A person falls and breaks their leg, resulting in having to stay in bed for several weeks. They chalk it up to “God wanting me to get some rest.”
A football team wins the championship, and the coach explains "God was with us."
Someone has a car accident, and concludes “God was trying to get my attention.”
A cancer patient is told the disease is God's curse because of their sin.
A shopper brags that God gave them a parking place close to the grocery store in a rainstorm.
A businessman says that because he tithed, God made him wealthy.
A Christian delivers a judgmental triad to a gay person, and when there’s an adverse reaction, informs “I didn’t say it. God did.”
A pastor tells his congregation that God wants them to buy him a new luxury jet.
A child dies, and the parents are told “God needed another angel in heaven.”
A tornado ravages a neighborhood, destroying home after home. But the owner of one unscathed house says “God protected us.” (And of course, some televangelist will proclaim that the storm was God’s judgment because of some pet sin.)
A politician announces their intention to seek an elected office because “God told me to run.”
A preacher stands before his congregation on Sunday morning, with no advance preparation or study, says whatever comes to mind, and calls it the "anointing of God."
A florist refuses to sell flowers to a same-sex couple and cites God as their reason.
Years ago, I was pastor of a successful, well known church. One day I received a phone call from a young man who informed me that God had told him that he was supposed to be my Youth Minister...so I should hire him. (I had received no such heavenly instructions.)
Someone comes up to us and announces they have a “Word from God” for us....which always sounds a lot like what the person wanted us to know in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not making fun of anyone's faith. (Though some of the above examples—all true, by the way—are not about faith!) My faith is extremely important to me, and I've spent most of my life encouraging others in their own journey of faith. I believe in acknowledging divine involvement in our lives. I truly admire those who endure difficulties, and still maintain an ability to offer praise and thanksgiving to God, trusting in God's care, providence and provision.
But too often, God is just a scapegoat, especially when it comes to our need for a cause-and-effect explanation. (“This happened because...”) It’s not great theology, but it avoids those uncomfortable gaps in our understanding of WHY things happen the way they do. We might prefer pointing to God rather than taking responsibility for our own decisions. We can use God to justify our bad behavior.
And it's simple.
We like things simple.
But Life is not simple.
God is not simple.
The questions are complex, and answers (if there are any answers) can be even more complex.
During the recent media frenzy in Indiana surrounding the so-called “religious freedom” act, a pizza restaurant owner went on camera and said they would not cater a gay wedding because of their beliefs. The backlash was quick and intense, causing the owners to say they were shutting down for a few days until the dust settled. Later, as part of an interview on a right-wing talk show, an online fundraising campaign began, and so far, gullible people have donated nearly a HALF A MILLION DOLLARS for this restaurant.
Author's Note: Let’s not forget, this pizza owner had never been asked to cater a gay wedding with pizza; it was a fictional scenario. The owner admits she doesn’t even know any gay people. They were not forced to shut down their business; they chose to close for a few days. But people are sending them money!
When the owner was asked about all that money, she says “God has blessed us for standing up.”
Personally, I find the owner's conclusion harder to swallow than the idea of pizza at a gay wedding. In essence, they are saying that God blessed them for being unkind, unloving and arrogant. In other words, they ignored Jesus’ Greatest Command to “Love your neighbor,” they refused to go the "extra mile"...yet they are viewed as models...heroes...of Christian Behavior. And they are being rewarded substantially for these actions.
Well, I have questions!
Other businesses have made this same “stand” and been fined, lost significance income or closed. Why didn’t God bless them with an excessive outpouring of unearned cash?
When did pizza, or flowers, or a wedding cake become the symbol of devotion to our faith? When did rudeness replace Christian virtues such as hospitality, goodwill, humility and service? At what point did "do unto others" get an exception clause?
If a paramedic refused to treat an accident victim in the gay section of town and that victim died as a result of medical neglect, would the paramedic be held in the same high esteem as the pizza makers?
I am a pacifist, and my opposition to war is part of my religious convictions. If I turned away a soldier in my place of business, would I be honored for my faith, or condemned for my lack of patriotism?
Discrimination is bad for business in the long run. (Not everyone is going to receive $500,000 in donations.) We saw and heard these same arguments back when businesses wanted to refuse “colored” customers. Now we're embarrassed by such actions. If this restaurant had said they would not serve Jewish people, or interracial couples or black people...their bigotry would be apparent. But cloaked in “religious conviction,” it’s disguised as faith.
And God gets the blame.