Wednesday, 23 September 2015

There Will (Not) Be Blood

'However problematic an ideology may be, it can maintain popular support so long as its logic is kept at a distance rather than chased to its conclusion.  We see this problem all the time in our politics and our religious communities when large sections of a population maintains basically the same political ideology or theology that some derided extremist group maintains, the only difference being the latter is foolish enough  (or perhaps extremists simply have more integrity) to actually say what they believe...hypocrisy is left veiled...

' find us repulsive, because we believe your beliefs better than you.' Tad Delay, God Is Unconscious p. 74

Tad Delay is on to something immensely important here.

Martin Luther King Jr puts it like this,

'There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solution. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.' Strength to Love p. 10

If we actually thought through with real integrity and hard-work what we actually believed, then how many of us would continue to really believe what we believe?

This is incredibly important in theology.

If we actually thought through to the very end what we believed about God then where might we end up?

If God is violent and wrathful, and if God uses violence to execute justice, then what does this say about God?

If God is going to use violence at the end of history in order to bring 'peace' and violently destroy 'evildoers', then in what way is God any different from Western governments who bomb, or indeed ISIS or Saudi Arabia who behead? Whether it is humans walking in the blood of their enemies or God, it seems to me that there is no difference.

Now there are those who will use the 'God's ways are not our ways' line of argument claiming that God's justice and sense of good is so far beyond ours that we cannot judge God on his actions. So, as the argument goes, God can see the beginning and the end and therefore always makes a right decision even if on the surface it looks unjust.

Yet this is a cop-out and a failure to properly think through a line of thought and theology. It is here the extremists have at least followed through what they believe, no matter how deluded they may be. If God is violent and uses violence to pursue his will, then it only makes sense that we can use violence to be sharers in the bringing about of God's will, does it not? And then whose 'justice' is right? Who is to say bombing or beheading is unjust if we are simply following through the god of our theology?

Is it that we find extremists of any guise repulsive because they believe what we believe better than us? They believe God is violent and follow that theology through to its end result?

If God is violent and will use violence at the end of history to execute and destroy 'evildoers' then honestly, how is God any different to those who use violence and have decided who is 'in' and who is 'out'?

It is interesting that those who believe that God is violent will justify violence in all kinds of ways whilst also trying to squeeze into their theology forgiveness.

So, as the arguments go, it's ok for governments to use the sword, and we need to support the government in their use of the sword against corrupt regimes. But we must also forgive. And it is ok to drop bombs on other countries for 'just' reasons. But remember to forgive too. And obviously there is no way that 'we' are corrupt or unjust because 'we' are obviously enlightened and sane in the judgements we make.

And then we talk about forgiveness and the need to forgive but look forward to those 'evil' people who will get punished by God one day.

So God calls us to forgive without limit, yet we hold a theology that tells us that God does NOT forgive without limit. So God demands of us something he is unwilling to do.

Michael Hardin once said there are only two types of Christianity, the sacrificial and the non-sacrificial. Or to put it another way, the violent and the non-violent.

Do we believe in God of unconditional, unlimited grace, love and forgiveness or not?

If not then at least be honest about it and recognise that the violent god is not actually any different to us and our violent ways. Yes, no different to the ideology of 'violence brings peace', whether it is governments bombing or beheading.

The God of Jesus Christ is the God of Love who welcomes and beckons us with unconditionality. Paul says 'All have sinned and called short of the glory of God'. In other words, we're all in this together, each disorientated and distorted by sin and violence. Yet God meets us in the midst of our violence, absorbs the totality of our wrath and rage and sin and violence overthrows it and breathes His All Holy Spirit upon us, filling us with self-giving love.

The Church must move on from violent vampiric deities who require blood and into the embrace of our beautiful God of all-consuming forgiveness, known and seen and revealed in the Person of Jesus.

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