Thursday, February 01, 2007

If it’s just me, it doesn’t matter; if not the problem is huge

Recently I was led to a site about contemporary Christian music and found this interview of Grammy-award winning Christian singer Rebecca St. James. As much as I admire Rebecca’s music, passion for God and attitude of surrender, which I share, we don’t see God the same way.

“I believe worship is the greatest thing we can do here on earth,” Rebecca says. “It’s our human Christian calling; it’s what we’re created to do. I love worship. There is such a need for it today.”
I’ve heard this before. I’m not sure where. I know Rick Warren said in his book The Purpose Driven Life that God’s 5 purposes for us are for worship, for fellowship, to grow spiritually, to serve others, and for evangelism. Warren wrote, “It’s all for God.” He wrote that God’s only purpose in doing anything is to glorify Himself. I know I’d heard all of that before Rick Warren got many people to read it. It never rang true to me. It’s based on that traditional view of God as omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving and all-good. If that’s true, why isn’t there heaven on Earth right now?

Of course people can argue about that. It’s not an accident that Bible-believing Christians have settled on such a homogeneous view of God. The above view can be defended well enough, given how many people there are in this house of cards all telling each other there’s no problem.

But who’s right about God, regardless of any arguments? Rick Warren and Rebecca St. James could be right about God. Just because I think their God makes no sense alongside the world I experience doesn’t prove anything. Atheists might be right that the concept of God is pure fantasy, no matter how much my experiences have been helpful and beyond me to fake. Any other religion might be right. How can one know?

I’d like to take credit for deciding to trust God and junk everything else, but that’s not my part. I just started praying again in my thirties, and some things happened that I still don’t really understand. I know they don’t fit the simplistic ideas people have, from traditionalists to secularists. That’s what really set me free. Seeing really is believing.

I remember when I realized there were two possibilities. It took me about 6 months after God first spoke to me to see it that simply. One was that whatever I was experiencing about God was wrong, and something else was right, or maybe no one was right. The other possibility is that as metaphorical or otherwise indirect as my experience might be, that’s the real God.

I realized that if I was wrong, I could live with that. I’d explored essentially all religions before that and adapted to the possibilities that one, all, or none were correct. If all that I experience is just me, it doesn’t change that.

But if what I hear is God, He/She is very different than some say. He helps us not like He’s playing with dolls, but out of love. Glory? What’s that? I love God for who God is and what God has done for me. God tells me He/She loves me for who I am and what I’ve done for God. What is talk of glory apart from an attempt to suck up to God as if God were one of those Asian despots who ran things when the Bible was being written? Or sometimes people speak of God’s glory as they pretend He’s on their side, when He’s not, when He’s with those who are detested by those first people.

It would be one thing if worship were just about group prayer or group fellowship with God, but to pretend that we are nothing without God, that God does everything good and something else does everything bad is talking to someone who doesn’t exist. It’s not the God who speaks to me, the God to whom I’m married. That God likes how music and teaching help people, but doing glory to Him? – people don’t have the slightest idea how to do that.

The greatest thing anyone on Earth can do is love, love God, love neighbors, and love enemies. I used to say that a lot, but then it becomes a problem to define love, especially with loving God and loving enemies. It’s hard to get a straight answer from enemies about that, but God tells me what loving Him means to Him. It has nothing to do with worship. If that’s just my fantasy, it doesn’t matter. But if it means there’s a problem with tradition, then it’s a huge problem, and so many people are clueless about it, even people I otherwise like.


elbogz said...

I remember a sermon about our greatest calling being to lead people to Jesus. But the preacher was asked, well, if that is God's purpose in life, why don't we just shoot them after conversion and send them on their way. That way they don't have to endure the world. For years and years I would ask God, what is my purpose God, what is it you want me to do? It seemed I always got the same reply...."Be Kind".....I would ask, that's it? God would reply....that's it...

I sometimes wish I heard God say, go build an ark. At least I would know for certain what was expected of me. I guess i'll just work on the "be kind" part. I still suck at that...

DavidD said...

Beliefs are so much a package deal. If you see us as not having a purpose ordained by God, but rather filling a niche for life intelligent enough to be able to conceive of God, then it's a matter of who is God really in order to guess at what He wants for us.

If you start with the traditional God, I see how we have nothing to add but worship. Maybe all 5 of Rick Warren's purposes are a form of worship.

Yet I consider your experience even more data against the latter. It isn't just worship for you. It's "be kind". Now if only a few people perceive God as saying something that doesn't make worship so important, it still doesn't matter. But if tradition is wrong about that, it may be wrong about a lot.