Evangelical Christians will tell you “Christianity’s not a religion. It’s a relationship.” What they really mean is that they don’t follow a set of “rituals.” Evangelicals detest ritual. That’s what Catholics do, for gosh sakes. Rituals are all about mindless repetition. Relationships are spontaneous.
Nice sentiment, but it doesn’t work. Yes, it’s true. Relationships are spontaneous. You crack a joke, fart in an elevator, and I laugh. God doesn’t work that way, though. He hides. Every religious person knows that—but they insist they know God.
But think about it: Whenever someone talks about relating to God as one would relate to another human—hearing their audible voice, for example—we think they’re unhinged, or scamming us. We all know God doesn’t act that way. We all know we don’t relate to God as if we’re chatting across the backyard fence. Admit it: When someone tells you, “God told me such and such,” you may smile politely, but inside you’re thinking, “Yeah, right!”
But still just about every Evangelical will insist they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Just how do people have a relationship with this invisible, silent person, Jesus Christ?
Here’s the way it works. A Christian is inspired by a pastor’s sermon and it’s “Jesus spoke to me through that sermon.” A Christian tears up during a moving worship song and it’s “Jesus touched me through that song.” And, of course, we always have the standard refrain: God speaks through his Word, the Bible, the Koran, et al. If that’s the case, why can’t we agree what He is saying in scripture? (See my blog post “Does God speak through scripture? Yes and No.”)
We attribute actions to Jesus—in essence, make him personal—by focusing on Him acting through other people, who are in fact personal, unlike God.
Not much of a relationship, is it?
If there is a God—and I believe there is a God—He/She/It/They is totally other than human. We need to accept the God We Have, not the God we want or the God our platitudes claim we know. We need to stop acting like God’s our Best Friend. He’s not. Best friends come over when your girlfriend dumps you and commiserate over beer, chew the fat. God doesn’t. I think the message is clear from God—the ultimate Argument From Silence: He doesn’t want a relationship with us. If he did, He’d speak up. He wants us to have relationships with one another. God’s not knowable. People are.
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