I like much what Rev. Adam Hamilton has to say. Rather, I like his attitude about what he has to say. He’s the founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. He’s written a book entitled When Christians Get it Wrong. To hardliners and fundalogelicals he would most likely not be considered Christian. Yet he believes the main tenets required of Christian faith and that is the deity of Christ and the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
He seems genuine, compassionate, and humble. He doesn’t pretend to have all of the answers. He and challenges Christians to be more loving, kinder, more gentle, less judgmental, more Christ-like.
In his sermon, When Bad things Happen, he deals with the problem of suffering by saying this:
“God is God and we are not. Why bad things happen is mostly mystery.”
And there it is. From the pulpit. God’s ways are higher than our ways. He goes on to say:
“I don’t think that God is manipulating events on earth just to make things go one way or another. God doesn’t intervene to make this athletic team win and the other team lose. God doesn’t often interfere when a life-threatening disease strikes someone we love.
But…sometimes God does intervene, does answer prayer, does touch our hearts. Sometimes God moves us to say just the right thing at the right time, nudges us to reach out to a particular person who is going through rough times.”
Even this pastor doesn’t believe that an all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent god intervenes….most of the time. What makes him draw the conclusion that a god intervenes at all? The fact that he doesn’t understand why a seemingly miraculous event occurred? God of the gaps?
So at the same time he’s challenging trite Christian platitudes he offers up one of his own. We don’t see miracles because a god doesn’t intervene but sometimes he does. It’s a mystery. Magic. What does that mean? And even what he offers up as a movement of a god in our lives isn’t miraculous. It’s those little everyday occurrences that we write off as coincidence. He says everything doesn’t happen for a reason, but then argues that, yes, it sort of does. The bad stuff isn’t attributed to god, but when some tiny blessing happens it’s god’s movement. It’s him prompting us to say just the right thing at just the right time.
If god gets no blame for the bad things that happen, and he mostly doesn’t intervene to stop them from happening, when they do stop, when tragedy is averted, why would god get the credit? Why would it be automatically assumed that god did, in fact, intervene…just this once.
If it breaks some kind of physical, natural laws for a god to intervene on a regular basis would it not break those same physical, natural laws for him or her to intervene on a limited basis? What makes a person make the leap from god doesn’t intervene to sometimes he does? How does god decide when to do so? It’s a mystery.
While I don’t agree with Rev. Hamilton’s conclusions, I do agree that if you want to believe in the Christian god you should be careful how to represent him. Christians don’t do themselves any favors when they presume to have the answers to life’s questions yet the answers they provide are no more than that which fills a balloon that rises into the sky and floats away. Meaningless. Forgotten within moments.
As a Christian, if you want to represent god, just listen. Offer condolences or sympathies, but don’t pretend that there’s a good reason, a lesson to be learned, when your god doesn’t intervene. Unless your reason is he really isn’t there.
Rev. Hamilton gets it right when he says, “You can see why that sort of God, the God depicted by those who say, ‘everything happens for a reason,’ is the sort of God that none of us really want to worship, it’s the sort of God that wants bad things to happen to us so that we can learn something, so that we can get something out of it. Who wants to worship a God like that?”