Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On the topic of God's purported absence from our schools

I see "Christian" jargon like this being disseminated across the internet from time to time, particularly following events like the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

A few days ago, a friend of mine quite appropriately asked some very important questions about the message on this particular t-shirt.  She made no apologies about the fact that she felt insulted and infuriated by this sentiment.  It applies a seemingly personal, direct blame against her, given that she does not call herself religious or a Christian, and she has no problem with God not taking front-and-center in our schools.

I appreciate the time and thought she put into the questions she raised, as well as the anger she was brave enough to express.  Here's what I had to say in response:

Simply put, a statement like that is bad theology. It projects certain attitudes onto the character of God when, really, we have no business saying just who God is or what he has allowed. Bad things happen all the time because we are broken people. We’re flawed and complicated and often do not operate under anything but blind selfishness. There are certain things that as people of faith, we just have to accept as unknowable. I can try to wrap my brain around this world and God and all the hurt, but try as I may, I will never understand all of it. God is God, and I am not.

And you’re right. The assumption, “God isn’t written into the curriculum or etched into walls, therefore, he isn’t here for us” is absolutely wrong. We can write God out of every textbook and sideline him from formal public conversation, but that does nothing to deter God’s love or his desire to see us live full, long, meaningful lives as we were created to have.

The statement tastes just as bitter and mean to me as it does to you, and I’m a Christian.  I resent every insinuation and sentiment those words express. They do not speak for me and the God I’ve grown to know and love. These are the small, foolish words of small, foolish people who have taken it upon themselves to literally attempt to speak for God. I, too, am a small and often foolish person, but I’m long past thinking I have the authority to announce the will of my Savior.

I am sorry that you feel judged, accused, blamed, and disrespected. Sentiments like the one you mention are so politically loaded and theologically skewed that, to the majority of us, they paint a picture of holier-than-thou Christians peering down their noses at the “unbelievers.” You have every right to feel infuriated and insulted. Just know that I respect your perspective. You’re speaking out with very valid anger as a compassionate human, a mother, and a person who doesn’t stand for anyone—religious or not—who walks around waving a big stick like they’re some sort of god.

At the end of the day, I think the thing we need to remember is humility. We need to listen more than we speak. We need to ask more questions and make fewer arrogant pronouncements. We need to be present and mindful in the midst of our neighbors’ pain and anger without trying to mitigate, justify, or sensationalize the tragedy they are dealing with. I read this article yesterday and found it very appropriate and helpful in responding to the situation. I hope it is helpful to you in reiterating some of my thoughts as mentioned earlier. 

Keep asking the tough questions, loving those girls of yours, and sticking up for what you believe. And know that it’s okay to be angry, to have more questions than answers, and to wrestle with God. He’s not going anywhere.

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