Have you ever noticed that the most outwardly ‘religious’ people in the world have the most anemic gods? In the news last week I saw an ultrasound photo taken of a woman’s womb. “Is Jesus in the picture”, a reporter asks?
Of course he’s in the picture! How do you think its even possible for a new life to begin like this? Jesus is indelibly in every ultrasound photo that has ever been taken. The idea that a baby can begin life in his/her mother’s womb and be born safely is impossible but for the grace of God. A human life is beginning before your eyes and you are marveling at the incomprehensible noise coming from the wall of this woman’s uterus. Talk about missing the forest for the trees.
The second image that caught my eye this week was one that was so blasphemous it was almost funny.
Now read this carefully; I am not one of those people who believe that images of Jesus are evil (though images like this one give me pause). There are those who believe (and I respect their belief) that because of the second commandment in the Old Testament (Ex 20:4-6) you should not make any pictures of Jesus. I think however that the idea of that commandment is to not treat things that are holy as trite.
What I find amusing is reading comments on discussion boards that say that images like this are blasphemous posted by people with user names like yhwhshalomjr (yhwh ‘Yahweh’, shalom ‘peace’ in Hebrew, jr. ) Throwing the alliterated four consonants of God’s holiest name at the front of your user name is at least as blasphemous as making a monster truck with “Jesus Kicks Butt” on the side of it.
Both of these images betray a conceptual grasp of God that is sadly weakand lacking. J.B. Phillips wrote a book Your God Is Too Small many years ago (there’s a reprint out now called Your God is Still To Small and Canadian Author Mark Buchanan has also written a book called Your God Is Too Safe ) and in it he demolishes notions of God as the resident policeman, or an old man in the sky with a big white beard. God, instead is greater than any simple analogy that we can come up with. (Here is another riff on this same idea)
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Small gods, are straw men that cynics like to push over and claim to have made strong claims against God. If Christianity has been around for 2000 and the world is still in the shape its in then Christianity must not be a very good religion right?
Here a critic makes two huge mistakes. For starters, Christianity – the real deal – has never been accepted on a large scale and has therefore never been in a position to control “the state of the world” though its influence has been far from negligible. I would argue that the places that are in the most trouble ( see Mumbai) have had the least experience in seeing what real Christianity is all about.
Secondly, critics misunderstand the nature of Christianity in the first place. It’s success and failure cannot be measured by its success or failure in reforming the world which has rejected it in the first place. Christianity is a new, true way of living, and should never be considered simply as a handy social instrument for reducing teen pregnancy, drug abuse, divorce, etc. Jesus Christ is in the transformation business and transformed people, of course will exert an excellent influence on the communities around them but that is a secondary benefit, and not primary purpose.
If real Christianity fails, it fails for the same reason the Christ ‘failed’ – and any condemnation rightly falls on the world which rejects both Him and it.” J.B. Phillips (p. 169)