God made the terrorist
I’ll admit I don’t really know where this is going. It’s a bit scary and awesome at the same time. I’m an unpolished thought kind of person. This isn’t greatly thought out, researched, and crafted. This is just me, thinking, reacting, and speaking out loud to see if I really think what I think…
I happened to be working on a post entitled, “Is God fair?” It was sparked by a local clergy friend’s question a week ago and his sermon in his church this last weekend on the subject. Then (a kind of Bible in one hand, newspaper in the other moment) I was seeing some different reactions to the Dodge Ram Super Bowl commercial last night, “God made a farmer.”
Plenty of reaction to be found by the commercial with its pros and cons. I’m not particularly interested in those one way or the other (at least not here and now). What I’m intrigued by is the thought that those who believe in God generally like to attribute all good in the world to God. The message of the speech in the commercial is that the task of farming is hard, many different competencies are expected, and enduring and patient character is required and this is why God created farmers and farmers are good.
What do those same people in the world do with bad and evil people? Why – when someone is good – are they created by God, but when a person is bad (or really the results of their actions are harmful to our perception of our self-interest, because that after all is what we really mean to say) they are sinful, departed from God… evil.
So God created all that is good and we created all that is bad.
Hrrm…. This seems like a great evaluation for God and a real bum rap for humanity.
I watched the video and my first reaction was to say… yah but God also created the terrorist, the abusive spouse and parent, and oppressive government. It feels terribly inconsistent to claim one and not the other. It feels idolatrous to lift up one as worthy of worship (watch the commercial and tell me if it’s not encouraging reverence for an idealized version of the typology of farmer) and the other as worthy of demonization. This world is far more muddled than all of that. If you were to go back to the creation story in Genesis what I see is that God created the world, names it good, and then it all falls to pieces…
We turn on each other in duplicity and blame, we become envious and kill, we seek to build monuments to our own greatness, and we tried to harness the world rather than live with it, we shaped it to our will… God kicked us out of the house, wept with the earth itself while we killed each other, wiped us out in frustration, and learned that God had a lot to learn about living with us. And that was all in the first 11 chapters.
God created the farmer and the rancher who killed him… all in God’s image.
What do we do with that, when we are willing to tell the whole story? Usually we don’t. We talk about Jesus healing… but forget to mention that (like this last Sunday’s lectionary text: Luke 4:23-30) Jesus himself tells us right to our face that not all people will be healed. So when one person stands up to praise God as good because God healed them of their disease… their neighbor may just be lamenting that God abandoned them. Every story has another side to it. Every message has other messages to it. I remember someone naming how wonderful it was that God saved people from a Tsunami several years back. But, I said, if you attribute those people as being saved by God, then you attribute those who died as having been not-saved. You don’t mean to maybe (then again some actively and intention mean that)… but, for me at least, the message is there to be heard.
God created the farmer… and the terrorist. God healed… and God didn’t.
I tend to think Marx is right, and his descendants with him, when he says that religion is the opiate of the people. Or at least I tend to think he is right about a certain way of doing religion. When we turn God into the great answer, the great fixer, the puppet master and the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free-card for our lives. When we abdicate responsibility for a certain type of religious fatalism. I’m a Presbyterian and maybe we are a bit more subtly prone to this problem than most. We are so careful to maintain and understanding of God as sovereign, and skeptical of human choice. But to that I hear these word echo again and again, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
I’m wasn’t sure where this post was going; I’m still not. And I would love to hear other input, guidance, re-direction and further germination. But this much I think I do want to say.
God created. That is enough for me.
God has a vision for creation that is co-operative. And that works on me as well as for me. And it means I never am “off the hook” for the world’s struggles because we are all far more connected than we imagine. Terrorist and farmer alike.
God is not responsible, and simultaneously not not-responsible for the condition of the world. And that goes for us too.
God makes choices, the world makes choices for us, and/but we participate in all of that. Choose this day (and every day, this interaction and every interaction) whom you will serve… life or death, and not yours alone for we are all connected. Terrorist and farmer.