The kind of God I want

Yikes, but have people been bitching at me this week. You’d have thought that by suggesting Jesus is divine, or that during Holy Week Christians might consider going to church, I was suggesting that Mister Rogers was in the KKK, or that nature lovers around the world should go pee in a lake.

It’s funny, too, how easily I forget that I’m not always writing to people who regularly read this blog. You wouldn’t believe how often this week I’ve been accused of being an uncritical thinker, just another evangelist, of refusing to speak out against all the wrongs and evils of Christianity.  (“When have you ever fought against fundamentalism?” one guy wrote me. “Never! And you blithely ignore all the harm done to LGBT people by the same Christians you don’t dare criticize!”)

So, if you think about it, Jesus and I are both the same. He was tortured in public, nailed to a cross, and left to die. And I had a lot of people unlike my Facebook page.

Har!

Anyway, tomorrow is Easter.

And unto you do I say yayeth.

Yes, I believe in the actual and real bodily resurrection of Jesus. I know a lot of Christians have concluded that’s lame, simple-minded, Theology for Uncritical Dolts, etc. And of course I get why that is, for sure.

Yet verily do I insist upon a God who is actually impressive—one who is at the very least capable of not being dead anymore.

If I watch a guy get slaughtered, and am perfectly aware that guy is then perfectly dead—and three days later that same guy is walking around, and inviting me, so that I can experience just how real again he really is, to jam my finger into the spear wound I saw him receive, I am going to immediately rethink a few key aspects of my worldview. I’m also going to be disgusted, of course: Prod the Wound isn’t my favorite game. But mostly I’ll just be freaked. And awe-struck. And humbled, to say the least.

And you’d better believe I would believe. And so would you. So would anybody.

So I believe today. Of course I don’t have to. I have a mind. I understand how … retro it is to believe the story of Jesus Christ as told in the Gospels. I’m slow, but not so slow I don’t grasp that.

Do you think I enjoy being at all associated with that stinking pile of “Christian” fundamentalists whom the media so frenetically sells to us as representatives of all Christians? Of course I don’t.

What I do want, however, is a world that’s more than the world I know. I want to exist in a reality that’s part of a larger reality. I want human life, and human suffering, to mean something. I want it to matter.

I believe in the dignity of humans. So I want a God who has done everything he/she can to let me and everyone else in the world know that he/she gets what it means to be human—who understands suffering, who understands pain, who understands failure and defeat and poverty and humiliation and injustice so great it breaks your spirit, your heart, and every last bone in your fucking body.

I want a God whom I know knows what it means—what it is—to be human.

And that means that I must have a God who knows what it is to suffer as much as any human can. I need a God who has suffered unto death.

And then I want that God to prove to me that death is not, in fact, the end. That suffering is not the end. That evil doesn’t prevail. That everything that is good and true and right and just in humans does not perish. That the grave is nothing but a gateway to Chapter Two. That our loved ones aren’t taken from us. That children aren’t dead forever. That all of this—all of our suffering, all of our pain, all of our confusion, all of our fear, all of our losses—meant something.

That it wasn’t all for naught. That it all matters as much as it all sure seemed to matter when it was happening.

I want a God who proves to me, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that ultimately goodness prevails—that, in the end, love really does win.

Upon sunrise tomorrow I will have my proof. When the day’s first light falls upon me, I will have everything that I ever wanted out of life. And you bet I’ll be on my knees, grateful for the dawning of that bright new day.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • Tom Paine

    Spot on. John, you push us all, but in a good way. Don’t let the negativity get you down. Keep on writing.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      No, I don’t too much mind the pushback (though, to be honest, the relentlessly smug arrogance of so much of it can get a bit … wearisome) ; I understand its genesis and energy. I really appreciate your kind encouragement, Tom.

  • Seth Reeves

    Thank you, John. I identify with this more than I can say. I, too, believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. And that means that some days I doubt it. And it means that I get the why, that we want a God who identifies so intimately with every part of being human, including and especially, our mortality. And I, too, affirm that I want God to show me, not by way of teaching or doctrine, but by experiencing within himself as a human being, that death and sorrow are not the final word. Goodness and hope do prevail. This is why I believe in the Resurrection, despite the fact that so many others who profess such belief portray such a distorted image of the Gospel of Grace (I myself fail often to live out the essence of the Gospel). Nevertheless, if you’re a dolt for so believing, I’m right there with you.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Thanks, Seth; I appreciate very much what you’ve said here so well.

  • Diane U

    Oh. My. God. My Lord and my God. John, you read my mind again.

  • usingmyvoice

    I’m with you, John; I say Yayeth!

  • 1PeterW

    BTW there’s nothing in John’s text to suggest that Thomas actually touched the wounds. The offer was enough.

    • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson

      I wouldn’t say there’s nothing in the text to suggest that, it’s certainly implied, and that’s obviously how Caravaggio interpreted it.

      Thomas said “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
      and Jesus said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

      • Lars

        This does raise an intriguing question – will resurrected bodies carry old scars or was this an embellishment for the sake of a better story?

