The God of the Religious Right a Divine Fraud?

Whenever there has been a tragedy or natural disaster which affects people of color especially, but others as well, I have held my breath, waiting for the Religious Right to give its pronouncement on why said disaster or tragedy happened. When Hurricane Katrina hit, some religious fundamentalists said the storm was the wrath of God, who was displeased with the lifestyle of people in New Orleans and in this country in general; some said the God’s wrath had come because of abortion and homosexuality.

When the earthquake hit Haiti, killing more than 100,000 people, Pat Robertson said it had come from God as retribution, because the Haitian people had “made a pact with the devil” when they fought the French for their freedom in 1804, and won. When the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook happened, the religious right said it was a judgement from God who was angry that “America had turned its back on God.” Alabama Judge Roy Moore and Focus on the Family’s James Dobson said the shooter had killed little children because of abortion and the tolerance of gay marriage.

The recent shooting in Las Vegas happened, said the religious right, because America is a wicked nation. (http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/dave-daubenmire-vegas-shooting-was-the-wrath-of-god-being-revealed-on-a-wicked-nation/ )

Strangely, the religious right sees evil and wickedness in homosexuality and in the fact that abortion is legal, but their God sees nothing wrong with sexism and racism. Their God has been silent through the years as white supremacy has wreaked havoc on the lives of innocent people because of their race, their ethnicity, their religion and their sex and sexual preference.

Wealthy white people, including men who have molested children, never get “the pronouncement.” I have never heard anyone from the Right say that God has been displeased with what members of the white elite have done over time.

While before this president, accusations of acts of sexual impropriety would have been the end for any political run, the religious Right is actually urging support of him, lifting up the Christian principles of love and forgiveness, as reasons to give him a pass. Conservatives are saying that what the president said about Haiti, El Salvador and many African nations was true and that he should be defended. (https://www.advocate.com/media/2018/1/12/right-wing-pundits-defend-trumps-shithole-countries-remark )

They have been virtually silent about the wildfires, excessive rain and mudslides in an affluent part of California; I have heard no statement about the suffering of those people happening because of America being a wicked nation.

The god of the religious Right is an elite deity. Their god causes people to suffer for only the things the Right have deemed to be wrong; their god is a god of culture, not needing for people to be “righteous,” i.e.. “in right relationship with God.” Their god has allowed injustice to be meted out to black people for literally generations; their god has sanctioned lynching and the lack of “due process” for people of color. Their god allows horrific poverty in this, the most wealthy nation in the world. Their god has allowed domestic terrorism in this country, while allowing them to denounce foreign terrorism. Their god thinks nothing of the effort now to deport illegal immigrants, destroying their families like phenomenon of slavery allowed and in fact pushed during that period of time. Their god apparently does not think that poverty caused by unjust economic policies is a bad thing; their god thinks that the sexual harassment of women is acceptable.

Their god has celebrated the “rightness” of white supremacy. It is said that when the very racist film The Birth of  Nation  came out that President Woodrow Wilson said watching it was a “religious experience.” Their god apparently turns his head (and I am sure their god is only masculine) on racial violence; their god allowed police officers to pick up the known white assassin of innocent people shot in a church in South Carolina without incident, though they knew he was armed and had been the lone shooter in that massacred, and take him to get something to eat at a Burger King before taking him in to be processed for his crime. This is the same god that apparently thinks it’s ok for police officers to gun down innocent and unarmed black youth like Tamir Rice and Ty’re King.

It is only abortion, homosexuality and same-sex marriage that their god is concerned about. Their god is fully all right with racism and sexism and any violence that comes with those “isms.”

Who is this god?  It is a god of an elite few. It is a god who I, for one, cannot and do not respect. This god seems to be a fraud, a cultural but not biblical deity which exists to support bias, bigotry, hatred and racial violence. This god is not my god, nor is it the god of the masses. It cannot be, not according to the God we have learned about in the Bible.

A candid observation …

God, Waiting

In spite of the vitriol of the president-elect, and the bubbling anger and rage that can be felt in our land, it is a fact that we as people are not wired to hate.

We are wired to care for others; we are wired for compassion; we are wired to be in community with each other.

Inside all of us is a place I call the “God-spot.” It is that place where we love each other, where we lose hatred and the desire for vengeance. It is that place that God put in all of us.

The problem is, we hide it and run from it. In our society, there is pressure to give into hatred and prejudice in the quest for power and popularity. We see it early, as in elementary schools, bullies taunt classmates and too many people remain bystanders, in agony over what they are seeing, but afraid to say anything, because they want to belong.

I said in a presentation that I gave recently that I was appalled not at Donald Trump; he has shown us who he is and that is just the reality.

What has bothered me is that so many people have gravitated toward him, even those who are embarrassed and bothered by what he has said. Politicians have lost all semblance of honesty and morals and self-respect because they want to “belong.”

As much as that bothers me, I still think that God has wired us all to care for each other. The “God-spot” can move people from hatred to agape love, from racism and sexism to a spirit of inclusion. The “God-spot” is a power within us that few acknowledge or perhaps even know is there, and it is a power that we stifle because it is frightening.

It is frightening because acknowledging and employing the “God-spot” sets us up to attacks from those who would rather sit in hatred, bigotry and worse. It sets us up to be called “weak,” and “loser,” and worse.

In a seminary where I spoke last week, a woman said that the election of Donald Trump might be good for the country. Perhaps. If he gets people jobs, that will be good for the country.

The issue is that he has moved people so far from the “God-spot,” including and especially Christian Evangelicals, who seemingly rejected the principles of God and chose instead to act on …other feelings.

I leave you, the reader, to define and examine and admit what those “feelings” are and were.

