by Kenneth Justice
~ At coffee yesterday I sat with a good Christian friend of mine who was intent on trying to explain the death of my 21 year old cousin. I kept telling him, “I don’t want to hear you justify his death, he was a good kid. Sometimes God sucks, sometimes there aren’t any definitive answers”
If you’ve read any of my articles, you obviously know that deep down inside I don’t truly think “God sucks”. However in recent years I’ve made a commitment to being more authentic; both with myself and toward others. If I’m feeling really pissed off, then I’m going to say as much and if that means saying something that is a tad bit unorthodox or out of the box, then so be it.
I grew up in a Christian culture where everyone was taught to walk on eggshells around other Christians. If other Christians were within earshot and you slipped up and dropped an F-Bomb or said “Sh*T!” when you mistakenly slammed your finger in a car door, there would be hell to pay…Literally. I was silently taught by my Christian leaders that True Christianity was looking like a manikin; walking around as though you’re a plastic person with a fake smile.
By the time most Christian kids reach their teens they realize that the plastic culture of Western Christianity is a joke. More than 60% of children who grow up in Christian homes will eventually abandon the faith altogether, and the other 40% will end up in therapy the rest of their life (okay, I might have exaggerated that second statistic just a tad).
The reality of the situation is that plastic people aren’t fun to be around, and actually, plastic people are a drag. The children of plastic people know the truth; their plastic parents are hypocrites. This is what drives so many children raised in Christian homes away from the faith; they see the unrealistic expectations that are placed upon them and it drives them away.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of plastic people and plastic Christianity is the bible which is adored so much by Western Christians is ANYTHING BUT plastic. The bible is gritty. It is filled with the wailing of the sorrowful and often does not have any answers for those who are hurting.
The Psalmist writes, “O Lord, I cry to you, in the morning my prayer comes before you. O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?”
More often than not, the writers in the bible don’t understand why God ignores their pleas. More often than not, the writers in the bible don’t understand why shi**y things happen. They cry out and bewail their sorrow, they bitch and complain; they yell at God and complain about the injustice that surrounds them.
The bible is a book of comfort to my soul because it does not offer trite little answers. I don’t want a guide book that pretends to have an answer for every situation. I don’t want a book that treats me like a little robot and offers me a prescription for every ailment.
I want something that is gritty and that I can relate with; and the words of scripture are something I’m able to relate, they are soothing verses that bring a measure of comfort to my aching soul.
The bible comforts me because it is a book written by real people; men and women who suffered, who cried, who held their dying children in arms covered in tears. The bible comforts me because it is a real book written by real people who didn’t always have the answers.
If the bible were the fake book that too many Christians pretend it to be; a book that always has the answers and treats me like a manikin, then it would be of no use to me. When I am hurting and sad, I don’t want someone to give me a two hour lecture about “God’s plan”.
Yesterday I read Psalm 88 which offers no joy; it is a Psalm of sorrow and grief. It is a Psalm which cries out at God and complains of God’s silence and injustice. Sometimes that is what we must do; complain, yell, cuss, and cry……nothing more and nothing less. Sometimes there are no clear answers to why certain things happen in this world, like the death of a 21 year old young man who was one of the nicest cousins I’ve ever known.
In Psalm 13 David echo’s his counterpart by crying out, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
I can relate to those words because they are real. They are the words of someone who knew sorrow firsthand. They are the words of someone who has known heartbreak. Yet, Psalm 13 is a bit different from 88, because near the end, after an entire Psalm of crying out to God, David adds one simple thing, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord”. It reminds me that the sorrow I feel will eventually pass. While I will never forget the pain and heartbreak of not understanding why shi**y things happen in this world, I’m reminded that there is a time to grieve, but eventually there will come a time to rejoice and move forward.
Categories: Culture & Society