        • James Walker

          tradition holds that martyrs will all have visible marks indicative of how they suffered and died for the faith. as far as I know, none of the New Testament writers had anything to say on the subject other than this depiction of the post-resurrection Christ.

          • Lars

            Thanks, James. The first thing that came to mind was John the Baptist. Heaven will not be for the faint of heart!

  • Matt

    I don’t say this often, but–fuck yeah. That’s it. That’s the deal. I sat in church yesterday crying because Jesus was dead and all hope was lost. Have people forgotten what that feels like? No hope. None. No hope of hope either. Just…done. There’s no cavalry. No one cares. You’ll be obliterated, and there’s nothing you can do.

    But no! On Easter hope returns in blinding light, so bright that it blazes through even our suffering 2,000 years later. Talk about Good News. Talk about a reason to keep going. Thanks for this, John.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      LOVE IT! Bless you, Matt.

  • Lance Schmidt

    John – I just want to thank you for your blog coverage of Holy Week. I’ve always enjoyed reading here, but by golly your Holy Week stuff grabbed me hook, line & sinker. I was really troubled by some of the comments made against the divinity of Jesus – so much so that yesterday I actually had a bizarre moment where I questioned whether I was actually a progressive Christian and had a seizing thought that I might actually be a closet orthodox Christian. It so happens I’m reading Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” and the timing couldn’t have been better because later that day his book gave me some much needed perspective and an open mind to people questioning what I’ve always assumed are the most basic fundamentals of Christianity.

    Anyway – I love the work you are doing. To me it is some of the most noble and courageous of God’s work: to re-create the Gospel in a modern age and help realize the kingdom of heaven in the here and now. This is some awesome stuff!

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Thanks, Lance. This really means a lot to me.

  • James Walker

    There is that part of me that yearns for God to be not only mysterious but powerful and capable of doing things beyond our comprehension. There is also that portion that insists the universe is rational and that there is nothing we cannot explain if given sufficient time and the proper investigative tools. That paradox, that duality is, for me, one of the keys to being an Unfundamentalist Christian. I think of it as an opposing set of “mental muscles” with the rational, critical, questioning part being on one side and the accepting, child-like wonderment on the other. Like any set of muscles, both need to be exercised or the body doesn’t function well.

    Or, to put it another way, too much Yang and not enough Yin makes for a spirit that is unbalanced.

    This is why I embrace John’s call to exercise our “believing” muscles this Easter.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Great! Thank you, James. It is about both, just as you say.

    • Lars

      If all of this is the handiwork of God, then God IS mysterious and beyond mortal comprehension because while God’s universe may yet prove to be rational and comprehensible, it’s residents on this particular planet are anything but.

      God has expansion, dark matter and accretion discs down cold; hell, that’s auto-pilot stuff, but conscious free will…, not even God can get around that! And maybe that’s where Grace comes in. I just can’t imagine God as a puppeteer, influencing some outcomes and not others. That is not a God I can believe in. Much easier to believe God fixes everything for everyone outside this natural realm than to think God plays favorites within it. It’s not the hope I was raised with (and abandoned due to its exclusivity) but it’s still a hope that’s doesn’t totally defy reason.

  • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James_Jarvis

    I have been troubled lately something Kimberly Knight wrote in her blog. “I am tired of begging to borrow an ounce of grace…”. Too often Christians treat Grace as something in such short supply that it must be rationed and given to only those that believe the correct doctrines. When we try to put a infinite God in a finite box we will always fail. God is simultaneously an intensely person experience and yet God is something that can only be fully understood in community. Trying to fully understand God with your mind is like writing a mathematical equation to explain music or art.

  • Luke DeLong

    I have just liked your facebook page in order to subvert the power of others’ hate :)

  • Lars

    John, I will never leave you nor unfriend you. I need my family and friends to see your and Dan’s posts when I ‘like’ them. I too love your passion and want to say that you can have any God you want! We all can. And while I prefer your God to my family’s God, as long as people treat others the way they wish to be treated themselves, I’m ok with whatever God they happen to have. Personally, I don’t have a clue and will either be in for a great surprise when my day comes, or I won’t.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Me too! I could totally die, and then be all, “Um. So. This isn’t what I expected.” Or of course have … no thoughts whatsoever, cuz I’m just … mulching.

      • Lars

        Yes! Mulching! There is great meaning in mulching and I’m ok with that.

        • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

          Oh, for sure. When I was a very little kid I thought that all people should be buried by being taken out in the woods and buried in the ground wrapped or curved around a young tree. 50 years later, I still that. Proof, yet again, that I was either a genius child or am currently a moron. (No responses from the peanut gallery, please…)

          • SonjaFaithLund

            I’ve thought about my burial plans, and I think my ideal right now would be getting cremated or otherwise reduced to powder (there’s several, more environmentally-friendly methods for doing this), put into a bio-degradable urn, and used to fertilize a tree. That sounds awesome.

            And hopefully a long, long way off.

  • BarbaraR

    Thank you for this. For the past few years – well, maybe a lot longer than that – I’ve been pretty much on the h-hum end of Easter. I know what it means, and I believe it, and yet I cannot get much enthusiasm going to actually be mindful, never mind do something kinetic like go to church. Mostly I’m eating chocolate bunnies.

