When Bad Tornadoes Happen to Good Christians

A good way to start this might be to say that tornadoes have terrified me for a long time. I was at a sleepover in middle school when everyone else was getting ready to watch the movie “Twister”. My heart started to race. I knew that if I watched that movie, I would have terrible nightmares. I fought hard for a 50th time through “3 Ninjas”, but no such luck. I didn’t even want to watch a movie about tornadoes because I always feared being caught up in one.

Tornadoes don’t scare me in the same way they did when I was younger. But, as we’ve seen these last few days, they’re still happening and they’re still destroying. The recent storms in through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky have put huge numbers of people in the midst of the storm.

One way to respond to this, is to blame the people who have just been savaged by these storms and claim that it was some sort of divinely-guided weather judgment. John Piper takes this route. Yesterday, he wrote:

If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command…. God’s will for America under his mighty hand, is that every Christian, every Jew, every Muslim, every person of every religion or non-religion, turn from sin and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus rules the wind. The tornadoes were his.

I have a number of problems with this. But I think this viewpoint is a symptom of a much larger problem. When we view God as a being who controls every tiny action that happens in the world, then this is where we end up. God sent these tornadoes down because these specific people were so sinful that they needed to be taught a lesson. So God killed 39 people and destroyed countless towns, homes, and lives.

This is one of the most damaging and destructive views I have ever heard.

Weather happens. Anyone who has taken 8th grade Earth science knows that. The weather doesn’t change because Jews or Muslims exist in the world. (Lest we forget that the title of God’s people was bestowed on Jews in the first place.)

This is the type of Christianity that actively detracts from our 21st century world. There is no need for me to tell you why we shouldn’t embrace a 4th century worldview. The world isn’t flat. The Earth is not the center of the universe. And God doesn’t make the weather.

To suggest this is not only embarrassing to religious people around the world, but it’s pointing a finger at the tens of thousands of people who have just had their lives destroyed and then saying that they deserved it. It’s tragic, hurtful, and actively detracts from the kingdom of God.

God pulls life out of death. But She doesn’t kill someone to do so.

Cheers,
Eric

(Yeah. I did the passive-aggressive refer-to-God-as-a-she thing. I’m still a little offended by Piper’s comments from 2 weeks ago. Lord, have mercy.)

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A Lenten Journey on the Road Less Traveled

Thanks to Mike Freisen and Landon Whitsitt for reminding me of this excellent Thomas Merton quote. My hope is that it can speak some truth or give some encouragement as we settle in for the long haul of this season of Lent.

My LORD God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Cheers,
Eric

What We Have Gotten Wrong About Faith

“What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket,
when of course it is the cross.” – Flannery O’Connor

I was in Barnes and Noble last night perusing the Christmas deals (like ya do) and I went to the “Christian Inspiration” display table set apart from the rest of the religious books as the “bestsellers”. There was the typical Joel Osteen, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyers on the front side and then around back was all kinds of paraphernalia for this book Heaven is For Real. Now, admittedly, I have only read the first chapter of it (as that is all I could get for free on my Kindle).

This kind of emotive faith doesn’t do much for me. It seems to only offer comfort to the comforted. We focus so much on the afterlife that we neglect to do the work of God in this life. Any faith that doesn’t say “Take up your cross and follow me” isn’t anything I want to be a part of. We think of following Jesus only in our expectation of the still waters and green pastures of Psalm 23. We fail to realize that if we actually follow Jesus, it will be far less comfortable than that.

Now, far be it for me to equate a person’s faith life with the types of books they read, but I think it certainly impacts it. You are what you read. By all means, if you are afflicted and need comfort, read something that will give you comfort. I’m not that sadistic. But for a lot of us, myself included, our faith only grows by being pushed and stretched. I doubt reading Heaven is For Real or Every Day a Friday really pushes you beyond the call to simply have more faith.

For a lot of us, the answer to a lot of life’s (more troubling) questions isn’t “if God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it”. But the answer to many of life’s questions can be found in the ancient command to “take up your cross and follow me.”

Cheers,
Eric

*I don’t mean any offense to people who have read Heaven is for Real and found a lot of encouragement in it. I’m sure it’s a very encouraging book. I only say what I say because I think we can do better.

4 (of many) Things Wrong with Rick Perry’s Abysmal Ad

Within the last week, Rick Perry has managed to stir up a lot of controversy with a new ad he has released declaring war on Obama’s war on religion. There are a number of things wrong with Perry’s ad, and I am here to point out a few of them. Just so we’re on the same page Here’s a full text of the ad, just to catch people up. (I’m posting the text of the ad because I refuse to post a video link of that garbage on this site.)

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.

As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.

Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.

I’m Rick Perry and I approve this message.

Here we go.

1) We need to stop declaring wars on emotions and concepts. Obama doesn’t have a war on religion. He’s the Muslim with the controversial United Church of Christ pastor, remember? That’s like doubly religious. Wars have real enemies. The wars on religion, drugs, terror etc are insane because their target is amorphous. In my opinion, wars are the last thing Perry will ever look to end. Which brings us to…

2) There’s something wrong in this country when gays CAN’T serve openly in the military. The object of someone’s sexual desire does not hinder their ability to serve and protect this country. It’s like saying all left-handed can’t serve in the military (not a perfect metaphor, but close). In the end, when you’re in battle, it just does not matter who the other person goes home to at night.

3) Your kids can pray in schools all they want. This whole thing about how kids can’t pray in school is absurd. Of course they can. The law you are thinking of simply states that teachers are not allowed to lead the class in prayers. Which is fine, and do you know why? Because…

4) This whole thing is about respect. You know what doesn’t contribute to the overall respect for people? When a candidate who is supposed to be a leader, spouts a philosophy of “us vs. them” politics which fundamentally divides. As someone who is going to be a pastor, I whole-heartedly agree that faith can make us strong. But faith that is belligerent in the face of such blatant disrespect makes us all weaker.

So Mr. Perry, Governor Perry… do us all a favor and leave. Ride off into the night. Tuck your tail between your legs and get out of public discourse. Because what you’re saying is not good for anyone. Much less Christians.

Cheers,
Eric

Also… how funny is it that he’s wearing the same jacket as Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain”? You can’t make it up.

Be Still

I don’t know why I don’t have Psalm 46 tattooed to some part of my body already. It’s something that I need to read constantly. There’s something about the way I work that I become obsessed with the things that technology can do for me. And this isn’t like an “Ask not what technology can do for you” speech. I’m just saying, I need some help unplugging every once in awhile. And lately, this has been helping me unplug.

So take just a few minutes. Put your phone on mute. Breathe deep for a couple breaths. Place yourself in this picture and then Psalm 46 is just underneath it when you’re ready.

God is our refuge and strength,
   a very present help in trouble. 

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
   though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; 

though its waters roar and foam,
   though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy habitation of the Most High. 

God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
   God will help it when the morning dawns. 

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
   he utters his voice, the earth melts. 

The Lord of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
   see what desolations he has brought on the earth. 

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
   he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;

   he burns the shields with fire. 
‘Be still, and know that I am God!

   I am exalted among the nations,
   I am exalted in the earth.’ 

The Lord of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Selah

Cheers,
Eric

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