God, if he exists, is no help, is he?

People everywhere are unsatisfied with the policies and the job performance of God. Polls are increasingly showing disinterest and disenfranchisement. God is no longer relevant to a generation which has spent the entirety of its formative years in the Age of Democracy, choosing for themselves that which is right and that which is wrong.

And now people demand a new king, a man of the people, a man they chose. The people demand to decide for themselves what is acceptable and what is not. If God is going to be Lord over them, then he must protect them, and he isn’t doing that. There is war, death, famine, AIDS, flu, poverty, preventable oppression and sickness.

The people are upset with the methods of God. Because there is no earthly way this makes sense.

The people want a new king, just as Israel demanded a physical, human ruler. The people are demanding that God be deposed for his ineptitude in regards to either benevolence or potency — they aren’t sure which. Either God is not good, or he is not powerful enough. Either way, he is underperforming and must go. They want their King Saul, their immediate, tangible results. They haven’t considered the flaws of created beings as rulers: they only want change, and someone who understands their plight.

But what if there was someone who understood the struggle in which all humans are forced to participate? What if this person were also deity? How much of a game-changer would that be?

This is the hope of Christ: he knows our plight, he knows our pain, he empathizes with the struggle and pain, and he advocates on our behalf. God wanted a direct connection to humanity, and humanity needed a way to God. This God that would otherwise not be relevant to our culture (unless you were Jewish), is now relevant to all and is working to bring about perfection and renewal in this world, for all.

I don’t understand everything. There is much room in my theology for mystery. I probably misrepresented some things already. There are logical paradoxes. But what I do know is that I have exhausted my mental resources trying to rely on my own capacity to know and understand. It is of utmost arrogance to claim God doesn’t exist because you don’t understand him. Of course we don’t! But for Christ, we wouldn’t even have any connection to him. Even with Christ, understanding comes slowly, because humans operate on a different level than Deus.

Imagine with me for one second that there is a Creator. The created could never outsmart or even fully understand the Creator, just as anything humans create cannot fully understand its creator (robot, computer, what-have-you). If there is a God, you should hope you don’t understand him: if you did understand him completely, he’d be human, at which point all hope would be lost. Humanity is engaged in a struggle, and the only hope is external. If my hope is in man alone, I have no hope.

None of this proves God’s existence. Don’t misunderstand: my point isn’t to defend or prove God’s existence. With words and logic alone, I cannot. My point — my hope — in writing this to be honest about the state of humanity, but also honest about the hope I have found in Christ. If you think my hope foolish, so be it. I do understand. The Bible itself calls the message of Christ foolish (until you have experienced it). I do hope and pray, though, that you will experience the hope and love and incredible peace that Christ brings. And I hope it changes you into a more hopeful, loving, peaceful person.

That is the hope of the world; not that man can change himself through internal willpower, but that an external force can draw the good deep from the well of your spirit, and fill you with things you lacked before.

That is why I am hopeful and optimistic for the future of humanity: when humans experience the indescribable peace and love of Christ, and connect their souls to God, they becomes a new creation. The old has passed away and the new takes its place. I pray and work for renewal in this earth, even while this earth seems to fall apart.

I’m sorry for preaching. I truly believe this and I truly have experienced this. I have no reason to lie to you and no reason to share this with you other than that I believe it.

Christ asked those who would later become his disciples, “follow me,”

That’s all. No contrived or forced prayer, no trembling or shaking necessary. Just follow him. Drop the selfish plans you had and pick up his: plans of love, peace, joy, and hope.

Thanks for reading,

Greg Tanis
918.430.9378
gtanis@oru.edu

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on why Evangelism is good but not Christlike.

Jesus never said, “go and evangelize,” or “go and make Christian.” He said “go and make disciples of all nations.” It was not simply salvation that Jesus desired for mankind, but a change of lifestyle. Christianity is about so much more than getting to heaven, it is about walking in the kingdom of God. It’s not over when we get to heaven; it’s only begun! We want to be as prepared as possible for heaven by the time we get there so that we can continue walking in God’s purpose.

Typical evangelism, such as short-term missions, is great, but mostly for your benefit. Real evangelizing means making disciples, not just Christians. Real evangelicalism should center around sustainable discipleship and community.

To evangelize without discipleship is to get someone to heaven but not to teach them how God’s kingdom runs. It’s inconsiderate, really. They will be utterly unprepared for how vastly different heaven is than earth.

Let us walk in the kingdom of God now, denying the systems of a fallen world! Let us rejoice that Christ has redeemed the earth and let us proclaim a new kingdom rather than simple salvation from the old one. Go forth with this new kingdom and its glory on your lips. Disciple as Jesus did. Christianity is not meant to be entry into a new kingdom alone; it is the consistent act of walking in that kingdom.

How, then, shall we live?

“The human murder by poverty in Latin America is secret; every year, without making a sound, three Hiroshima bombs explode over communities that have become accustomed to suffering with clenched teeth. This systematic violence is not apparent but is real and constantly increasing: its holocausts are not made known in the sensational press but in Food and Agricultural Organization statistics.”

-Open Veins of Latin America (Eduardo Galeano)

How, then, shall we live? Are we, the privileged (or, if you’re evangelical, “blessed”), responsible for the oppressed?

It seems the attitude of the majority of contemporary Western Christians is one that praises one’s self when he is generous with what he does not need.

