I don’t need God

16Sep10

OK, so I have not actually written anything on my blog for ages. Some of this is about time, and some of it just feeling like I didn’t have anything worth saying, or if I did, I didn’t have the skill to articulate it.

That might still be the case <grin> but here goes.

This is the podcast in question, and after listening to this <strikethrough> I almost titled this blog post, ‘I don’t need God’, but I didn’t,</strikethrough> I changed the post title from ‘Some reflections on Peter Rollins and Rob Bell’.

First up, Peter is a very gifted and articulate speaker. I have not read any of his books, (I have been meaning to, but I need to buy them first, and so much competes for the little spare cash I do have I have never got round to it. One day…) so his style was a bit of a surprise.

One of the points that stands out most is how we are prone to using christianity as a release valve, something we think we do as our act of rebellion against the system. ‘If I go to church, I might change the world’ (OK, Peter says it a whole lot better). But the thing is, the very act of going to church once a week, and helping out at the old people’s home or soup kitchen could be the very things that actually stop us changing the world. Because, if we do not act from a place of love, or a place from suffering, then our acts are simply acts divorced from the reality of who we really are.

Or to put it another way,

We might live one life most of the week (e.g. perhaps a life that does not really stand up for the poor, destitute, oppressed, homeless, widows and orphans), and justify this life, because we are *christians* and go to church, giving some money, saying some prayers and singing some songs.

As if that make it OK that we might actually be taking advantage of people Mon-Fri. If we think the things we do together at church on a Sunday, from our place of comfort, are going to change the world, all we will achieve is allowing the wheels of oppression to roll smoothly. Maybe buying fairtrade coffee makes us feel better, but perhaps it masks the fact the we are deeply unhappy, but, If we do a couple of token gestures, then we do not need to face up to who we really are…

We use our religious, political and social beliefs to support what we are (or what we have told ourselves we are*) and what we do, that is, our identity. It is the identity we create that masks who we really are.

* we spend our lives creating (or, as children, having them created for us) false identities. We have this false sense of who we are, but what we really need to do is acknowledge who we really are. We need to take the false story we tell about ourselves and fit it to the reality of who and what we really are.

We need to think about ourselves in our totality, not just who we think we are on a Sunday at church. Church should be about stripping away the false identities we create.

The last things Peter talks about is love. We need to move from a place of living in fear – fear that you are suffering, or that your life lacks meaning and that Jesus is the answer, and we need to move away from embracing christianity not because we love, but becasue we think it will fill some hole is our lives. If we seek God because we want eternal life, we are not seeking God, but eternal life, if we seek God because our lives lack meaning it is not God we are searching for, but meaning, and not an encounter with the divine. We should not seek God because we think it will fulfill some need in us. We should seek God to encounter God.

If you think you need God, this is not a place of love. If we think we need God, we will be unable to encounter God. Love is not about searching to fulfill a need. We need to suffer along side the people we know, together we need to share our stories, not trying to give an answer (from God). We must not use ‘holding on to God’ as an excuse not to address the totality of our lives, to mask and hide suffering, pain or brokenness.

Peter tells another parable in the last 5 mintues, and uses this to lead to his final thoughts, which I summarise as:

As a community, we need to be a broken people suffering together, living together, and this way God can be manifest in the relationship of healing.

Whoa, I ended up typing loads!

If you have comments or questions about what I have said, it might be best for you to listen to podcast first!

grace and peace

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3 Responses to “I don’t need God”

  1. I really enjoyed both the Mars Hill podcast and this post Tobs!

    It resonates with my current wrestle, triggered by a number of things including “The Irresistible Revolution” (Shane Claibourne).

    Ideas like ‘living From God’s love not For it’, ‘walking as a broken person with other broken people’, and remembering that the reward for having a relationship with God is having a relationship with God. (something often forgotten in many church communities.)
    A lot of it breaks down, in my mind, to ‘seeking the giver not the gift’ and living in love with God, which naturally changes behaviour – we generally would do anything and everything for the person / people we love because we love them, not to appease or seek approval or gain favour or for reward!

    Also, both Peter and Shane express ideas about giving / donating through church / charities or buying fair trade etc in one area being a way of insulating us from both the real poverty problem and the internal shortcomings / insecurities.
    I guess these have been rumbling inside me and only hearing / reading has named and exposed what I’ve been wrestling with.

    Trying to work out how these things add together and how that ends up looking in my life and in the individuality of everyone else’s situations with humility and nonjudgementalism (got to be a new word there) is the tricky bit.

    I feel Shaun Groves has put a spotlight on that for me today… http://shaungroves.com/2010/09/after-poverty/ and the other day here http://shaungroves.com/2010/09/when-god-comes-by/ and so did Ann Voskamp here http://www.aholyexperience.com/2010/09/why-its-only-experiencing-god-that-can.html

    Powerful, life-changing even if it is seen vicariously.

    I’ve said too much already, but the battle continues on the inside!

    Grace & Peace bro.

  2. 2 tobit

    hey Al
    thanks fo the comment. You are right to make the connection to “The Irresistible Revolution” (Shane Claibourne). As I hit the publish button and re-read my post, the link jumped out – but I was too tired to write any more!

    The tension of how to give from our wealth to help as a meaningful act and (unconsciously) giving to insulate ourselves from the reality of the situation, is just that, a tension. Like you, I am glad for the writing of Shaun Groves and thanks for sharing the link to Ann Voskamp – readers, READ. please.


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