Paul Tillich the great 20th century theologian once said, “I hope for the day when everyone can speak again of God without embarrassment.”
This is a great hope indeed. Nowadays some might try to politicize this statement. Some might write paragraphs or give long speeches about the lack of God in public schools or public buildings. Just check your email inbox and you will no doubt find many a forwarded message about what is supposed to have happened in a given courthouse, schoolroom, football field, or legislature. These messages are usually accompanied by some sort of demand to forward this on to everyone you can think of or risk showing that you don’t love God. I personally get very put off by these emails for many reasons. I think the inability to talk about God is only attributed to ‘those people’ who keep us from living our faith. The truth may be a little closer to home that ‘those people.’ Our own embrassment is not be overlooked. The deluge of email is yet another way to take 10 seconds to defer to another’s often inapportiate and unkind thoughts. I find these emails troubling for a number of reasons.
Firstly, they are rarely true stories. They are often so far out in left field that a simple reading of the details should raise an alarm that what is being offered is ridiculous. Why get excited about urban myth that now spreads at a lighting speed due to the internet?
Secondly, God has no need for us to insure that God is in the schoolhouse, courthouse, football fields, or legislature. God simple is! The irony is that those who scream the loudest about this have a marginal faith practice at best. Most people would acknowledge that God is still fully a part of the activities at most churches on a Sunday morning. Oddly though, many of the people most upset about where ‘you cannot speak about God’ are not too anxious to come to a place where we talk about God all the time. The line of logic here seems to be, rather than accept the deep rooted idea that God is abundantly present in all things and in all places, we believe that God is only honoured if we write those three letters on the wall., chalkboard or wherever else it has been deemed to have been offensively omitted. It may be that we could more effectively display where God is or isn’t with an acknowledgement that God is our Help and our Strength, that God is Lord of our lives. It seems that we want others to speak about God for us. Perhaps we need to have more strength to speak of God without embarrassment. Careful here…I am not suggested that we should feel compelled to force anyone within earshot to accept our theology or be damned. I just wonder if we could display God as present by living the way we are called to live – seeking and serving Christ in all persons and loving our neighbour as ourselves. Loving and following God is not the school’s responsiblity, or the government’s responsbility, or the court’s responsbility – it is OUR responsibilty. Christianty was at its best when we had to find ways to live our faith under extreme persecution. Our ancestors rose above it – we call them saints today! They lived their faith by being active and witnessing. I fear we are trying to live ours by forwarding messages from our laptops.
Thirdly, I have witnessed how if we live without being embarrassed to talk about God how much God can be made present in our daily walk. In the past six months I have witnessed how great it is to be able to speak about God with so many people. Many of the people that I have been privileged to speak of God with have vastly different theologies than my own. Some have been conservative Christians, Some have been progressive Christians, and some are figuring out if they are Christian any longer, some are Muslim, Some are Jewish, some are Baha’i, and some are nonbelievers. These emails, along with emails designed to make us fearful of another religion, are really disappointing to me. In my practice of faith, these things are failure to our faith or at best a good example of how we are not prepared to take ownership for our own walk and our own witness. It is easier to blame our embarrassment about our own faith, our own questions, our own doubts, and our own fears on the fact that somebody ‘won’t let us talk about God.’ It is hogwash. What would our world look like if we were prepared to listen with open hearts to another about his/her faith? My faith has been enriched of late because I have been prepared to speak about God to people I have met who are different than me.
Do God a favour. Rather than forwarding these emails that are angry about what everybody else is or is not doing for God, HIT DELETE. Or in the words of that great email philosopher ‘anonymous’…if you love God you will delete the message… then send a message to someone in your address book and let them know that you are thinking of them, praying for them. Perhaps we could even get away from the email, the facebook, and our igoogle pages and actually step outside and engage in relationship with another – making God very present.