Smoke & Mirrors

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When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. (Luke 4:40)

Has anybody noticed that God really doesn’t do much anymore?

Practical prayer fails most of the time. We ask for healing, but nearly always have to resort to the “guide the hand of the doctor” thing, or we give him credit for some slow recuperation that would probably have happened even if we didn’t pray (like it does all the time even for pagans going to hell). How lame is that? And then there all those awkward situations when it’s clear that God apparently didn’t give a shit at all. That person everybody was praying for died anyway. That cancer didn’t go away in spite of all that faith. Your big toe still hurts.

And most of the “answers” to prayer are only internal vibe shifts that have no paper trail in real life.  The problem we prayed about is still there in our face, but we have to invent some inner spin to keep God from falling down. We ask God to heal a broken arm and all we get is a freaking attitude adjustment? Most of us don’t even expect God to do something visible anymore. And for God’s sake don’t bring that guy in a wheelchair to the front! A thousand to one he’ll leave the same way he came up. Damn damn damn damn damn.

Frankly, I think God’s current batting average sucks. If he is doing something, it’s decidedly unimpressive as to be laughable—at least when compared to his mighty “works” in the Bible. (Yeah, I’ve heard those reports from the mission field far away—emphasis on far away.) Face it: the God of current Western Christendom is an anemic dweeb. We just don’t want to admit it.

But we are the masters of religious spin, protecting Mr. Almighty and his sentimental Son from their own incompetence. We praise him for his power while studiously ignoring his disinclination to actually do anything verifiable. Here’s where doctrine comes in handy; it functions as a better than nothing substitute for glaringly absent evidence. Maybe God’s more of a supernatural generalist these days, presiding over a clockwork universe but avoiding involvement in specifics. All those conflicting prayer requests could confuse a guy, not to mention that often one person’s miracle is another’s disaster.

Oh, we pretend God answers us. When nothing happens, we defer to his wise timing, which is a nice way to excuse him from actually doing anything now. And if the facts of failure are just too significant to ignore, we blame ourselves for lack of faith or some secret sin or suggest that God has a better idea. Yeah, right. He always has a better idea.

But we have too much invested in the God of our imaginations to let him fail us. He’s too valuable an asset to lose, so we prop him up with religious word-shims and wrap him in emotional cellophane so he doesn’t spoil. We dramatically lower our standards of what an Almighty God who’s made certain hardcore promises would have to do in order to be an Almighty God who’s made certain hardcore promises. Because God is too nice an idea to give up, even if he reneges a lot.

Yet at the edges of our carefully manicured religious lawns is a noxious weed that no amount of Roundup can kill: God does nothing. God will do nothing. God is only a word.

I wonder if you can teach an old God new tricks.

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One Response

  1. I wish ODF posts like this ones didn’t feel so darned good to read. Big exhale…

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