God's World

What in the world is God doing this week?

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Lie of “Conversations with God”

I teach a lot about prayer. I guess that’s because I believe it is something we need a lot more of, and something that tends to get neglected in our lives.

When I came across Rosalind Rinker’s little book, Prayer: Conversing with God I found the conversational style of prayer she describes to be very freeing, very refreshing.

Conversation with God brings a sense of peace within the intimacy of a personal relationship. I don’t have to use fancy language or sophisticated formulae to connect with God, to let God know the tiniest details of my life and to experience the assurance of a God who cares and wants to be involved in my life.

So, I was eager to become acquainted with Neal Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God. I was appalled at what I read.

In short, Walsch’s CWG is new-age drivel that seeks to reveal that wonder of wonders, I myself am God.

Gee, all that time spent in prayer was just a conversation with myself. What a comforting thought!

Now, I can with supreme confidence and armed with CNN’s “How to Become a Guitar God” air-guitar my way into creating a more perfectly Ed-centered world! Better yet, I’ll just whip out my old Telecaster and make some real creation noise… get ready for the Big Twang!

Sarcasm aside, Walsch’s “I am God” theology is the logical end of the self-centered culture that has found such fertile ground in America. There is no more dangerous thinking in the world today.

Now CWG is being made into a movie. You can see the trailer at comingsoon.net, and read a review by Kathy Cano Murillo at the Louisville Courier-Journal. I guess Hollywood, unable to deal with the fact that most people have a hunger to be people of faith has decided to do an end run, offering the message that since we are all God, all we have to do is have faith in ourselves and everything will be OK.

I’m sorry, but that is bull.

I am not God.

Neither is Neale.

Neither are you.

But we all do have a need for God. Our lives will continue to have an aching emptiness at the center until we acknowledge that need and choose surrender to the God who loves us in Christ Jesus. (For more about that surrender, see my other blog at JesusWorld).

We find our spiritual center when we realize that there is a God out there who, almighty and infinite, cares intimately for us, and then hold that God at the center of our lives. Jesus Christ’s great love for us can fill the aching emptiness as nothing else can do.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Rumsfeld Inspired by God?

Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this past week that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's leadership is inspired by God. The story can be found here.

I suppose it is flattering to Mr. Rumsfeld that Gen. Pace might think so.

For myself, I can't begin to judge Mr. Rumsfeld's heart. But I am troubled by his actions. Presumably, God's inspiration should lead someone to act in accordance with God's will as described to us in scripture.

I confess that I just don't see it.

Perhaps someone can show me how it is God's will that we be in Iraq, that we should maintain prison camps and suspend human rights in the name of security. God must be inspiring some pretty unusual things. Unusual, at least, compared to the words of God's Son when he said, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Violence, Video Games and True Power

Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has touched me!

Job 19:21

Last week Capscom/Clover Studios released their new video game, “God Hand.” For reviews, see Gamasutra and GameSpot. Danny Cowan, writing for Gamasutra describes it as a “comedy-infused brawler.”

I confess that I just don’t get video games. My interest waned with the old arcade version of “Centipede.” OK, so that really dates me.

What I find distressing is the culture of violence fed by many of today’s games. Benjamin Turner, of Games Radar, describes God Hand as “a game about the sheer idiotic joy of beating the crap out of things,” and notes that “it’s just plain satisfying to beat the tar out of bad guys.” Greg Kasavin at GameSpot recommends that in playing God Hand, “if an enemy is down but not out, go ahead and stomp him over and over till he stops moving.”

American culture is evolving into a cult of violence. Witness the amount of violence on TV and movies… the permissibility of violence in sports (not to mention the inherent violence of some sports themselves)… our eagerness to go to war… and the acceptance of violent crime in the news as just “part of the landscape.”

And of course video games.

Games like God Hand seem to appeal to adolescents who struggle with feelings of powerlessness. They can find a sense of power by “becoming” the main character, Gene, who discovers that his right arm has become incredibly powerful so that it enables him to pulverize men, women, and supernatural beings.

The message seems clear: the path to power is one’s capacity for violent and ruthless action. What a lie!

Want to hear about true power? Listen to the exchange of words of Jesus on the night he was arrested:

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.”

John 10:17-18

We need to be teaching each new generation about the source of real power; that a true release from powerlessness can be found only in a life given to God in Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 09, 2006

What's in a Name?

When we were little we used to say, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Brave words. Yet the truth is, if you have ever been on the receiving end of hateful name-calling, you know that words can hurt.

The Bible is filled with the power of naming. Creation is brought into being through God’s words – “let there be light!” New names are given at times of covenant and commitment: Abram to Abraham; Sarai to Sarah; Jacob to Israel; Simon to Peter.

How we name things shapes the way we and those in the presence of whom we speak see the world. Witness the power of propaganda, of marketing and advertising. Should it come as any surprise, then, that we are shaped by the way we refer to God?

My own understanding of God was marked by my struggle with the image of God as Father. Having a dad who worked all the time and who was rarely at home, I came to see God the Father as rarely present, or at least too busy with other things to be concerned with me. It was only as I learned to expand my naming of God to include other images that I could experience God as loving, compassionate, and intimately concerned with my life.

So, although Archbishop Rowan Williams’ comments last week were reported in such a way as to maximize sensationalism, it must be admitted that language about God that is exclusively male cannot help but shape the way we see God and ourselves. The ideas behind Williams’ comments are not new. Rosemary Radford Reuther was pointing out the same thing in Sexism and God-Talk over a decade ago. But you don’t have to be a feminist to recognize the power of naming. Think of the power of the images “rock” and “redeemer” or the declaration “God is love.”

I can call God Father now with ease, but I have also to see God as beyond Father, beyond gender. Infinite yet intimate. Blessed be the name…