On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. (Exodus 19:16)

God used to be a much bigger deal than he is now. Back in the old days he’d show up with all kinds of fanfare, fireworks, and other wild stuff. Back then everybody knew when the Boy was back in town. The ground shook, thunder crashed, lightning flashed, trumpets blasted, wind shrieked, fire roared, clouds rolled, voices shouted. People cowered in fear, hid their faces, and shuddered in abject terror. When Mr. Big arrived, it was all-out holy pandemonium in the house. Nobody but nobody nodded off in the pews. In fact, you were lucky to get back to your camel alive.

God has mellowed out a lot since then. He’s pretty much put away the big bang approach and has instead opted to slink into town quietly. If you’re not actually looking for him, you probably won’t notice whether he’s around or not. The divine stealth mode is nothing new. Jesus often tried to slip into town unnoticed, but then he’d blow it by healing some leper or casting out a demon, and the word would get out that he was around. It seems that he’s learned his lesson though. These days he doesn’t often make that silly mistake.

Of course, we don’t really need God’s pyrotechnics anymore either. With our powerful sound and light systems we can create a spectacular substitute display all by ourselves. Computer-driven spots flash and arc across the stage where a worship band (loosely defined) cranks up the subwoofers that shake the place as good as any deity ever could. Microphones amplify holy howls beyond all natural thresholds. Giant HD screens magnify the performers antics or directly downloaded YouTube clip. Even the lowly sermon is enhanced by morphing graphics and frenetic fonts. Even if God did want to perform a few tricks, he’d have a hard time cutting through the evangelical extravaganza.

In some ways our manufactured glories are a lot better than the old version. They’re far more predictable, for one thing. In the old days you never knew when God was going to spring a show on you, which made it really hard to plan anything. And when you really wanted a few fireworks, he often stubbornly refused to comply (Mark 8:11-12). This is not the kind of situation you can build a decent religion on. Folks just aren’t going to put up with a religion that can’t deliver. Thank God for technology.

Then, again, it would be nice if the deity would make an appearance at least once in a while. After all, we’re doing all this stuff for him. But he knows better than anybody that nature abhors a vacuum, so when he’s a little slow on his cues he shouldn’t be surprised that nobody’s going to wait around for him. That’s a recipe for a dead church if there ever was one. He definitely needs to get with the program.


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