From October 9, 2018, “God’s point of view”
The Houston Chronicle recently published a nice review of what appears to be a lovely new book. I took issue with this on Twitter, though, because the newspaper opted to do a bit of theologizing in its headline for this review.
And it was Bad Theology.
Here’s what the Chronicle ran:
“The Lone Star State from God’s point of view,” that headline read. I responded: “Eff that. Texas from God’s point of view is looking out through the bars of a private-prison internment camp for child migrants.”
This ain’t nitpicking. It matters a great deal what we think of as “God’s point of view.” And it matters a great deal that we understand that “God’s point of view” is not the same as what we see in Jay Sauceda’s gorgeous photographs taken from a mile up in his single-engine Cessna.
If we imagine God to be (gestures vaguely) up there somewhere, then this is how we will think of God: detached, distant, vague, and looking down at a landscape of insignificant ants. There’s plenty in the Bible, of course, that supports the idea that God views the world from “on high.”
But there’s plenty more that insists this is not God’s only “point of view” because it is not God’s only location.
All over the place in the Bible, we’re shown God located all over the place. And most of the time that location is close at hand. God is in the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud that goes before us. God lives in a tent among us. God visits our tent and sits down to share some (very not-kosher) cheesesteaks. God is in the still, small voice. God is in Heaven. God is in Sheol. God is in the Holy of Holies. God is beside the widow, the orphan, the sick, the stranger, and the poor. God is present with the “least of these.” God is crying in a manger. God is crying by a grave. God is dying on a cross. God is breaking bread. God is cooking breakfast on the shore of a lake.
So when God looks at Texas, God looks at it from all of those locations — from all of those perspectives and points of view. Sure, that includes the view from “A Mile Above Texas,” but it also includes the view from ground level, the view from Texas’ prisons and from its slums and its ICUs and from its expanding concentration camps for migrant children.
And God’s “point of view,” like any point of view, is shaped by those locations. God’s “point of view” is not that of the Hubble telescope, or of some condescending sphere hovering above Flatland. God’s point of view is street level and eye level. And God’s point of view, the Bible says, is that of a child ripped from its parents and caged behind barbed wire.
Texas has more than its share of godandcountry competitive patriots who dream of putting Ten Commandments monuments up in every courtroom and classroom in the state. But none of those [white] Christian nationalists seems to have read those Ten Commandments or to have understood what they say, right off the bat, about God’s “point of view”: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods besides me.”
The Ten Commandments identify who God is by locating where God is. God is the God who is at the side of refugees and former slaves. God is the God who is on the side of refugees and former slaves.
You shall have no other god. There is no other god.
That is God’s point of view. How does Texas look from that point of view? How does any other American state look?