So, I haven’t posted on here in a long time. A really long time. All these months (years?) and I still find myself wrestling with the same questions. If I had not been raised with these beliefs would I hold them? Do I still believe them? Which version of God is true? If God is a god who is giving up part of his creation as “collateral damage” do I really want anything to do with him.
I am really struggling with idea that God has created all of creation but that only a select few will be saved and go to heaven. Because that seems wasteful. Why would you make all these extra people just to have them suffer and die. Especially when the world is already full of suffering and hurting. I realize the “why do bad things happen to good people” question is forever old and I have heard dozens of different answers. My hang up comes down to this. (Going on the traditional biblical model) God created the earth. Satan fell from heaven and came to earth. Sin entered. We were separated from God. We could not keep the ways that would bring us to God so there had to be sacrifices. There was a flood. There were chosen people and not chosen people. Things started over and still didn’t work. There was another rescue plan. Jesus came. He died. He was the ultimate sacrifice. People were still horrible to each other. Things were still broken. But some people who found out about Jesus believed in him and had everlasting life. But some people didn’t hear. And died without hearing. Or some people heard but couldn’t make themselves believe. So they are all “not going to heaven” because they didn’t believe in Jesus… but what if it’s not their fault they didn’t hear. What if they wanted to believe but couldn’t. Doesn’t that make them human collateral? Why would a loving God create people who would suffer all through their lives then die and go on to more suffering. That doesn’t make sense. If the great redemption plan is Jesus but not everyone gets redeemed, how is that plan successful? I want to scream, “that’s not a good plan since from the very start it didn’t fully work and if you’re all knowing you knew it wouldn’t!” and “what are you waiting for?” I don’t get it. And his ways being higher than my ways and his thoughts being higher than my thoughts doesn’t assuage my anger and guilt when I can see the horror and unfairness of something, the hopelessness of a plan that was never going to save everyone anyway.
And who the hell am I supposed to ask this? When I’ve been a “Christian” my whole life and so I probably “shouldn’t” be thinking these things.
I’ve come across others who have struggled with this. Who seem to have made peace with God. The version of God they’ve made peace with is a God of grace, graciousness, and compassion. The people who believe in him and are on earth now are people who are supposed to be part of the reconciliation. Part of the redemption plan. These are people who are passionate about social justice. About serving the weak and poor. They are people who speak of an upside down kingdom, a third way. I feel myself drawn to them and the picture that they paint, the stories that they tell. I find myself hurtful and doubting as so often those who I am supposed to look up to as spiritual leaders put them down.
Because these people draw a lot of criticism from the old guard. The traditionalists who say that this shiny happy view of grace is too weak, that it doesn’t focus enough on our sins and wretchedness. (If I am made in the image of God, am I really wretched?) The old guard attacks, hurls accusations of “cherry picking” of scripture. Claim that ancient texts have been perverted. That this orthopraxy is nothing without the orthodoxy that they, the old guard, hold under a lock and key. I have no idea why anyone finds themselves drawn to this “sinners at the hands of an angry god” view of God, why anyone would rather cling to a god of wrath rather than a God of compassion. I find myself boiling with resentment and confusion towards this old guard. It’s because I can’t fathom wanting to have anything to do with this angry god, incapable of being appeased, except by a select few. That’s a kingdom built on fear and while somewhere deep inside the me that heard those stories whimpers, “what if it’s true, I don’t want to suffer” that’s still no longer enough to hold me, to make me believe. If that’s how god is, hurling damnation, creating human collateral, I don’t want to have anything to do with him. (Cue lightening strike and rumbling of the earth to swallow my heretical self.)
I don’t know why it’s no longer enough for me to hold with the old ways. Because not everyone I know who believes in God believes in this super angry god. More often they are content with a loving and merciful God who is gracious to us once we have “asked Jesus into our hearts.” They want the rest of the world to hear. But once again I’m hung up with thoughts of those who don’t hear. If a child is sold into slavery and dies at the hands of their captors, never having heard “the good news”, never having prayed a sinners prayer, does that child then go on to descend into hell. Unknown and unloved in death as well as life. That is too horrible I can not embrace it. If a person devoutly follows their religion without ever hearing of Jesus but living a life that otherwise brims with the fruits of the spirit, is that not proof of God in them? Are they doomed because they haven’t heard. Rachel Held Evans refers to this as the “cosmic lottery” where those who have the good fortune to be born in a christian country have the golden ticket. Would I believe if I hadn’t been born with a golden ticket?
I don’t know if I’ve ever felt further from God. If I’ve ever been more scared. I can’t imagine a life without spirituality. Can’t imagine a world without God, but in my confusion that increasingly feels like where I’m going. Some days. Other days I cling to the hope of this third way, this upside down kingdom. On those days I feel like the Creator of grace and compassion will know and forgive my struggling heart, because he created it. I long to not want to understand every.single.thing. I want to peacefully accept that while I don’t understand the hurt and brokenness I can participate in the redemption. This is what the public me says. This is the image I project waiting for the day it is 100% true with no doubts lurking under the surface.
You might think I would just give up and walk away. Throw my hands up in disgust. But all of “this” is too much a part of who I am. I can’t just walk away. So I wrestle.