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your God is not my God (Richard Dawkins and God’s abiding love)

Outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins is garnering attention on the interwebs after yet another vitriolic tweet.  When Dawkins discovered that one successful writer for the New Statesman was a Muslim, he tweeted “Mehdi Hasan admits to believing Muhamed [sic] flew to heaven on a winged horse. And New Statesman sees fit to print him as a serious journalist.”

Professor Dawkins went on to explain that anyone who holds to any sort of ridiculous belief in the supernatural should automatically be disqualified as a professional.

Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, is best known as the author, speaker, and constant critic of religion who heads the informal movement commonly known as New Atheism – or as it is sometimes referred to by its advocates, anti-theism (defined as an “active hatred” of God and all forms of religion).

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this here.

I feel your hatred, Richard, and I get that you think it is righteous.  People from my tribe have made belief in God a savage thing.  We have killed and raped and maimed and ruined millions of lives by our ignorance and fear and I can never dismiss or forget that.

But are you so blind to the ignorance you yourself are fostering?

What good thing can we possibly accomplish in 140 characters or less?

Our words cannot capture even an inkling of the palest whiff of the divine drama that currently enfolds us.  Love is the only thing that we have access to, it is the only thing that matters.

Mr. Dawkins, why does one of us have to be “right” and the other “wrong”?

Or how about this: can the militant atheists stop being jerks to those who believe in God and can the fundamentalist Christians stop being asses to people who just don’t believe in a higher power?

My point is that this discussion is far more nuanced than a Tweet allows.

And here’s what I’m working up the nerve to say here:

A few days ago, I got fairly upset after posting a Mark Driscoll quote I found so ridiculous I honestly did not expect any sort of angry response.

Now, I’ve ridden the Dawkins wave of social media controversy before – I’m sure this will surprise no one, but I occasionally enjoy posting purposefully provocative content that I am fascinated with in order to foster conversation (or even to spark a heated debate!).

But when I got heat this time, I was absolutely floored and caught off guard in the worst possible way.  The conversation on the thread did get fairly hostile (I’m sure my reaction didn’t help) and though friends on both “sides” messaged me their support and concerns, others still sent mocking messages – read the whole thread if you have the time (and the stomach!).

I honestly felt like I was riding some sort of insane roller coaster of emotion that sent me  crashing down further and further as I realized that so many Christians really believe that God hates us.

It consumed me for like…a day, but then I realized it.

Richard Dawkins

I totally Dawkins-ed it up, didn’t I?

I made an ass out of myself by making God’s nature a black or white issue and by dismissing an entire group of conservative Christians, when God’s nature has to be far more nuanced than we could ever explain.  Whether God is hateful, loving, or both, what’s for damn sure is that He’s a heck of a lot more than any meager human adjective could allow.  I dishonored G-d’s transcendent nature by even thinking I could capture His emotions in a Facebook status.

Now, let me say this:

I think the Christians who were tossing Psalms and prophecy at me last night and arguing that God hates not just our sin, but us, are dead wrong.

…but for the right reasons.

Conversely, I think that, on this issue, I happen to be right…for the wrong reasons.

Because they were actually going to the Bible with this discussion and finding very challenging verses.

So much of my own conviction that God hates our sin but not us comes from an admittedly visceral, emotional reaction.  Especially after the pain of my own spiritual abuse, I am particularly sensitive to any Christians touting God’s hatred of humanity as central to His nature and an essential Gospel truth.

But surely the scriptures form a stronger foundation than my raging emotions.

As one friend said on the thread:

“Man, I think Jesus taught a lot about love, and that perception is true of Him. I also hold to trinitarianism, that Jesus is in community with the Father and Spirit, three in one. And the Father demanded obedience, and hated those who didn’t exercise it. That is a sound biblical truth that I can’t budge on.”

Although we disagree, I can’t help but be envious of his conviction, as one fully grounded in scripture.  That’s not to say there aren’t a plethora of verses and parables that indicate that God does not hate anyone, only that I was not relying on them last night.  I was trusting in myself, and it led to an improper conversation.

So Mark D. says God hates us.  Richard Dawkins says he hates God.  I say God hates no one, but if I don’t firmly root my convictions with God’s abiding love and with a confidence in the holy scriptures, I am building upon a foundation of sand.

We can take a stand and think that we are right, but if we do this in the wrong way (in any manner that does not love others before ourselves), we have failed.

And so I failed yesterday.  But I’m learning.  Honorable faith (and anti-faith!) leaders do not carelessly dismiss others in Tweets and Facebook statuses.  Love must be our only agenda.  I’m not convinced one side is  “right” and the other is “wrong” – we may both be far from the truth.  All that matters is the abiding love that God expects of us.

****************************

How can I continue to herald the kingdom through my voice and my writing without burning any more bridges than I already have?

How can we transcend the side vs. side nature of certain arguments, appealing to something greater?

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Definitely get what you mean about the internet arguments not doing any good. (And wow, that Dawkins tweet makes me angry!) And how we have to focus on loving others more than “being right”.

    And I also think you have a really good point about making sure our beliefs are based in Scripture. I kind of worry about that… because my faith has been changing a lot, and a lot of it is because stuff just DOESN’T MAKE SENSE- like it doesn’t make sense that men have to be leaders in church/marriage (seriously I’ve never gotten a good answer on what that means), it doesn’t make sense that hell is what I believed hell was, etc etc- thinking stuff through and reading what other people have to say about God’s character and how it relates to these beliefs… but I worry because what I believe now isn’t what I was taught “the bible CLEARLY says”- instead, it’s stuff I’ve concluded because of what I believe about God’s character and people and stuff, which I definitely think is influenced by the bible.

    So I want to get back into reading the bible more, and writing about it more on my blog. 🙂

    April 25, 2013
    • you know, there is a lot of danger in taking the Bible’s “plain meaning” at “face value.” Such a superficial reading of the Bible actually is in support of a plethora of “un-Christian” principles: slavery, segregation, patriarchy, young-earth creationism, homophobia, and the list goes on and on.

      Sometimes we have to situate the individual verses of scripture within their larger canonical sweep, or at least their proper cultural context. I should write about patriarchy soon as well. Send me some of your newest stuff!

      July 20, 2013
  2. Great stuff Ryan. I wrote a post also interacting with many of the ideas here. http://kiefsblog.blogspot.com/2013/04/whats-right-and-wrong-about-hate-sin.html

    April 26, 2013
    • thank you for sharing this, Kiefer. I think this is exactly what we need to hear here. (a friend who read your piece without context was confused, so to clarify, this article does not relate to LGBT issues andthis is a different discussion!).

      April 26, 2013

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