The Temerity to Speak For God


There are a lot of voices and views presented in today’s culture wars, but who speaks for God? I’m serious. The question, of course, assumes the existence of the God of the Book, the God who historically involves Himself in the lives of His creation, the very top of which is humankind. After all, we can’t have an argument with the people of the Book without a determination of the will of God in matters important to them or us.

The Book points out that we should read the signs before us. Believers of every stripe must look around and judge for themselves if the leanings of the Christian Right, for example, are a part of that will. The same applies to those on the left and all human religions. Where is God in our dealings with each other in this, the 21st Century since the Christ? For sure, the signs are all around us.

At CBN in the 80s (and today), we proclaimed ourselves to be “Sons of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” This, of course, gave us permission to speak on behalf of the will of God as it pertained to current events. You may think of this as a weak justification, and you’d be right, because it’s entirely self-proclaimed.

This proclamation is alive and well on the right today, and the justification Is still very weak. As we attempt to read the signs, let’s ask ourselves a few obvious questions:

Is Covid19 a part of His judgment against unrighteousness among us? How about the volcanoes and hurricanes? What do we think of all the mass killings in the U.S. just this year alone? Why do we so ardently cling to our weapons, if we trust in God for our protection? Have you seen the pictures from Lake Mead? How about that Yellowstone flooding? Well, Terry, that’s what we call LaNina, that area of cold (or not) water just southwest of the U.S. that controls our weather. Okay, but how does LaNina get there? I mean, either you’re going to believe in God, or you aren’t. And if you believe that God still rules in the lives of humans, then it might be useful to take a close look at all these extreme “natural” phenomenon, or what we call “disasters”. Is what we view as a disaster simply God trying to make things right?

The brilliant Umair Haque, one of the most acclaimed thinkers alive today, has written of this in an essay called The End of the World as We Know It — But I Don’t Feel Fine.

Look, let’s just be real for a second. Think about the Biblical apocalypse. Like what parts of it aren’t seemingly on our doorstep yet? We’ve got, let’s see, the pandemics, floods, fires, the nations falling, the people turning on each other, the animals dying. That doesn’t mean you should head for the nearest church pew, and bow. Do it if you want, if you need to. I’m just pointing out that it’s literally getting classically and literally apocalyptic out there.

The fundamentalist Christians in our midst would immediately scream that these examples are God’s judgment against the liberals who want to force their sin and iniquity on the rest of us. (Damn those awful sinners!) One can easily see how that view is convenient, but is the possible destruction of California really that, or is it the foolishness of building on a major fault line? If “the big one” ever happens, this will be a part of the aftermath discussions.

However, to find the answer, we must turn to the Book and explore signs that were attributed to God and His judgment. The first place to look is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah through the story of Lot and his family in the book of Genesis. Sexual sin — specifically sodomy — was attributed to both communities, known as the cities on the plain. God tells Lot that he’s going to destroy the cities and “urges” Lot to flee with his family and not to look back with fondness as He destroys all of the inhabitants of the area. Lot’s wife looked back, the story goes, and God turned her into a pillar of salt. This story is used throughout history to preach against sexual sin, and it was very effective in turning the audience into passive and submissive members of the human race. They were directed to look to their leaders — those who speak on behalf of their view of God — for guidance, as the subsequent hierarchy advanced.

But they get this story of Sodom and Gomorrah all wrong, for it has nothing to do with sexual sins but rather the self-centered nature that prompted such behavior. Here’s the text from Ezekiel, chapter 16:

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.”

Therefore, this “disaster” was brought upon them by their own greed, avarice, covetousness, envy and more. And, since we’re talking about the Old Testament God, the people had prophets in their midst to warn them when their rulers rejected God. This is what we’re missing in today’s religious-based conflict between the right and the left. Who has the temerity to speak for God? I don’t hear it anywhere, and the only ones claiming to do so are biased on behalf of the right, another form of self-justification.

And the Old Testament prophets were not from the best families or communities; they were the long-haired hippy types of society back then, rebels who railed against the ruling authorities by reminding them that God put them on the throne and, therefore, He would decide whether the king’s reign would be prosperous or otherwise. It was based on the behavior of the king with regards to his duties over the people. A great example of this is when Jeremiah went to King Shallum to prophesy over him. Shallum gained the throne upon the death of his father Josiah, one of the most righteous kings in the history of Israel. Shallum, however, had turned away from God. Jeremiah spoke of Josiah when he said, “He (Josiah) pleaded the cause of the poor and the afflicted and then it was well with him. Is this not what it means to know me, saith the Lord.” This summarizes the messages of all the prophets, and it puts us on notice that we’ll always have responsibilities towards the poor and the afflicted. We hear none of this from anyone today, and it’s especially stunning that, in the age of social media, we can’t recognize the prophets among us. They are there, most likely in the arts community, perhaps among the most ardent observers of culture, the comedians. Of course, this would be a joke to those who practice their piety before men while suffering from oxygen deprivation atop their self-created pedestals. These people most definitely do NOT speak for God.

In fact, the saving of one’s own ass from the hellfire of the next life forms a selfish basis for all of evangelicalism, Christian or otherwise. For people of the Book, this is the core gift that Jesus died to give us, but it’s a bizarre form of logical mischief designed to empower the church, not the human race. Evangelical churches count the number of “salvations” they produce, which is surely a sign of the importance they place on the act of convincing others to “turn their lives over to Jesus”, a big part of which is participating in “missions” to convert others throughout the world. All it accomplishes is to add to the enormous mass that must live their lives for tomorrow, because the deal they’ve made with the church is to be their obedient servants, and that doesn’t always mean serving God.

The saddest note in all of this for me is that it impacts the lives of very good and well-intentioned human beings. I just don’t see a way out for them. They have rejected Life’s heaven — which exists in the here and now moment — for an artificial and self-serving “gospel” that makes heaven only available after death. We are truly amphibians, as C.S. Lewis taught us, capable of living in two realms at the same time. One is life “under the sun”, which is described brilliantly in the book of Ecclesiastes. The second realm is the spirit, and that is our real home, for we are spiritual beings on human journeys, not the other way around. We can’t be more spiritual than we already are, so suggestions for “spiritual growth” are really quite a waste of the time we’ve been given under the sun. We should instead be seeking how to become better human beings, and that message is a million miles from contemporary evangelicals who claim they speak for God.

They most certainly do not.

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