(I will use the pronoun “we” to describe Western evangelical Christians so as not to distance myself from my own upbringing–as disgusted as I may be with the implications of Western theology/philosophy at times, I will not succumb to the temptation to disown my culture, but rather to own it and challenge it and progress it.)

We think that when we give we are doing good, do we not? But could it be that we are not only doing good, but doing what we are supposed to be doing? If this is true, by not giving, which I would venture is our default, we are doing evil. If giving is good and progressive, not giving is evil and destructive.

Before I advance farther down this road, allow me to define “giving.” I of course do not simply mean releasing monetary funds to another individual or organization, although that is a very visible and challenging symptom of a giving heart. I do mean compassion, authentic care, and a desire to help with time, mental energy, physical work, prayer, concern, as well as money. All these works stem out of a giving heart (although many can be duplicated by a guilty heart).

I in no way mean to guilt anyone into action. It is my belief that action is only valuable to Christ if done for Christ primarily and secondarily for the person receiving the action (not for personal gain or relief from conscience).

That being said, I do believe we are culpable and implicit when we do not take care of those who are oppressed. We are undeniably privileged. Again, this is not something to feel guilty over–unless you’re oppressing others directly for personal gain. It’s not our fault. However, we must acknowledge that the reason we are privileged is not because God loves us more than, for instance, Latin Americans.

We must reject the all-inclusive traditional American (I hate using that word only to describe those who were born in the United States of America, as nearly all of the Western Hemisphere is the Americas, but I will use it for clarity and brevity) narrative that claims Americans are more economically prosperous than 95% of the world because God has blessed us.

We must contrarily realize that the reality is we are more prosperous because we got here first, eliminated the native population, refused to share, and dominated without fear of God or man. That is true history and unless we approach our history with intellectual honesty, we will never deal with modern problems.

America is not wealthy because God has blessed us; we’re wealthy because we know how to make money better than anyone else and at any cost.

Commonly, I hear this response, or one similar: “Sure, we did some bad things in the past with the Indians and the blacks and such, but I didn’t personally do them, and they were a long time ago. We should live and let die, and keep going forward without favoring one person over another.”

That is similar to cutting off a man’s legs, getting a 100 meter head start, then yelling back, “hey, if you can’t keep up, that’s not my fault!”

Europeans, and more modernly, Americans, have historically plundered the Americas and relocated much of the wealth and resources to Europe, and more modernly, the United States. Then they have left Latin America on its own two nubs to attempt to stand on its own.

At this point, charity is necessary to atone and renew; not to get ahead spiritually. I use Latin America as a for-instance, but the economic impact of American greed and the “manifest destiny” principle has been felt worldwide.

This is why I think that donating a pair of legs to the man who had his legs chopped off by your ancestors is a necessity. If you do not, you are participating in and promulgating the very philosophy that led your ancestors to chop off the man’s legs: Aristotle’s evil concept of “natural slaves.”

“For those who see history as a competition, Latin America’s backwardness and poverty are merely the result of its failure. We lost; others won. But the winners happen to have won thanks to our losing; the history of Latin America’s underdevelopment is an integral part of the history of world capitalism’s development. Our defeat was always implicit in the victory of others; our wealth has always generated our poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others.” (Eduardo Galeano)

Surely, God is sufficient to permit or influence one people group to prosper without negatively impacting another, no?

Good question. One I ask myself frequently. While I certainly believe the previous statement to be true, I in the same manner believe that God has delegated many tasks to humanity. While God could create a world in which our actions do not affect others, the simple truth is that he has not. All I know for sure is that my greed (and often, my ignorance) will impact others. No man is an island.

Ever played Monopoly? Ever notice how you can’t win unless you ruin someone else’s chances?

If everyone had the enough to survive, no one would ever “win.” It is a game that forces you to put winning over another’s “existence”, and in this manner capitalism can become wildly oppressive.

Now, in Monopoly, there is a limited amount of resources whereas in the real world, with human ingenuity, resources and commodities can be created, so it is not a perfect analogy. However, it illustrates the point that when two people or businesses or countries go after one object (say, Europe versus the natives, with the object being land and resources), only one person will win.

We mustn’t fall into the coaxing trap of neo-conservative Christianity (in that order) that says that a free market is fair and that oppression does not exist simply because we do not see or understand it. I used to believe a free market regulated itself. That’s like saying government regulates itself. Sure, it does, eventually; but it also can commit many oppressive atrocities before self-regulation occurs. Also, the only way it can “self-regulate” is if you and I are participating in that regulation. “Laissez-faire” capitalism means the government does not intervene, but it does not mean that no one intervenes. If we don’t want a corrupt system (government) attempting to fix another corrupt system, the individual and the non-profits and the churches must recognize the problems and must involve themselves.

If you’re still with me, hopefully you realize there is a problem. Now what?

Do I have any solutions as of now? Not any that I could succinctly and practically translate into text.

Does it bother me every day? Yes.

Does that mean I’m doing good, simply because I’m bothered? No, and I don’t presume to be better than others due to my conscience. But I do believe recognition of a problem is the first step.

How, then, shall we live? I cannot answer that question in its entirety, but I can tell you the first steps: turn not a blind eye or a deaf ear to the pleas of the oppressed and refuse the cultural temptation to justify oppression.

Finally, let not your Heaven be built on another’s Hell.

Que vayas con Dios y su misericordia,

Greg Taylor Tanis