But in the midst of this turbulent time, a time when racists and sexists are coming out boldly to “make America great again,” something special is being ignored.

It is that “God-spot,” being replaced and pushed back by anger based on race, sex, class and economics.

America is in for some rough times, as people rely on their ideologies and leave the theology of a God who seeks justice behind.

But sooner or later, my hope is that those who acknowledge the “God-spot” within themselves, weeping as God’s people tear each other apart, will step forward and desire to “belong” to a beloved community, rather than a community so fractured that it threatens to implode before our very eyes.

God is waiting, I think.

A candid observation …

God, Black People, and Katrina

It has been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, and parts of Mississippi. Katrina was vicious, surely, an unwanted and uninvited visitor to an area of the country used to unwanted guests, but she was much more rude and imposing. Her winds and her rain devastated parts of Mississippi, and her power caused storm surges and broke levees in New Orleans, in effect murdering innocent people caught in the firestorm.

One could not look at the images on television of people, mostly black and poor, standing on roofs for days, waiting to be rescued. It was hard to shut out the images of people walking in the hot, blazing New Orleans sun, across the Danzinger Bridge, looking to get away from the flood waters that were swallowing their homes. My heart was broken as I saw pictures of dead people on that bridge, waiting to be picked up. The one picture that sticks in my mind is that of an old woman, in a wheelchair on the bridge, dead.

It didn’t help to hear the stories of people in the convention center, even though Katrina’s wind and rain had caused a hole in the center’s roof. The people were there, sitting in seats normally inhabited by people enjoying entertainment of some sort. Now, those seats were filled with desperate people, in a facility where there was reportedly no air conditioning, no electricity, no running water …The images even now haunt me.

I sat in Columbus, Ohio, a pastor of a church wanting to do “what Jesus said.” I have always wanted that. The people down South were suffering. We had to do something. So, we organized a campaign to collect needed items to take to the people. Health supplies. Bleach. Diapers, Food for babies and adults. Water. Clothing …you name it, we collected it. People from all over the city and outlying suburbs came over to Advent United Church of Christ, bringing supplies and by extension, love, for the people who were suffering. We were able to get an 18-wheel truck and we filled it  …and we drove to New Orleans. The truck with supplies, and us in our cars, with the determination to help “the least of these.”

In my mind, “the least of these” were primarily the black people. Those were the people whom I saw on roofs, crying for help. Those were the people who were on that bridge and in the convention center. They were the ones who had been, in large part, unable to get out of New Orleans before the levee broke, causing that dastardly flood. I considered them to be “the least of these.” We were going down there to help my people.

But God.

I have to admit, I am angry at God a lot, because I blame God for allowing racism to flourish. I blame God for not changing the hearts of white people who are filled with hatred and a sense of superiority and entitlement. I truly believe white Christianity, for the most part, has failed when it comes to racism. The white Church has allowed racism to flourish; it has advocated for segregation in its congregations; it has turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the cries of African-Americans who have been deemed to be the scourge of not only the United States but, it seems, the world. The god of white people has not insisted on agape love, not insisted on justice for “the least of these,” and has not pushed for mercy.

The god of the black church has been different, created out of what I call a “crazy faith” that has been the fuel for hope in spite of the injustice meted out by the government and the church. Author James Baldwin called the faith and subsequent hope of black people in America an “ironic tenacity.” Black people had to develop and embrace a faith that said trouble would not always be. Ida B. Wells, who fought against lynching in this nation, talked about her faith that was defined in large part, said James Cone in his book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree,  to “black cultural resistance to white supremacy.”

As we traveled to New Orleans 10 years ago, I fully expected to be able to get to the suffering black people.

But God.

We were stopped in Mississippi before we were able to get to New Orleans. I think the reason why was that there were so many people traveling there to help. We looked around; the place where we were stopped was completely devastated. We were in Pass Christian. There was nothing …We drove through deserted streets and saw homes and business flattened. There was no electricity. The houses that remained had marks on them to indicate that dead people had been found inside. On one street, there was a lonely dog walking, looking lost and forgotten. We fed him and I wondered how long it would be before he was rescued.

Anyway …we had this truck, full of supplies, and in our meandering, we came upon a church. There was life there; we could see people. We were excited and we drove as close to the door as we could. We were there! We were going to help “the least of these.”

There was one problem. All of the people …were white.

Damn. I wanted to leave. I had wanted to help the black people, and here we were, in this deserted, God-forsaken place called Mississippi, where I was sure many of my ancestors had been lynched and discriminated against. Mississippi???? God! Are You kidding me?

We began unloading stuff, things that these people needed. After a while, one of the people from Columbus came to me and asked, “When are we going to help the black people?” I just muttered and said, “soon.” In our group, we had black and white people, Jewish people as well as Christian, but for me, this wasn’t their trip, not as far as the ultimate goal was concerned. I wanted to help black people, and here we were, stuck in Mississippi, helping white people whose ancestors, at least, had surely caused misery for the very people we wanted to help and who were still in misery because of Katrina.

After we had unloaded much of what these people needed, I was jumping down from the truck, and this little old white lady, with white, fuzzy hair, came up to me, with giant, crocodile tears in her eyes. She hugged me. And then she just said, “Thank you. Thank you.”

I have never forgotten that day. I still have feelings about how that day worked out, how we ended up helping people whom I no intention of helping. I have grown too cynical to believe that our stop in Pass Christian that day made a difference in the hearts of white supremacists in that group. I blame God, like I said, for not doing a sweep of hatred in the hearts of people.

But the one thing I know is that God taught me a lesson that day, about what God and religion are supposed to be about. I am not sure I appreciate the lesson, but in spite of myself, I did learn.

Who can understand the ways of God? Surely, not me.