Posted by: dacalu | 16 February 2011

Is God Boring?

I came to a rather distressing conclusion the other day.  Christians have made God boring.  Many college students simply don’t know why they should care and that’s extremely problematic.  How can we spread the good news of the coming Kingdom, when so many think they’ve already heard and find it ho hum.

What kind of boring God you ask?  Primarily one who is interested in your sex life but not in your growth or how find meaning in your life.  This God doesn’t even give good advice on sex.  He simply says “don’t” all the time.  That kind of God has no appeal for many people – including me.  Sadly, it’s the kind of God so popular in today’s media.  Sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, even abortion – by and large people have identified that those are difficult issues and haven’t heard any particularly good advice.

Take two: the Vending Machine God (VMG).  As I listened to the folks on campus talking to the preacher du jour it seemed that both sides were concerned with a God who rewards the good and punishes the bad.  Now, I could talk about the theological problems with this – and perhaps I will in the future – but there’s a far more pragmatic problem with that idea of God.  It simply doesn’t match our experience.  Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.

If we want to spread the good news, it will be about things that are alive for people.  It will be about questions like:

Am I worthy?

Am I alone?

What’s my role in life? (my personal role, not some generic role for all humans)

Where do I belong?

Jesus answers these questions for me.  The Bible, the tradition, and yes, my personal relationship with God help me navigate the world, give me meaning and purpose in this life.  They inform my relationships with other people and help me make decisions.

It turns out that God is an interesting character, benevolent but unpredictable.  God shows up in unexpected places and the world is far more surreal than we imagined.  I fear that the theologians of the mid-twentieth century (following the theologians of the Enlightenment) tamed God too much.  To avoid a God of fire and brimstone, a capricious or punishing God, they modeled God after some abstract idea of goodness, benign and tepid.  I appreciate the damage that ideas of a vengeful God have wrought, but to replace that God with a generic principle of goodness or a milquetoast deity…that reduces Cosmology (the study of all that is) to boring fiction.

We are left with a profound challenge as evangelists.  We must share the image of a loving and involved God, when most of the world has been introduced to the idea of either a capricious judge or an impersonal (and not particularly helpful) force.  The tyrant and bureaucrat are stock characters in dimestore drama.  The God of the Bible and the Christian tradition is a surprising, sympathetic, and shocking protagonist.  It’s a shame more people aren’t familiar with the story (even if they are familiar with the book).

What could be worse than making God – the creator of all things seen and unseen, who became incarnate and died, who rose again, who abides in a fallible and silly people called Christians – sound boring?  And yet this is where we have come.

If you’re a Christian, I would challenge you to share your life experience with God.  Not the boring stuff.  Share with people your experience of a challenging and humorous God.  The Bible is nothing if not unpredictable.  Likewise, the history of the church is quite bizarre.  God certainly never bored me.

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Responses

  1. This is so awesome!


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