by Bruce Gerencser cross posted from his blog The Way Forward
Or so says Christian Ray Lewis, retired linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens.
I love the way Ray Lewis played football. A hard-nosed, no-excuse, disciplined player, sure to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in a few years
However, when it comes to Lewis’s outspokenness about Christianity, my love quickly cools. I don’t have a problem with Lewis being a Christian as much as I have a problem with Lewis interjecting Christian drivel into media interviews.
Last year, the nineteen year old brother of Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. A few days later, Smith played in the emotionally charged football game and played a crucial part in the Ravens defeating the New England Patriots.
Mary Smith, Torrey Smith’s Mom, said, “He wanted to get out there and win that game for his brother and the Lord made that happen for him.”
It seems that the “Lord” was everywhere in this tragedy except where it mattered, keeping a nineteen year old man from dying in a motorcycle accident.
I understand that calling of the Lord is a coping mechanism. It is a way of finding strength during, and making sense of, tragic circumstances. I have no criticism for those who appeal to religion when life turns on them. I have no desire to rob people of whatever it is that helps them make it through the darkness of night. The bigger issue for me is the general idea that permeates of our culture, the idea that, to put it in Ray Lewis’s words, God Don’t Make No Mistakes.
Behind Lewis’s profession of faith in the non-mistake making God is the notion that the Christian God is the Sovereign of the universe. God has a purpose and plan that he is working out and that includes people dying in accidents like the accident that tragically killed Torrey Smith’s brother.
Connected to this notion is that the Christian God’s purpose and plan must NEVER be questioned. God is perfect and he makes no mistakes. When we begin to question God’s so-called perfect actions we are quickly reminded that, God’s ways are not our ways. In other words, shut up, God knows what he is doing.
This is one of the reasons I left Christianity, this notion that God is perfect in all his ways and that we, as fallible, frail, created human beings, must submit to and accept, anything and everything that God does. (or doesn’t do) No matter what tragedy, adversity, or trial comes our way:
- It is happening for God’s own purpose and glory
- God is trying to get our attention
- God is making us stronger
- God is chastising us for disobedience
- God is preparing us for an eternity with him
The Bible says in Romans 8:28-31:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
The God who don’t make no mistakes is a God who foreknows and predestines everything in our lives. We are called according to HIS purpose and everything in our lives works together for good. (not that everything is good but everything works together for good) This is why Paul could say to those who dared to question the actions of God:
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? (Romans 9:20)
I am a rational human being. With my senses I take in the natural world I live in. As a Christian I was forced to interpret what I saw and heard through what the Bible said about God’s purpose and plan for the universe. I was forced to ignore what I thought was true and instead I accepted what an ancient book told me was true.
I came to a place where I could no longer accept this way of viewing the world. Everything I saw and heard told me that God was not working out his purpose and plan. I came to see that the Christian God was no different from Baal. In 1 Kings 18 Elijah said of Baal:
And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
When Baal didn’t show up, Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal and said that Baal must be busy talking to someone, taking a shit, on vacation, or sleeping.
And this is exactly how I came to see the Christian God. He is nowhere to be found. The world cries out in pain and all that is heard is silence. Everywhere we look we see pain, suffering, and death. Where is God?
When it comes to the big things of life the Christian God is conveniently paralyzed and silent. Now, according to Christians, in the small things of life God can be found everywhere. While God cannot be troubled with of pain, suffering, and death, he is Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to determining who wins football games and who wins an election.
Such thinking is cognitive dissonance on the grandest of scale. Why would anyone want to worship a God who can’t keep a nineteen year old man in the prime of his life from falling off a motorcycle but who can easily help a Christian find their lost car keys?
If I were to believe in a God it would not be the God don’t make no mistakes God of Ray Lewis. At best, God set everything in motion and said, there ya go boys and girls, do with it what you will. A personal God that controls our lives, a God that does everything for our good, a God that has the whole world in the palm of his hand? Such a God is not supported by the evidence that those with a mind not clouded by religious faith can clearly see.
I understand WHY the God of Ray Lewis is so appealing, however I find no comfort or peace from believing a myth. Life is what it is. Shit happens. People die. Tragedy is part of the human experience and it will come our way whether we want it to or not.
I find no comfort in writing these words. I wish I had a magic wand I could wave over people who are suffering and make all their pain go away, but all I have to give them is my sympathy and support. This is all any of us have to give.
[Editorial Note: This article is written from the premise that the Bible is not the authoritative last word for faith and practice. If you are not one of those readers, please be understanding of the intended audience and refrain from commenting on whether the Bible should be taken as such. Please show some respect for the writer and others of their faith or own belief/nonbelief by discussing the topic, rather than questioning whether the topic is one that even should be discussed or attacking the author. We try to be supportive of everyone coming out of abusive theology and Religious Trauma Syndrome. For more info on the site please visit - Is NLQ an Atheist Website?]
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Bruce Gerencser spent 25 years pastoring Independent Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Christian Union churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Bruce attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. He is a writer and operates The Way Forward blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 35 years. They have 6 children, and nine grandchildren.
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