Finding God- 1

When I was in the ministry, I attended a dinner party given by a Jamaican couple who belonged to the church.  They were sophisticated people, with a wide variety of friends, and that night one of the guests had a problem with the idea of God.  I was holding a bacon-wrapped chestnut in one hand and a Coke in the other, talking amicably with other people holding drinks and finger foods, when the man with the God problem found me.  Someone must have tipped him off that I was a pastor, because I never wore collars, trying to camouflage myself as one of the regular folks.  But my disguise didn’t work, and this man began to cross-examine me about the ridiculousness of religion.

“What do you base your beliefs on?”

“The Bible generally.”

“But the Bible’s a fraud.”

“What do you mean?”

“Archaeologists have proven that Joshua never conquered Jericho, Moses never crossed the Red Sea, Jesus never walked on water.  It’s all a bunch of made-up fairy tales.  Isn’t that what you dish out on Sundays?”

Being a representative of the church, I felt a need to defend myself, especially in front of guests who had begun to listen.  Perhaps I could set him straight, or simply affirm the beliefs of the others.  Instead, we engaged in a running disagreement that lasted much of the night, and led the hostess to apologize when I left.

The man was obnoxious, but he wasn’t unusual.  There are many people who desire proof of God’s existence, or the Bible’s veracity, or an afterlife’s reality, and react with belligerence when proof isn’t granted.  They seem to feel offended.  How dare a belief require faith?  It’s as if creation owes them an explanation.

In my experience, the only thing unusual about the man at the dinner party was his atheism.  Most people who claim to be sure of the truth are already religious, asserting God exists with as much overconfidence as the man who asserted God didn’t.  Declaring the Bible to be accurate to the smallest detail is simply the flip side of declaring it to be a sham, both offered by people who dislike the concept of faith.

Joshua supposedly stopped the sun in the sky, for example, which means he stopped the earth’s rotation, without flinging everyone into space, or the moon into Mars, and then started everything up again at full speed.  But many people believe it to be true, because to question anything is to question everything, and then people won’t know what to believe.  They require the proof found in a history book.

I’ve met atheists and the fervently religious who are actually mirror images of each other.  In their own ways, they both take faith out of the equation.  Each thinks the veracity of their beliefs is demonstrable.  Relying on science or relying on a sacred book, it turns out, are flip sides of the same coin.  Both are an attempt to avoid the full extent of our ignorance.

Think of it this way—we literally don’t know what keeps our feet stuck to the planet.  We find gravity a mystery, even though its a cornerstone of the universe.  We certainly can’t begin to know what caused the universe to happen in the first place.  We can have beliefs.  We can have intimations and intuitions.  But we can’t know.  God isn’t that easy.

We seem to think we can find God, like a buried treasure, or get a handle on God, like a car door, or control God, like a puppet.  There’s no shortage of people who claim the authority to expound on what God likes, intends, and is going to do to you.  God becomes something fathomable and explicable.  In other words, God is no longer God.  Although all donations are gratefully accepted.

Any God worthy of the name is beyond all that, and anything less isn’t worthy of worship.  According to the ancients, God was holy, set apart, incapable of approach, and visible purely through faith.  God went where God wanted and did what God did, and anyone who thought they understood was a fool.

There are not many things I can say for sure about God, but one is this—no human can find God.

God must find you.

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About Bucky Dann

I teach religion, sociology, and psychology at Southwestern Community College in the Smoky Mountains. I have worked in the United Methodist ministry and in the substance abuse field. I possess a Masters of Divinity, a Masters of Philosophy, and a PhD in the sociology of knowledge.

5 Responses to “Finding God- 1”

  1. AMEN !!! Well said…………….

  2. This one really hits home with me. Thanks Buciky!

  3. I am glad to have a place to express my mind without having an aunt, relative or long time neighbor claiming to be, “Christian”, judging my thoughts. So, Thank you Bucky. My faith lets me know that my creator is real to me, in the fact that I believe he is real. This to me is tangible enough. Faith is tangible in that I am capable of precisely identifying or realizing it in my mind. This is my faith.
    So is faith good enough? Is it ok for me to say that I don’t take everything that the Bible says literally? I take comfort in feeling safe with the thought of my death and that my ever-lasting-soul will be taken care of. I try not to do bad things, but I’m not perfect. I don’t live with the glooming thought of everlasting damnation. My small community church tells me that my beliefs are not strict enough. I should be prayed for. They judge me because I won’t come to church every Sunday and listen to the damnation talk. Every time I do go, the majority of MY church live how they believe is right, and then they spend the rest of the week being hypocrites. The main thing that happens that turns me away from them is gossip. Most of their gossip is not even true, simply misunderstanding situations. Gossip twists misunderstood situations into bad ideas and thoughts. I’ve seen this happen in this church since I was a child, I’m now in my forty’s. So will God find me?

    • Gossip and backbiting are commonly ignored sins by many religious folks. Faith is all you need and all there is. It sounds like God has already found you. I’ll write more about it this week.

  4. Very much food for thought. I believe it’s all about faith and sometimes it’s hard to understand
    and really impossible to try and make others understand. thanks Bucky for this………….

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