Philisophical Musings

of an agnostic polyamorous heterosexual artistic soul

Reflections on a sermon: “Why we are enemies of god”

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My style of writing often contains a good deal of sarcasm. This is not meant as a way of belittling the ideas presented here, but more as a tool to heighten the contrast in patterns of thought. It is not my intention to be disrespectful, and I hope that through my sarcasm, there is also a glimmer of sincerity. This is a discussion I value, just as I value those who enter the discussion with me.

Sunday 13 June, 2010
Romans 5:6-11

Listen to the sermon .

Already, the direction of this sermon doesn’t sit well with me. When I think about god, or what kind of god I would believe in if I did believe in one, I would think about the positive things. It would be the things I love about the relationship that would be central. Like any relationship, surely we can imagine we have done some things which would “upset” god, although, it is even hard to imagine an omnipotent, all loving being also being upset. “Upset” implies brokenness. That is like first stating “god created man … and saw that it was good” (at least, being the crown of his creation, we might assume he found man to be “good”). But at the same time, and I can’t remember the fancy theological term for it, we are told that god actually must have had “foreknowledge” of the coming fall of man? So we have a perfect god, creating “for all practical purposes” a perfect human being, yet with the knowledge that that human being will “fall”… but I digress.

In my earthly relationships, I certainly fail at being a friend, I fail in loving wholly. But in a healthy relationship, we fail, we are sorry, we are forgiven, we move on… a true friend doesn’t keep “harping” on about how “I forgave you, why aren’t you happy”, and hopefully, the one who was forgiven doesn’t, for the duration of the relationship, feel “beholden” to the other because of that act. Yet, this is what the relationship with god is, or at least the way it is generally presented. It seems like a permanent state of us being beholden (overjoyed, endlessly happy, relieved, secure) to god for the fact that he has taken all our guilt (which we didn’t know we had, but now do, since “pretty good” isn’t good enough) and placed it on his son. And, throughout this relationship, we are constantly reminded that it is because god has covered over our guilt, that we in fact can have “no contribution” towards this fact that we are guiltless (well, if we accept jesus as savior), and all we have to do is be joyful about this “unconditional forgiveness”. I am so thankful (to whom?) that my earthly friendships do not work that way.

What follows are the 5 explanations as to why we are “enemies of god”, along with my commentary:

( I will refer to “you” (the pastor) and “we” (the congregation) since I assume the sermon is for our benefit, but it is not quite clear to whom you were referring in this: each and every one of us, or only those who have not yet understood how god’s unconditional love is extended to them?)

1. “We insist on living our life without reference to god”.

For myself, this is of course true, but that is a consequence of not believing there is a god. But certainly, we all know what is meant here. We live for ourselves, imagine ourselves to be god, think we have all the answers… But it is the following statement I take offense to most: “Even though deep down they know…” ? How do you presume know what I feel deep down? Not even my wife of 20 years can know what I feel “deep down”. Nor my mother or father. If god was there, certainly he could ‘know’ that. So either you have some “godly” insight into people, or you are simply stating something you (want to) believe to be true, since “obviously”, if we didn’t have this “feeling deep down” that there must be a loving god behind it all, there would be no guilt to work with.

You have a congregation of 400+ people, all of whom live their lives in reference to something. In 400 years, you would still not be able to know and grasp each one of our reasons to live, and in reference to what. And so, we get these sweeping generalizations.

2. “We refuse to worship god. We no longer stand in awe of god. We enjoy daily gifts without giving thanks to god”.

Let’s see… so, those of us who do not “worship god” also do not stand in awe of the beauty around us? We don’t recognize the daily gifts that come our way? Or is it just that, although we may feel an amazing sense of awe when we begin to understand the complexity of the life we live, that we are experiencing a very “different type of awe” than that which a believer experiences when they “survey the wondrous cross”? Clearly that would be a purely subjective statement with no possible means of being differentiated. If I am standing at a James Taylor concert, totally caught up in the moment, holding my lighter in the air, feeling a “oneness and connection” to those standing around me and blown away by his amazing lyrics and voice, is that really any different than standing in an APCH service, listening to the praise band, holding your arms in the air, feeling a sense of “awe and wonderment” at the amazing love of God? You might say it is different, but again, that is purely subjective, no different than saying that a McDonald’s hamburger tastes better than one from Burger King. No way to verify it as it is purely based on perception.

