Most of us who claim to be followers of Jesus draw comfort from the biblical teaching that no matter how bad things get, God is everywhere and will ultimately have the last word. Such a thought brings sanity and hope to our otherwise crazy lives.
Gods Who Don’t Exist
But lately, I keep bumping into gods who don’t exist—gods that some claim to know and revere. But when you open Scripture to read more about them, you discover they aren’t there. Like the god that parishioners from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, claim to know who hates “fags” and takes delight in destroying sinners. I looked for him, but he was nowhere to be found. Or, the god whom one California legislator says wants us to be armed. He said, “Guns are essential to living the way God intended.” I looked for such a god in the Bible. However, I could only come up with an incident where one of Jesus’ followers pulled out a sword to try and protect Jesus from antagonists, but Jesus quickly rebuked him:
“But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear. ‘Put away your sword,’ Jesus told him. ‘Those who use the sword will die by the sword'” (Matthew 26:51, 52, NLT).
The god who isn’t there is the one we create in our image. This god is so incredibly like us that if he were to exist, the rest of the world and universe would be at risk.
A Lot of Trouble
It’s a relief to know that the gods we create are only in our heads. But they still create a lot of trouble. Much of the persecution and carnage in the world today is perpetrated by followers of non-existent gods. People believe these need to be defended and preserved. In a strange twist of irony, the religious zealots of non-existent gods pose the greatest threats to our religious freedoms, from the radical Taliban extremists in the Middle East to the Christian fundamentalists of America. The latter group believes their divine, ordained mission is to sanitize culture and turn the U.S. into a strident theocracy. So the threat to religious liberty and freedom of conscience is a growing reality here and abroad.
The problem is that the virtual gods of our own making keep telling us what to think, and we keep listening. This explains all the confusion. With so many opposing gods of every description being passed off as the one true God, it is difficult to hear a coherent message with clarity. No wonder many have written off the idea of God as a figment of our imaginations.
Rich DuBose writes from Northern California
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