That’s a good question.
A better one though is, “Why do we need to be right?”
Specifically, “Why do we need to be right about God?”
There is nothing we love more as Christians who live in a online world than to have a pop at each other. This week it was the turn of Victoria Osteen to face the brunt of our attacks after a video of her talking about God’s love provoked outrage in us.
Weird reaction huh?
But it could very easily have been Mark Driscoll last week or even Rob Bell a few years ago.
We just don’t like it when another Christian expresses a view about God that doesn’t fit into the mould that we’ve created of God ourselves.
There is something deeply provoking about ideas of God that threaten our own. Something deep within us that causes tension inside our bodies and produces anxiety when a Christian Pastor or writer challenges our idea of who God is. Perhaps it’s like some sort of fight or flight religious reaction?
Whatever it is, I wonder how useful and how creative it is for us to engage with?
Now, let me be the first to admit that I am not talking here from the experience of someone who exemplifies the art of not writing an angry blog post in reaction to thoughts that are damaging and hurtful. I’m not. I wrote a post earlier this year about how I disagreed with John Piper on his views of porn addiction, that I would like to think came directly from my concern for those struggling with shame and guilt but had just as much to do with wanting to be right about God.
And yes, it is important when we come up against views that are controlling and question them.
But this is not what I am talking about here. What I am talking about here is the psychology behind it. The buried sense that we need to be right about God and when someone ultimately questions who we think God is, and how we need to confront that by attacking another person.
Let’s be honest; it’s very difficult for us to separate what we think of someone’s ideas from what we think of them as a person.
Think of how closed we are to gay people in the church even though we claim that God loves them.
Or how we attack someone for the details in a book, even before we’ve read the details in the book.
We like to be right about God and we’ll do anything to protect that rightness.
Talk to my friend Seth and he will tell you about how he would listen to sermons of Pastors that he deeply disagrees with so he can feel ‘triggered’ and ultimately deal with buried pain that is holding him back. The very practice of being triggered like this allows him to start the process of seeing what is really behind his reaction.
I love this and when he comes through the other side feeling lighter and free, can’t this be an amazing thing to experience?
A recent example of this can be seen in the way that Rob Bell dealt with the accusations and criticisms that faced him after his book “Love Wins” was released. As I mentioned before, he faced much of this even before the book had been released.
In interviews recently I’ve heard him talk about how deeply hurtful and difficult it was for him and his family to go through the attacks that arose over the book. A book that would end up encouraging lots of people in their own questions and gave life to the bones of many wanting to reignite something in their faith.
(Funnily enough, much of the criticisms he faced were because he expressed in a way, that we can’t be sure about some of the things we believe about God)
Yet, he came through it to a place where he realized that after a while, criticism begins to lose it’s sting. He talked about how you get so much flack but sooner or later you realize that you are still standing. You’re getting knocked down but each time you get up quicker and faster. You realize that God still loves you. You realize that life is still worth living and this message about God’s love, no matter how unpalatable to many is still worth expressing.
Taylor Swift is right, “haters gonna hate”.
When so much of our energy as Christians is put into proving we’re right about God, we’ve missed the point and we waste the energy that we have to love. We claim it’s because ideas about God that are wrong are dangerous but if we’re honest I think we’d see that it’s about our own insecurities and the need to be right.
Maybe we find that by being part of a group that think likewise and the comfort that comes from that. Or maybe it’s about the fear of facing that truth that maybe all the stuff we’ve put so much well, faith into, could be wrong and dealing with the isolation or lostness that that causes.
There was a prophet called Elijah and he thought he knew where God would be. He had a view of God and from that a pretty good inkling of where God was hanging out. But he wasn’t in the wind or in the earthquake or in the fire or in the blog post, but in the quietness. His whole perception of how God operates was turned upside down allowing him to be open to the crazy, exciting stuff.
So what should our response be then? Nothing? Sit back and let people like Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Rob Bell or Victoria Osteen get away with ti?
Is it to learn to love the idea that God can’t be pinned down how we like? To live in the freedom that allows us to not always have our identity in being correct theologically about God. To realize that these correct or incorrect ideas as we see them don’t hold the power to our faith.
The number of likes or retweets that show that many people agree with us, don’t save us. Our theology isn’t our faith. Our views aren’t what we put hope in.
God is. Jesus is. The Spirit is. Love is.
Let’s live in that tension because in the end, it may be quieter in the Christian online universe but it’s where the crazy and exciting happens.