and the only thing to live for is His Glory - and we are not even deserving of that! - is not without support in the Bible and many Christian faith traditions.
When we left seminary I was told "Remember, people will always fail you, but God never will." 
God, if he is there, already has.
A god who never condemns slavery has failed the human race. A god who can not make it clear whether or not he punishes people punitively and vengefully has already failed all of us. A god whose holy book punishes one gender with death and another with a fine makes it impossible for me to find in christianity the equality that is the first and most important line of defense against abuse. A god who creates people specifically for hell (as Piper believes) or a god who claims a victory in the end as 80% or more of the world burns in hell -  has already failed.
People like Patterson and Piper just point out how easy it is to abuse others in the name of God.

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