And so one of my Lenten practices, for this plus the following five weeks, is, in effect, asking for another fast for y'all--a fast from some of those hurtful myths that we tell ourselves (or allow other people to convince us of) about God.
The week of March 9: The Myth that God Considers You Worthless
The week of March 16: The Myth that God Wants You to be Rich
The week of March 23: The Myth that God Wants the Poor to be Poor
The week of March 30: The Myth that God Helps Those Who Help Themselves
The week of April 6: The Myth that God Tells Us Exactly When Jesus is Coming Back
The week of April 13 (Holy Week): The Myth that God is Dead
When all the buzz about the new God's Not Dead film began to hit my radar, I posted this on Twitter:
Confession: Whenever I see the movie title #GodsNotDead, I think of the "Bring out your dead!" scene in Monty Python. "I'm not dead yet!"
— Rev. Eric Atcheson (@RevEricAtcheson) March 20, 2014
Which might be an indication of my level of dorkiness (though I really probably only have the first half of The Holy Grail memorized. Hey, confession is good for the soul), but in retrospect, that tweet was also an indication of just how seriously I take the argument over whether or not "God is dead." Because if I am completely honest with you, I do not have a ton of patience with the "God is dead" kerkuffle.
The famous hypothesis that God is dead comes from the famous Thus Spake Zarathustra treatise by 19th-century philosopher (and moustache aficionado) Friedrich Nietzsche. He writes, in part:
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent?
How shall we comfort ourselves, indeed. Were Nietzsche simply talking about Jesus here, that might be one thing. We did kill Jesus. That is what this next 72 hours are all about--we, in our oppression and our darkness, killed God's Son. But when Nietzsche asks "who will wipe this blood off us?" he *should* already know the answer to that question--it is the one whom we "killed," because the one whom we killed is incapable of dying entirely.
Of course, it is easy--probably too easy, really--to look around at the world and think that God is dead to it. Thousands upon thousands of preventable deaths happen every day as a result of starvation, preventable illness, and violence, and here we are claiming to follow a God who feeds the hungry, heals the sick, and demands peace. Where is this absentee landlord of a deity who proclaims these things but does not ensure them? (Subsequent edit: As a couple of my (admittedly smarter than me) friends have pointed out to me on Facebook, Nietzsche isn't necessarily arguing for "killing God," but against the religion of people who cling to the ideas of devotion, atonement, and redemption which he posits were invented not by God, but by man. There lies a fundamental difference, though, I believe between invention and interpretation. We may be--and in fact, are--guilty of the latter, but not the former.)
In this way, the "is God dead?" question is really symptomatic of another existential concern that has plagued us for millennia. Why do these things happen if God is good? Naturally, we can say that God causes them as punishment, or that Satan causes them because "the devil made me do it," or that we do it to ourselves, both systemically and individually. But there is also the reality that Solomon states in Ecclesiastes 9, which we just covered in our evening Bible study at FCC--the race is not for the swift, or the battle for the strong, or bread for the wise...for time and chance happens to them all.
Solomon is not saying that God necessarily wants such things to happen, only that such things will because of the inevitability of our own existences. I tend to believe that not only does God not want such things to occur, but because of God's omniscience, He can see the worlds in which our preventable evils did not have to occur, and far from being dead, God feels the emotion and grief at seeing bad things occur that did not have to happen, perhaps even more so than us because unlike us, God can see with complete clarity a possibility of the only source of hurt and pain being not us ourselves--of it being only inevitability itself.
Okay, but then why didn't God create a perfect world?
God did. We call that world Heaven. And there, God is still very much among the living.
Just as God is here on earth as well. Despite its imperfections.
Despite OUR imperfections.
God is a god of the living...so why do you seek the living among the dead?
God lives. God is alive. And God will remain alive.
Even if...even when...we try to kill Him.
After all, we tried that once already. And an empty tomb was the result.
Yours in Christ,