Stop giving glory to God after athletic events.
You are going to make the baby Jesus cry.
Honestly, you are going to make every version of Jesus cry (except for Republican Jesus). Republican Jesus wants you to give glory to God after utterly defeating another team. We’ll get to why in just a minute.
But first a little theological ground work.
The “Providence of God” is fancy seminary talk for how involved God is on a day to day basis in making stuff happen. There are all kinds of biblically supported stances on this, from God having a very high involvement to God having no involvement at all.
For example, if you give God thanks for getting the parking spot closest to the doors at Wal-Mart, you have a very high understanding of the Providence of God. Essentially, you are saying in spite of all the bad crap that happens in the world (wars, starvation, painful diseases, death, torture) God is more interested in making sure you don’t have to walk too far to get a cut-rate deal on pants with an elastic waist made by people around the world working for slave wages.
I’m here to tell you, looking at the realities of this world, a God with a high Providence is not a God you actually want to worship.
Let me talk you through this.
Let’s go back to that sports example. As a matter of fact, let’s get real specific.
When the Seattle Seahawks made a stunning comeback to make it into this year’s Super Bowl, after the game their quarterback, Russell Wilson (reportedly an all-around good guy), told reporters asking about their win, “God is good, all the time, every time.”
When I heard that I immediately posted to my Facebook page: “Dear Russell Wilson, great comeback but please stop saying “just… God is good.” I promise you, God had nothing to do with it.”
The responses came rolling in.
Some were very supportive and hundreds of people “liked” the status.
But some were not supportive; and others were, shall we say, a bit aggressive.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. A recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Religion News Service tells us that one in four Americans believe that God will determine the outcome of the Super Bowl.
Many of the folks who had a problem with my post were disappointed that I was being so down on someone thanking God for success at their career.
But, let me ask you: what does that say about God?
Do you ever hear the losing team thanking God or do you hear the person who just lost their job because of something someone else did thanking God?
Now we are beginning to get at the problem of a high Providence of God.
If God helped you win the game or be good at your job (or helped you with whatever), what does that say about the losers of the game or the person who got fired?
Did an all-loving God not help them in the same way that you were helped? If not, why? Are you that much more deserving than they are?
At this point, we usually hear someone say, “But God’s ways are mysterious.”
One: That is such a copout. Two: Even if God’s ways are mysterious, I see the end results and I still don’t think that’s a God worth worshiping.
Take the high Providence of God and blow it up to a global scale.
Whether we like it or not, whether we mean for it to or not, thanking God for what we get in life implies something about God’s relationship with and care of those who aren’t as fortunate as we are.
By simple virtue of being born in a first world nation, most of us find ourselves living lives that folks born into less favorable circumstances would see as living as kings and queens. From the simple day-to-day conveniences of indoor plumbing to the often overlooked security of not having to worry about an actual war breaking out in our city, we live lives that many would call blessed.
Should we give thanks to God for it? Should we imagine that God has placed us where we are with the benefits that we have, and left others to walk for miles simply to get clean water for that day?
Should we imply that God helps some and causes others to suffer?
Is that what an all-loving God looks like to you?
That’s not what it looks like to me.
It is, however, a God that Republican Jesus would like.
That Republican Jesus is a God who finds some people to be more deserving, more blessed than others — a God who believes some nations are far superior to others. That’s a God who is just fine with some nations winning the global economic battle while others struggle to feed their people.
Shouldn’t we give thanks to God for our successes?
Honestly, I don’t think so.
Not because of what it says about us, but because of what it says about those who aren’t fortunate enough to have the same blessings.
More specifically, I don’t think so because of what it says about God. It says that God’s hand is in everything and that God chooses to bless some people more than others.
That’s not a God that I’m going to worship – “mysterious ways” or not.
So, please stop giving thanks to God after winning sporting events.
I promise you, God had nothing to do with it.
Mark Sandlin is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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