Now I have to say that I love Donald Miller. My small group is going through his book Searching for God Knows What (one of my favorites!), and I had put off this week’s reading until today.
I just found out why.
There’s this whole section called “Imposters” that talks about how people’s perceptions of God (and truthfully how some people represent God) have nothing to do with God at all. I’d love to repost the whole section here, but I won’t. I’ll just pull out the parts that really spoke to me and gave me a new perspective on the thoughts I was having this morning.
There are, after all, a lot of people who don’t believe in God because they can’t reconcile their idea of Him with the idea presented on television. By that I mean televangelists and conservative talking heads who confuse good-ol’-boy politics with Christian spirituality. And that is just the beginning.
If I weren’t a Christian, and I kept seeing Christian leaders on television more concerned with money, fame and power than with grace, love, and social justice, I wouldn’t want to believe in God at all. I really wouldn’t. The whole thing would make me want to walk away from religion altogether because…their god must be an idiot to see the the world in such a one-sided way. The god who cares so much about getting rich must not have treasures stored up in heaven, and the god so concerned about getting even must not have very much patience, and the god who cares so much about the West must really hate the rest of the world, and that doesn’t sound like a very good god to me. The televangelist can have him for all I care.
You know, the real problem with God-imposters is that they worship a very small god, a god who exists simply to validate their identities. This god falls apart as soon as you touch him, as soon as you start asking very basic questions about the sanctity of all human life, the failure of combat mentality, and the lustful love of power.
When I was in high school, this simple god stopped making sense to me. I renounced my faith as soon as I stopped toeing the party line and started asking questions.
One of the needs on Maslow’s pyramid was the need to know God. Not to know God, but rather to supply for the human psyche a kind of divine heritage providing, among other benefits, an explanation of existence. Because science is severely deficient in details of origin, Maslow held that man had invented God as a kind of false bridge from one need to the next. God, far from a Being who had revealed Himself to man, was more an intellectual cuddly toy with which man snuggled during his dark night of the sould. God, in other words, was somebody who validated man’s identity. Man needed God to shove into the crack created by the truth of his meaninglessness.
I grew up hearing about God, hearing that He had created the universe, some animals, the Grand Canyon, that we weren’t supposed to have sex or drink whiskey or go to dance clubs, that sort of thing, you know. He’s making a list, He’s checking it twice, He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice…
Maslow’s God, like the one I believed in, was a bridge for the psyche, an invention to calm our nerves and keep us in line. The small church I had been raised in, and from which my framework for God had been hoisted, provided no bulwark of protection from this attack, but rather an unfortified access to a straw man. We were all getting cuddly with Father Christmas, it seemed. I didn’t have a relationship with god; I had a relationship with a system of simple ideas, certain prejudices, and a feeling that I and people who thought as I thought were right.
I had been thinking about the whole Maslow thing for a few weeks, maybe a month, and I realized somewhere in this philosophy that provided an excuse; I could, if I wanted, walk away from God. I mean, if God didn’t answer the serious questions about life, then I didn’t have any responsibility to believe He existed. At first, it was frightening, but I could feel in my heart that I wanted to dissociate, that if I walked away from God I would have a kind of freedom.
I would rather spend my life in dark truth than leaning against the crutch of feel-good propaganda about good people and bad people.
That ended up describing what I was trying to say in my previous post. I’ve realized that recently I’ve begun to think a little too much like my atheist friends. Their logic was beginning to make sense. Reading Donald Miller, I realized why. They see the little god who validates man’s existence. And that’s what I began to see for a while there too. But that isn’t who the God I worship is. That isn’t who the God of the Bible is. It may very well be who the majority of people who call themselves Christian worship, but it isn’t who Christ followers worship. The God that I love isn’t the same god that atheists hate. Realizing that has made all of the difference.