Dear Pat, Glenn and Michele:
I hope it's okay that I use your first names. Your chatty TV sermons, radio broadcasts, and stump speeches give me a first-name-basis kind of feeling. If not, please insert Rev. Robertson, Mr. Beck, and Congresswoman Bachmann. Call me Tim.
Now that the niceties are over with, loosen up. Or at least, let God loose.
Last week, each of you told us what God was up to. Rev. Robertson, you said that the East Coast earthquake was a sign from God. Mr. Beck, you said that Hurricane Irene was a "blessing." And Congresswoman Bachmann, you said that the hurricane was a message from God.
Your comments shouldn't be a big surprise. After all, Mr. Robertson, a few years ago you blamed a hurricane in Haiti on someone's pact with devil. And you agreed with Jerry Falwell when he blamed the September 11 attacks on the ACLU and others. Mr. Beck, you compared the Norwegian kids who were shot at summer camp to Hitler youth. And Mrs. Bachmann, you blamed swine flu on Democrats and Jimmy Carter, even though it first popped up when Republican Gerald Ford was president.
But this go 'round you all three spoke for God. And wrongly, I think. In the process you trapped God, limited God, confined God.
You trapped God with old-timey images. By portraying God as using the elements for vindictive purposes, you echoed some of the language of the Bible, where God kills to send a message or uses the sun as a weapon. Yes, those images are scriptural. But they were written by people who thought the earth was flat, who thought leviathan lives in the ocean, who thought giants roamed the woods, who thought that cutting off the enemies' foreskin was good public policy. So, yes, the ancients thought God used bears and winds and rivers to send messages. But that picture of God is more like Zeus than like the One Who Was And Is And Ever Shall Be. You've trapped God on a flat-earth or up on a cloud hurling lightning bolts. Let God loose among the particles of physics and the dust of galaxies and the iPods of today.
You've also limited God to the job of messenger, sort of like Hermes or the Western Union boy. Your God just tosses around natural disasters to warn and punish or say, "Look at me." Free God from her day job to live as full-time Mystery, Ground of Being, the Great I Am.
Third, the image of God you present is, well, just plain mean. Granted, Congresswoman Bachmann, you said your words were just a joke. But still, the idea of God who kills children, destroys buildings, and ruins lives? Ouch. The writers of the Bible mention God's steadfast love hundreds of times. God is gracious and kind and slow to anger, the words says. Part of the Bible even uses some pretty sexy talk to describe a God who is intent on some pleasureful stuff. (Now that would get your ratings up in the polls, people.) And my favorite sentence in the Bible simply says, "God is love."
So, Pat and Glenn and Michele, thanks for reading. Let God go.