I often stand in awe of life around me. I see beauty everywhere. I am constantly aware of how precious life is, and how “blessed” (lucky) I am to be able to face every new day. And yet, I do not feel a need to “attribute” these awesome emotions to god. They are what they are: Awesome moments. Emotions. Part of my human interaction with nature. Inexplicable, yet beautiful. Except for that feeling I have deep down…

3. “We suppress the truth about god. We assume that we are the final judge of what is ‘good and true’. Even at the molecular level, we refuse to see the ‘god of life’ “.

Because I do not believe in god, or don’t recognize that “feeling deep down”, am I suppressing the “truth” about god? Here, we run into a similar problem again. I in fact do assume that I am the final judge of what is “good and true”, but only in my life. Further, I make that assumption with the knowledge that someone else might have better reasoning than mine, and that, based on their reasoning, my definition of “good and true” may change. If the “god of life” was clearly involved, even at the molecular level, than that would be a truth which would make itself known. In fact it doesn’t. It remains a matter of conjecture (a proposition that is unproven but appears correct and has not been dis-proven). Or more simply, it clings on to what remaining real estate it has in “unanswered questions”. And that market won’t be drying up any time soon.

4. “We are ignorant of god. Like a set of glasses colored in a way that is ignorant of god. Distorted by ignorance”.

These all seem to be variations on a theme. We live without reference to god. Refuse to worship god. Suppress the truth about god.  And why wouldn’t we, when we apparently have the wrong glasses on. Well, I’ll be! Who “in the world” gave me those glasses? And why didn’t I get the “special” glasses. “We” all got the standard issue “coke bottle” glasses, which distort our vision of what is “good and true”, while a chosen few apparently received top grade “X-ray glasses” with which, among other things, they can see how I feel “deep down”…

I traded in my coke bottle glasses for the looking glass of science, and “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone”.

5. “Deep down we know god wants a relationship with us but we ignore or refuse it. “

Here it is again, “deep down”… This strikes me more like cold reading. If we dig around long enough, we will all find feelings “deep down” which are unsettled. And if someone can show us, make us understand, that exactly that feeling, that yearning, That “problem looking for an answer”, that is a longing for relationship with god which you are ignoring. Funny, even my psychologist wouldn’t assume to “know” what those “unfulfilled yearnings” actually are.

“God is opposed to people who reject him. Opposed to those who do not praise him, even though he still gives them his gifts.” My kind of friend. Not.

“Does Christianity stop there? ” (I wish it did, but alas….)

“God took the penalty from us and gave it to his son. While we were yet sinners”. With “no contribution on our part” to achieve my salvation. So he still makes us feel bad since he has received us with “no contribution on our part”, meaning that if I ignore that fact, I must be an idiot. Even the fact that we might be “pretty good” or even, god forbid, “really good” doesn’t count, as there is no way for us to contribute to our salvation. But we are “pretty good enough” to be forever thankful and accept this great gift. We are apparently “pretty good enough” to “live like we know it” and learn to forgive one another, stop living at odds with loved ones. But I do that already also… Oh yeah, … “no contribution on my part”. So does that just make me self-righteous and smug?

This whole sermon feels like preying on peoples insecurities and fears. Looking for any area they may feel ambivalent and pointing a finger saying “see there , that is that ‘deep down feeling’ that you need god”. This sermon has succeeded in underlining what I still see as the most powerful, though well “smoothed over”, motivation to believe in god. Fear. Of course, you would strongly object to that statement. You would insist that it is because, once we become aware of the awesome gift we have received from god, with no contribution of our own, and the realization that, though we may be “pretty good”, that clearly is not up to god’s standards, so once again, god removed the guilt, and all that is left is the pure joy in that knowledge. That is why there is no fear. There is nothing to fear with god. Right?

You end the sermon with a prayer, and the service with a blessing. During the prayer, you used these words: “Thank you that we no longer have to fear our final enemy”. Fear? Final enemy? And then again, in the blessing: “God go with you… Do not be afraid, do not be afraid. ” Fear? What would make us think that?

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Written by Philoman

June 14, 2010 at 9:37 am

Posted in Bible, God, Religion, Sermons

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