Self-inflicted Guiltshot


**Warning**: God Talk Alert! This post is primarily for my Christian readers, but if spiritual or areligious friends find some truth in it, I’m pleased to have you read on. If you want to skip it, I won’t be offended.

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Life is a difficult and random thing. We usually try to make sense of events by any means at our disposal. It’s a part of being human, at least since the first caveman woke up and realized that chicks would dig him if he’d just sear his mammoth steak over the hot flamey thing he’d just invented. We strive for order. Some people (I’m not one of them) say humans invented God to bring sense to a scary world. Lightnings strikes? Meet Zeus. High seas threaten your boat? Pray to Poseidon. Bad year of harvests? Meet Demeter. Down on your luck, or light on booze? Call on Dionysus. Broke your leg? You need Hermes on your side. For every moment of chaos, if you can tug the right God-String, happiness will rain down on you.

“Ah, but Brian,” you say, “that was over 2,000 years ago. We aren’t so uncultured as to believe that way anymore.”

Oh, really?

  • Robertson told his congregation that a voodoo-obsessed Haitian government in 1800 forced God to cause the earthquake 210 years later.
  • A recent author wrote a book about your physical problems, and how they are all mostly spiritual problems playing dress-up.
  • Many pastors say demons have an area effect over the house/city/region they reside in.
  • An uncle told my brother-in-law’s family that God killed their unborn twin girls because of hidden sin in their life.
  • You may have told yourself your recent job troubles have sprouted from within you, while you’d been systematically and unknowingly walking outside God’s will.

These are just a few of the examples that came to mind over a 10 minute wander through my psycho Brainland.

I spent years—decades, really—trying to wield the God Wand. If I’d just pray hard enough, or worked at fasting more often, or commited myself to days with purity, or without sexual thoughts, God would see my attempts at righteousness and grant my requests.  The trouble is, of course,  our relationship with God isn’t like a Dungeons-and-Dragons-style cleric: just pray hard and blast your troubles away. We still trudge ahead; prayer still seems to fail us; our faith is often stretched to breaking. And even worse, we push ourselves into a species of spiritual self-abuse every time we attribute God’s silence to our own life missteps.

I’m not discounting sin, mind you. To reflect upon the things a person can change is a healthy act. Reality persists, though: we often accept the blame for, and tackle, the intangible moments of our lives, and in doing so, wind up damaging ourselves through guilt. I’m also not discounting a belief in spiritual presences. I find it sickening though, that Christians (and specifically Christians in leadership) would attribute regional crises and catastrophes to a demon, or to a general lack of godliness. We are all fallen creatures, and but through God’s grace, we would inevitably all be riding the conveyor belt to destruction. We can’t, of course, understand the mind of God, but I somehow doubt a benevolent and omniscient God would allow demons to punish us for our fallen state.

The world is a very unpredictable place. Horrible events occur that are totally out of our control.  We pray for healing, or peace, or an area of famine, but cancer may still gallop unchecked through a person you love. War may break out in Myanmar. Sudanese refugee children will still cry for their first meal in weeks. We have two choices: either to disbelieve in our God, or continue to have faith that prayer changes something. We cannot believe, however, that a good God is actively causing people terror, or pain, or heartache because of our personal, or corporate, fallen condition. Our lives are stressful enough, without blaming ourselves for evil, injustice, tragedy in the world. We either have a vindictive God, or a good God. It doesn’t work both ways.

CS Lewis said an amazing thing: “I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God—it changes me.” A few years back, Lewis’ words made me realize that hitting God with a prayer is still of value, but it won’t change God’s mind on a subject—it does something far more powerful: prayer transforms ours. It’s tough to grasp: we want to change things.  We want to believe that if we just add, or remove that one thing in our life (a sin, or a relationship, or a government), everything will change because then God’s backside will no longer be turned toward us.  God, however, is going to do what God’s going to do. The Almighty’s plan is infinitely larger than our petty minds can conceive.  All we can ask for, in the meantime, is the patience to see the pattern of the plan through the pain. [Attention writers: the alliteration in the last sentence was so ironically laughable I decided to leave it there]

B.

Don’t ducks steal your beer?—Alex.

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6 thoughts on “Self-inflicted Guiltshot”

  1. You have mellowed a bit on this topic, leaving grace for those still bound up in a condemning mindset. It is possible to believe God is loving and just.

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  2. Wow, Brian. This is deep and heavy, but I agree with it completely. We must always be willing to take responsibility for our actions rather than blame the consequences of our actions on a God. Praying is a very personal thing, and I don’t think anyone has the right to dictate how or when, or for how long, or at what time of day it should be done. Praying should be done however the person doing it *feels* it should be done, with the understanding that there are never any guarantees about results, regardless of the amount of one’s faith.

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  3. Excellent writing. Excellent thinking (which helps produce excellent writing.) And (in my not-very-religious opinion) excellent theology.

    Like

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