    But this year I’m actually reading with intent, not just scanning. And even though I am still having a hard time wrapping my tiny brain around your Dare to Believe post, I’m waking up a little.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      fwiw, it’s the Big Brain that so effectively blocks the whole Dare to Believe thing. It’s the little brain–the child brain–that so easily gets it.

      As children, we know what’s right and true. And then … comes Mom and Dad, with all their … complex input. And then also of course comes school, and jobs, and do this right and do that right and be somebody everyone else wants to be and the next you know … well, you’re afraid to trust in God. Because you’re afraid that in doing so you just might be wrong. And that’s usually too big a risk for people to take. Of ALL things, we do not, and cannot be, wrong. Because then we might get hurt.

      Doubting is just people’s way of trying to stay safe. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, sure. But also nothing lost. So it’s just a place to stay … kind of satisfied, but not really. But at least in No Man’s Land, you know where you are! Sort of.

  • Roger Flyer

    I love you, man.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      well, that was nice. thank you!

  • Lark D Kephart

    Shared your fantastic piece on my FB page, expecting some negativity in return. But while there may be many fundamentalists here in Alabama, there are also many more progressive Christians. I would love it if they were as touched as I was by your words. Thank you for them and bless you during this Holy Season.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Thanks, Lark. Bless you, too.

  • Scott Spencer-Wolff

    Suggesting “Jesus is Devine” wasn’t the issue I had (And I certainly wouldn’t unfriend you over it, or not even dislike you – people are at all different stages of Faith development) The issue was when you wrote “And fwiw, to my mind a Christianity which is predicated upon the conceit that Jesus Christ was no more divine than any other person is no Christianity at all.”

    I think it may be clear at this point, that a lot of very educated, spiritual, “Christian” folks don’t believe that Jesus, the human, was divine, or that he physically was resurrected in the way it was portrayed. I honestly can’t remember when I thought that, and certainly not since I had Marcus Borg as a Seminary professor in the 80′s (at a Catholic Seminary). It’s fine that people believe that, but not in any way a “criteria” of membership in the Christian denomination.

    I don’t doubt that the friends of Jesus may have, after his death, experienced him in a way they had not previously experienced him, and, for lack of adequate vocabulary words to describe that experience, resorted to what they knew (…he had risen) and called it good. Subsequent generations, in an effort to build the “My God is Superior to Your God” model, and the church, in an effort to continue itself, enhanced those stories, etc., etc. But, that’s just one set of beliefs. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but it’s mine.

    If you are a fan of Joseph Campbell, the definitive author on Myth, the Nativity narratives, the resurrection narrative, etc., are paralleled in numerous religious traditions. I tend to be more Universalist in my views about this.

    There is no proof, without a shadow of a doubt, of anything related to the Jesus story. Only perspectives depending on where you are on the stages of Faith continuum. As nice as it would be to have certainty.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Hi, Scott! Glad to hear you didn’t unfriend me!

      To be fair, though, your particular complaint was specifically against the idea of Christ being divine; that, and seemingly that alone, was what your stated objection on my FB profile page was all about.

      At any rate, friend, I think maybe you too quickly skipped over the “fwiw” and “to my mind” opening of my statement about the relationship between the divinity of Christ and the religion that bears his name. I made sure to double-up on that modifier by way of being as clear as possible that I was only expressing my personal opinion, not drawing any kind of line in the sand. (Maybe I should have spelled out “for what it’s worth”! People are always using abbreviations like that online, the meanings of which leave me baffled … .)

      For what it’s worth, to my mind it’s at least as easy to believe that Jesus reappeared after his death (which, let’s face it, if you were God wouldn’t exactly qualify as a major feat) than it is to accept Borg’s theory that Jesus’ friends and disciples were so grieved at his passing that they were all pushed into a state of delusion–in which they all shared the exact and prolonged same delusion. (That at least is what I understand Borg’s rather famous postulation to be; I’m not sure if that’s what you’re referencing by your “Jesus’ friends experienced him in a way they had not previously experienced him.”)

      And I’m afraid I just can’t take seriously the idea (which I believe is also Borg’s) that the author of, say, the Book of John and the Book of Revelation lacked “adequate vocabulary words” to describe the difference between natural grief over the passing of a loved one and an extraordinary occurrence.

      • Andrew of MO

        Mr. Shore, have you read the work of Kathryn Tanner? She does some incredible theology on the way Jesus is completely human and completely divine. Her two major books on the subject are Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity, and Christ the Key. Her work extends our language in talking about Jesus as divine in powerful and exciting ways.

  • Pavitrasarala

    Fantastic and powerful to read this Easter morning. Definitely sharing this. Anyone who unfriends me over it can go suck a brightly colored egg for all I care. Thank you.

  • Sheila Warner

    The fact that every apostle died rather than renounce the reality that they had been with the Risen Christ is what makes me believe, too. The Resurrection had eye witnesses, witnesses whose testimony I believe. I share your longing for the God who “gets it”. And that one day, he will put everything where it should be. That there will one day be true justice and mercy on this planet. Happy Easter.


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