Sunday, March 1, 2009

When Bad Things Happen - Against the Prosperity Gospel Part III (and last)

In review, this topic began when, a friend of mine, Terry, who is seriously ill with cancer, got suddenly worse. He was expected to respond to treatment and recover. He was following the script up until December. Then he took a downturn (against the odds in his favor). Last week, he took a devastating turn when he had central nervous system lesions—from which no one (as far as I know) has recovered.

I had watched this pattern among our Christian friends (Terry and I go to the same church). We were talking about and praying for Terry every week. Then, when he got really sick, everyone went silent. They didn’t know how to respond to such bad news.

Update: Terry had radiation of his brain, and as expected, he’s had some cognitive improvement. As a medical practitioner, I know that this does not change his grim prognosis. However, he was back on the radar again this week with news of this miracle.

I am very happy that he is back on the front burner. Indeed, there is going to be some special prayer time at church this week for him and I deeply applaud that. I hope to participate. I do pray for a miracle . . . a real, supernatural miracle. I want Terry to be healed and fully recover. I don’t doubt that God can do that . . . although I observe that real miracles are rare.

Now the question that I have raised is why do bad things happen despite our prayers? Why do they, sometimes, follow the worse possible course rather than a miraculous course? But more specifically than those ageless philosophical and religious questions, I’m asking a sociological and psychological question. Why do we Evangelicals feel so uncomfortable with bad news? I honestly think the bad news about Terry is what caused him to disappear off the Church’s radar for a week. He was not following the Evangelical narrative.

Here is how I see things. I really think that this issue is deeply tied to the unhealthy dualistic influence within the Church. With this view, this physical world is totally insignificant at best or evil at worst.

If this physical world has no significance, then, if anything here has meaning, it must be intimately tied to the spiritual by God, the puppeteer, strings.

I flipped on the radio and it was tuned to a Christian radio program. I don’t listen to Christian radio. If I could find something like the Mars Hill Forum, I would listen to it, but around here it is usually wild-eyed evangelists.

This radio preacher was mainstream (I think even part of a Focus on the Family program). He was shouting, “Every event of your life, every person you meet, and every thought in your head is no accident . . . no, it is an encounter with God almighty. The question is . . . what will you do with this date with destiny?” Seems like an oxymoron. God controls everything . . . but your choice determines the outcome.

There is a great security like religious opium that makes you want to believe that every event of your life is controlled by God for a wonderful purpose.

But if you are not a dualist then you believe that God really did create this wonderful world and it, within itself, has great value. If this world has great value, then events of this world have great value. When the Fall of Adam has tainted this world . . . then this world becomes really, really dangerous.

I can drive to a nearby bridge, which is 250 feet high, and jump off. If I do, I will die. There’s no puppeteer’s stings to prevent it, drawing me back up like a bungee cord. So in this paradigm, bad things can happen. Bone marrow cells can follow the laws of biology and divide in error, part of the fall of Adam, and thus they can become cancerous. If there is a 90% chance that you will recover, there are still ten people out of one hundred who will follow the course of my friend.

My Evangelical friends see me as having a God that’s too small. That is a great misunderstanding. I am even a Calvinist. My God is bigger than that of most Evangelicals. Many Evangelists have a God that created a universe that is only 6,000 light years in diameter. Then there is a wall, something like in the Truman Show, where God projects the images of billions of galaxies with his digital projector.

My God has created an enormous universe, at least 13.5 billion light years across. My god doesn’t do silly miracles like making your leg grow (in millimeters) as some faith healers say they do. He doesn’t do “miracles” like making migraines a little less often, make a snowflake or a rainbow. No, when my God does miracles, they are real miracles like raising people from the dead. He doesn’t do these miracles often but they are real.

So shit happens . . . and that’s the effect of the Fall of Adam in this real world. If you read the entire chapter of Mathew 10, and not just verse 29, you will see the truth. That verse, about the sparrows, is in the midst of Jesus telling them of all the terrible things that WILL happen. He makes it clear that those who DO kill the body can not kill the soul. That is where we feel safe. No one can take our soul but there is no promise of prosperity.


Anonymous said...

Michael, I'm enjoying your posts...thought you might want to read my most recent post. I think it coincides well with what you are writing here...

Anonymous said...

Many Evangelists have a God that created a universe that is only 6,000 light years in diameter. Then there is a wall, something like in the Truman Show, where God projects the images of billions of galaxies with his digital projector.

Actually, it's 6013 light-years in radius, but I'm not sure they even give it that much. More like "Earth and some lights in the sky." And It's All Gonna Burn...

(Before The Christians (TM), I USED TO have a passion for astronomy.)

MJ said...

sacrosanctgospel, sorry to hear about Lisa. Cancer sucks.

You're right Anonymous. What was I thinking . . . it should be a radius with the earth at the center point. I'm not sure where the projector sits.