Wednesday, while she was speaking at the Big Tent conference, Christina Whitehouse-Suggs said something about “bad theology”. Later, during a Q & A period, Tony Jones mentioned it and said the hair on the back of our necks may have stood up when she said that, intimating it was a judgmental statement. In my case, Tony was right, but not for the reason he thought. I wanted to stand up and yell “Preach it, sister!” I’ve seen so much crap passed off as theology I could just about puke. One the places it comes out strongest is the pithy little sayings people love to repeat. Things like:
- If He brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Yeah, until you think about it. Basically, it’s saying that God is going to put you in shitty situations and then, help you get out of said situation. Hey, here’s a novel idea: Don’t put me in the shit to begin with!!! The first part of this saying has a Calvinist bent. “If He brings you to it” implies that God is controlling your actions and you don’t have anything to do with it. Being a Methodist/Wesleyan/Arminian, I’m not down with that. I have free will and I am responsible for my actions, not God. The second part is cool, I fully believe that God can strengthen and support you through the bad times, so, I just ignore the part I don’t like.
- Not Perfect, Just Forgiven. This one usually turns up on bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc. and indicates a terminal level of smug. And, every time I think about smug people, I remember the South Park episode about smugness where people walked around smelling their own farts (“Smug Alert, Season 10). For the record, the smug people in the show were liberals and greenies, not Christians. Since many Christians don’t seem to believe their farts smell, I’m not sure what the analog would be.
- Body piercing saved my life! This is another bumper sticker/t-shirt. All too often, I see people focus on the sacrifice of the cross to the exclusion of the Resurrection. What he did on the cross is a wonderful thing, but without the resurrection, he’s just another dead guy.
- Let go and let God. Let God what? Handle everything? I don’t think it works that way. Look at the free will comment earlier.
- Don’t confuse God’s patience with his final response. This is just one of a million quotes and sayings that refer to God’s wrath. Some Christians like to focus on the wrath thing, mostly because they think, since they’re in, they won’t be the object of that wrath. Instead, it’ll be all the “sinners” who get slammed. The only hitch is that we’re all sinners. And, if the “sinners” are catching hell, guess what?
- Because Jesus carried an AK-47 everywhere he went, right?
And, finally, the crowning jewel of bad theology:
- It’s all part of God’s plan. This, my friends, is the saying that inspired this post. How can so much shit be contained in 6 little words? The reason I hate this so much is when it’s uttered. You’re sitting at the hospital with a friend whose child has suffered an awful trauma and when they ask why, some well-meaning idiot will say “It’s all part of God’s plan” along with some other mumbo-jumbo about God working in mysterious ways and how we shouldn’t question them, yadda, yadda, yadda. I just want to shake them and yell “Are you listening to yourself?” I can’t think of a more callous thing to say. It takes away what little hope they might have had and replaces with…, what? The knowledge that our Creator is a hard, capricious overseer who singles people out for suffering and hardship in the furtherance of some unknown plan for the universe? I hope that’s not the case. I prefer to believe in a God who’s a loving father, one that would never cause his children pain. But, evidently, I’m wrong. And, a better parent than God, because I’d never do that to one of my kids.
Okay, I think I’ve said enough on this subject. I do, however, want to leave you with a Christian saying I like. It’s also the name of my friend Hugh Hollowell’s ministry. It’s called: