Our Disgust is a Holy Gift
“To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One.” – Isaiah 40:25
A few days after 9/11 Jerry Falwell blamed “abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians” for the attacks. Falwell believed God must have allowed those attacks to happen. Why would God do such a thing?
He asked himself, “Who scares me? Who do I hate with the darkest part of my jet-black heart?” Then he took those feelings, threw them up onto a blank screen in the sky and called his projection “God.”
Actually, I doubt he thought at all. Falwell just assumed that if he hated someone God must hate them too. I remember hearing Falwell talk and wishing he would die.
But I’ve been guilty of his sin’s inverse, conflating my own liberal politics with the mind of God. Occasionally a person will stand up and walk out of church while I’m preaching. This makes me feel sick, but if it happens because they are repulsed by the confident way I talk about Jesus, I get it. I applaud it.
The disgust we feel when confronted by a believer’s claim to know the mind of God is a holy gift. God’s majesty is offended by our presumption to understand it. Our opinions, prejudices, preaching, prayers, hymnals, churches—they are all relative, all contingent, all historically conditioned. None of them are ultimate, permanent or infallible. None of them are God.
The moment we assume our beliefs are neatly aligned with the Divine is the moment we risk a very dangerous idolatry. History is replete with examples. First a person thinks they know God. Then they begin killing those who don’t.
So we must say “No!” in the face of all overly confident God-talk.
God is free from our understanding. Even if our understanding is liberal, progressive and righteous we must remember that God is always above our comprehension. That’s true for Jerry Falwell and it is true for you and me as well.
Oh God, you are indeed incomparable. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL.