Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Minuscule God of the Evangelicals . . . Part V . . . The Genie God

Some of the comments on earlier posts got me thinking about this perspective.  While I'm thinking about the idea of people making comments I wanted to say I do read them all, although I don't always comment on the comments. But I do appreciate them. I don't comment because I can't think of anything intelligent to say.  I also don't have near the time I wish I did.  I'm on a hamster wheel right now trying to keep a medical practice from going bankrupt because it is virtually impossible these days to get insurance companies to pay you what they owe you. So I'm working a good 60 hours a week right now and come home and collapse in bed. But I digress.

So, this is a little different than my last post where I talk about the silly "miracles" attributed to their god.  This is about manipulating god to fulfill your every whim.

When I find myself listening to Christian radio by mistake, and drawing from my past memories where I was an intense evangelical myself, the reasoning goes like the following.  God, the creator of the universe loves me deeply. So, he is happy to fulfill my every need and desire and not just the big things. So, the evangelical god, not only cures my mother of cancer, he is constantly doing the little things, getting the stain our of my shirt, helping to find a Starbucks while on a road trip, helping me to get a refund on my taxes, causing the tree to fall (during the intense wind storm) on the car three cars back rather than me, killing a child and their father . . . but sparing my righteous butt.  The paradoxical list could go on and on.

But is this kind of god the way he is because he loves us so much?  I beg to differ.

Okay, I love my children intensely.  If they called me on the phone and asked me things like, "Dad, can you come over and get the stain out of my shirt?  Dad, do you know someone at the event center who can get me free tickets to a concert?  Dad, can you play interference and help me get a parking spot near the door of the mall?  Hey, Dad, can find a Starbucks for me?  Dad, can you make sure my tomato plants produce good maaters?"

I would look at my kids, and I do love them dearly, and think, "What's wrong with you!?  Isn't this pandering and manipulative behavior?  I smell a bit of narcissism here . . . you know, my needs and desires rest at the center of the universe."  I really do sense of lot of narcissistic behavior around this kind of me-centric god.

So this kind of god either fits in your pocket or in the Aladdin's lamp that you carry in your knapsack.

A really big God, you know, the one who could breath and create a big bang with all of it's complexities can deeply love me, because He is personal and has created us in His personal image. He can, rarely, step outside of the beautiful laws of nature, which He has created, but He can't fit in my pocket like IPhone's Siri.


kimmienguyen said...

Hello MJ.

Thanks for the series on the Evangelical God! This last part really took a different angle to what I like to think of - God as a spiritual vending machine. You know, you put in your prayers like you do your quarters, the snacks come out all nice and convenient and taken care of. And all you had to do was press a button (or rub the genie's lamp, I suppose).

I couldn't find your email/contact, but I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your unique perspective, parts of which I share. In the past week I have read through most of your posts all the way since 2010.

You see, I became a Christian about a year ago. The first person in my life to evangelize to me was the person I had been dating at the time, who was in Campus Crusade for Christ. Shortly after my conversion, I joined our uni's chapter as well, and that has been most of my experience with "Evangelicals" since I have no church background. I jumped straight into ministry with zero clue as to how interact with God... to learn from him... to worship him... I went on an urban mission trip with Cru this summer and was totally disgusted with how we treat the Gospel as this single tract, momentous decision, you're in or you're out sort of thing - instead of the wonderful story of redemption it promises for all of Creation. We like to put God in a box, don't we?

I have come to see a lot of God's goodness and sovereignty through the relationships I've been blessed with through Cru, but for the last few months I've been becoming quite disillusioned with the establishment. I guess I have the biggest problem with the fact that never before in my life have I felt more like a pretender. Maybe it's because this is the first time I am being convicted of my sin, that I recognize the instinct to cover it up. Are other people like this? Or am I the only depraved one (and, incidentally, the only one with a massive guilt complex)?

I believe my peers (and our staff) do start out with good intentions of being genuine with others. But that soon gets eclipsed by the task of making Christianity so attractive to nonbelievers that we must lie. I mean, for the last year, I may or may not be building an entire life around this charade of good works, constant smiling, living in victory, sharing my faith with others, letting Christ's light within me shine... yada yada.

When I try to explain to some people my thoughts on the matter, their automated response is that I'm not trusting God enough, that all true believers must weather some seasons of doubt, and this is a trial like any other, make sure I'm accountable with my sisters. We college-age Christians are supposed to be 100% passionate 100% of the time, which is how I can pretend to be, and I think I'm throwing the people around me in for a loop with my exhausted attitude.

Anyway, I didn't mean to write you an essay. Maybe it was coincidence I found your blog (or maybe, as some friends would say, a "total God-thing!"), but I am glad I am not the only one with these thoughts. Thank you for your courage, it has blessed me a lot.

jmj said...


I can't believe that you have gone through all you have and reached this place in one year. It took me over 15 years to see that the Emperor was wearing no clothes. You are light years ahead of me.

The truth is, what you observe is reality. What I mean is, in the most common expressions of Evangelicalism, there is a huge dishonesty, an emotional dishonesty.

We never over come the influence of sin and our fallen nature. But when you do (through maturity) and the herd (in your case CCC or for others the church community) expects you to over come your human nature . . . then we are left with one choice, to pretend and pretend until the cows come home.

When I was with a hard-core Evangelical group, we lied through our teeth to each other all the time. Saying things like, "I always feel blessed and happy," "I just love doing (terrible concept doing evangelism) because that's what pleases the Lord," "Lust? You still lust? I haven't had that problem since I was a babe in Christ." "Oh, I spent about 28 hours in Bible study this week (when it was really 90 minutes)." It could go on and on.

They are good people in these organizations with good intentions. But I grieve because the kids of today are not stupid. They see though the dishonestly (but their world isn't much more honest). I was talking to a 25 year old who left the church. He told me, "I just couldn't do that anymore. I got to live in truth and honesty." He was right.

jmj said...

I messed up on the above. I'm sitting in the sun and I can't see what I'm typing. I tried to say, when you think that you do over come sin, not "But when you do."