on tornadoes and the Jesus who calmed storms

Last year was a bad tornado season for those of us who live in Tornado Alley. Bad enough that we spent several nights in our “safe space” waiting for the sirens and the winds to stop. A friend had a tornado knock a tree onto her house. Other friends survived the tornadoes that blew through Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. It freaked me out enough that I finally made a FEMA-recommended tornado kit to keep in my safe space, which is small comfort when I know that if a tornado really does hit my house, no waterproof bag full of food and supplies can save me. Tornadoes are scary. They are unpredictable. They are deadly. And climate change seems to be making them worse.

This year has already seen several tornadoes. People have died. Communities have been destroyed. Others are just now starting to pick up the pieces.

And John Piper, not even a week after this latest bout of deadly tornadoes, would like to let those survivors know that God did this. Because that’s what the hurting and grieving need to hear right now, right?

Now, let me say right now that I believe in a powerful God who could cause tornadoes if God wanted to. But I also believe that sending these storms wouldn’t be in keeping with the nature of the God I have come to know and love.

I believe that the best way to learn about the nature of God is through the Person of Jesus Christ (as Brian McLaren called it at a talk I attended, you could say my hermeneutic is Jesus). And the God revealed through the person of Jesus is not someone who capriciously sends tornadoes that pick up babies and carry them for miles and kill them. The God revealed in Jesus is someone who wakes up in a boat in the middle of the storm and calms it. The God revealed in Jesus is someone who raises the dead and heals the sick and comforts the grieving and gets to know the outcast. God isn’t someone who breaks and destroys, but someone on a mission of healing and wholeness and reconciliation and redemption.

In the wake of deadly tornadoes, God is on the side of the folks wiping away tears and giving hugs and listening to the grieving and picking up the pieces. God’s drawing nearer to us through acts of love and healing. At least that’s what I believe.

Yes, we live in a world that does not work the way God designed it to. There were no deadly tornadoes, no death at all in fact, in God’s original plan. But all of creation was given the ability to turn from that design, and we did, and here we are. But God isn’t smiting us. God is working to fix it, and God invites us to be a part of the healing. At least that’s what I believe.

I’m praying for the people in Indiana and Kentucky who are dealing with devastation right now. I want them to know that God is on their side.

on Haiti and “Everything Must Change”

I’ve blogged about Brian McLaren books before, and I’ve just started reading a new one, so prepare to read about all the ways it blows my mind as I work my way through it.  Based on what I remember of my Intro to Christian Theology class I took in college, McLaren’s Everything Must Change is a book on theodicy, or the problem of evil/suffering in the world, though you’ll be pleased to know McLaren completely avoids theological jargon and, as a former English professor, is an excellent, easy-to-read writer.  In many ways, EMC is about the biggest problems in the world and what Jesus teaches us about them, and, refreshingly, to McLaren, the biggest problems are not the usual Christian hot-button issues like abortion and homosexuality.  In fact, McLaren identifies 4 major problems, the fourth of which informs the first three, and will be key to solving them.  These problems are:

  1. Environmental breakdowns caused by our unsustainable global economy, an economy that fails to respect environmental limits even as it succeeds in producing great wealth for about one-third of the world’s population.  We’ll call this the prosperity crisis.
  2. The growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor, which prompts the poor majority to envy, resent, and even hate the rich minority– which in turn elicits fear and anger in the rich.  We’ll call this the equity crisis.
  3. The danger of cataclysmic war arising from the intensifying resentment and fear among various groups at the opposite ends of the economic spectrum.  We’ll call this the security crisis.
  4. The failure of the world’s religions, especially its two largest religions, to provide a framing story capable of healing or reducing the three previous crises.  We’ll call this the spirituality crisis.  By framing story, I mean a story that give speople direction, values, vision, and inspiration by providing a framework for our lives.

As he makes clear in his other book, The Secret Message of Jesus (which I highly recommend), McLaren believes that in making the Christian message all about where you go when you die and what you intellectually assent to, we have missed the message of Jesus, which, as Jesus makes clear, is that “the Kingdom of God is at hand,” which is really that God is at work making “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” come true. That the amazing thing is God coming here, making things new, and staying here with us forever, rather than all of us flying away.  And if we believe that the message is that the Kingdom of God is at hand, well, things will start to look really different when it comes to what we, the Church, do and say in and to the world. Continue reading “on Haiti and “Everything Must Change””

God is not enough?

One of the most exiting things for me in the past year has been that Jon and I have both been excited by and interested in some new (for us) thinking, particularly around the issues of sustainable food (mostly thanks to Michael Pollan) and the emerging church movement (mostly thanks to Rob Bell and Brian McLaren).  We’ve been reading books passed back and forth, and talking about new ideas, and bouncing thoughts off of each other, and it’s just been really fun.  Maybe that’s one of the cool things about getting to live with my best friend: we can geek out over the same things.

All of this to say that I’ve been reading Brian McLaren’s The Story We Find Ourselves In.  It’s the sequel to his book A New Kind of Christian and I highly recommend both.  They’re sort of fictionalized dialogues between characters, and through their conversations, McLaren introduces a whole lot of just mind-blowing stuff. I just wanted to share one small snippet that struck me while I was reading yesterday, made me wonder why I’d never thought of it before.

There’s one other surprising thing that the second creation story in Genesis suggests to me. It’s something shocking, maybe put best when it’s put in a way that borders on heresy: God is not enough, the story says. That has nothing to do with any deficiency in God; it has to do with the storyline God had in mind for us. God doesn’t want to be the only reality in our lives, the only relationship in our network, the only message on our screen…This is the story we find ourselves in, isn’t it? Caught between two dangers: a hyperspiritual danger that says ‘It is good enough for human beings to be alone, so all they need is God,’ and a hypersecular danger that says, ‘It is good enough for human beings to be with the other created beings; forget about the Supreme Being from whom all being and blessing flow.’ Neither of those options is good enough. The only viable option in our story is for us human beings to enjoy the company both of our Creator and of our fellow creatures: our brother sun and sister moon, our brother fox and sister fruit bat, and especially of our mates–either sexual mates or mates in the Australian sense of the term, our friends–in whom we find a lost part of ourselves restored to us again.

I’ve heard well-meaning people, even myself, say things like “God is all I need.” But even in Eden, God saw that there was something “not good” in paradise, something that needed fixing: the human being was alone. The human being NEEDED more than just God and nature. The human being needed companionship. And God creates a companion, and then everything is good.

Which brings me to something else the book pointed out that I hadn’t noticed before.  This is what my ESV Bible says in Genesis 1:26: Continue reading “God is not enough?”