"Who is on the LORD's side? Let him come unto me" (Exodus 32:26)
During my growing up years kickball was a favorite playground sport. As soon as the bell rang for recess children would gleefully pour out of classrooms onto the playground where the most agile among us would assume the role of team captains and the rest of us would nervously wait be chosen as team members. Usually, the captains would first choose their close friends, followed by those considered skillful, and then finally those of us with the least amount of athletic ability. In a matter of minutes two teams were formed and the game would begin. When the bell rang again, signaling the end of recess, the captains would tally the score and determine the winning team. If one was fortunate enough to be on the winning team, chances were good that you would be chosen to be again the next time the game was played. Certain frequently scoring players gained special status on and off the playground because we all believed that if they were on our side a win was guaranteed.
This childhood memory often reminds me of our actions as people of faith. We assume the position of team captain, treating our faith like a sport and God like a prize player.
This has never been clearer to me than it is in this political season as people of faith, on both sides of the aisle, have proclaimed God to be on their side. When we win we declare God to have secured our victory, and when we lose we declare that God will avenge our defeat.
I was recently asked about this odd behavior by someone who feigned ambiguity about the practice. If everyone is praying to God they asked, and everyone is claiming God for their team, and everyone is invoking God's intervention in their victories and interception in their defeats, then whose side is God really on?
Is God on the side of the Democrats or the Republicans? The conservatives or the liberals? Those who are pro-choice or those who are anti-choice? The Protestants or non-Protestants? The rich or the poor? Is God on the side of those protecting the environment or those championing progress? Would God ever choose to be on the side of those with disabilities, or those living with dis-ease? Can God ever be on our side if we lose?
Who is this God that serves so prominently on diametrically opposing sides? This is a question that deserves our consideration.
Perhaps the answer lies not in examination of God's behavior, but in our own. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that in effect we remain a polytheistic society calling our many gods, created in our images, by one name. Perhaps we have forgotten God is not partisan or patriotic or preferential. God does not choose sides.
God is on the side of Righteousness, of Justice. Always.
It is we who must decide daily to reject our captains, the gods of our own elevation, and fight on the side of God.
Traci Blackmon is a National Officer of the United Church of Christ.