Thursday, July 5, 2012

Divine words…

In his masterwork Thus Spake Zarathustra, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche penned the following observation. “God is dead,” he said, and there followed hysterics by many. Faithful folk shouted, “God isn’t dead. But you’re going to Hell!!” Atheists retorted, “Who’s going to send him? God’s dead! Weren’t you listening?” I imagine God said, “Calm down. Hear the man out.” Because just after those famous words, Nietzsche wrote, “And we’ve killed Him.”

Which may seem strange. But I think he’s onto something. The point was that in light of the scientific revolution, evolutionary understanding, historical criticism of the Bible, etc., much of what many once meant by the word, “God,” no longer seemed valid. The roles “God” had played in our religious imagination, God needed to no longer. And, thus, in essence, we killed God.

Of course, many then argued, as would I, that the word “God” is broader than what Nietzsche meant. But it’s fair to say that “God” should mean more to us than a divine puppet master pulling the strings. Indeed, I might push the argument further, and suggest “we” didn’t kill God. It’s maybe more the case that “democracy” did it.

Bear with me. And recall that one of the primary metaphors used in ancient days to describe God was that of a ruling monarch, King, Lord. Doesn’t our church ask everyone who joins, “Do you believe Jesus is Lord?” We do, and that’s our only requirement. But recently, someone asked me, “Do you believe that, Shane?” I said, “Yes. Do you?” The person said, “No… It sounds weirdly feudal, Medieval.” And, to my surprise, I agreed! After all, in everyday life, the word Lord matters zip to me. It’s like an archaic, pompous title used by English aristocrats who I mock. Yet here I claim it’s the appropriate description of Jesus, of God?!

Do my metaphors for God need a reboot? I mean, as a loyal democratic citizen, I’m no fan of royalty. I’m glad ordinary people in our society hold the reins of government. I believe people have the right, the responsibility to define how they’ll live together in community. Thus, the notion that one royal person would have power of life or death over all makes me shudder. Whether an election goes my preferred way, I’m proud of our still-perfecting, democratic union.

So down with Kings! And that even goes for God. I think it’d be terrible for my soul’s development, after all, if I abdicated all personal responsibility to God. If I acted like I was so insignificant I should have no input in my future, so worthless that decisions should be made only by “mi-Lord.” Indeed, I believe Jesus’ resurrection revealed to us the unconquerable faith God has in us! In our creative abilities, our capacity for justice and goodness. So rather than have us cede all control to His Lordship through some self-defaming act of homage, God would prefer we shared God’s hope and delight in the world, in ourselves, right?

That’s why I wonder if democracy “killed God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer once suggested that “the world has come of age,” maybe meaning that modern folk have greater self-confidence and power than ever before, and so are less willing to be ruled by self-styled “Lords.” If so, does that make the notion of “Jesus as Lord” obsolete? I mean, the world still needs good Leadership. Desperately! We may be more knowledgeable than our forbearers, but are we more moral? More spiritually enlightened? In other words, it’s probably good to “kill” (or “retire”) no-longer useful metaphors for God. Like King. Maybe even Lord. But I believe we’d be in a world of hurt if we ignored God entirely. So…what to say?

I know for some the language “Lord of my life” is a favorite description of Jesus, thinking “Lord of all” rather hostile and overdone. I like that, but wonder if we could do better. Jesus is my Leader? Guide? Guru? CEO? (Just kidding…) For now, I’ll leave the question open; please respond!

When it comes to you life’s core conviction, how would you complete the phrase, “Jesus is…”?

Grace and Peace,


P.S. - This week’s “Spiritual Practice” is the Prayer Walk. It’s exactly what it says; take a walk. By yourself, but not alone. Invite God to walk beside you and silently share your observations, reflections, worries, dreams. In so doing, you’ll have a “Full-bodied” spiritual experience.

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