Who is God and why is God so silent, so absent, so inaccessible at a time when a definitive God is so needed?
Centuries ago, the theologian Origen wrote, “…God is known by knowledge and by unknowing; of him there is understanding, reason, knowledge, touch, perception, opinion, imagination, name and many other things, but he is not understood, nothing can be said of him, he cannot be understood…He is all things in everything and nothing in anything.”
Perfect. Just perfect. The searching for a present God, it seems, has been a quest from the time people began trying to understand God, to call God on God’s actions and inactions. God the invisible, silent deity, the “Wizard of Oz” of the heavens, has been sorely unacceptable in terms of providing answers to questions we need answered and in terms of being a real presence in the midst of political turmoil.
This God, who cannot be understood, according to Origin, has come off as being partisan, a deity which makes a way for the privileged and doing nothing while “the least of these,” to whom Jesus said we Christians are to serve, have suffered immensely. This God has done nothing, has not shown His/Her presence as the “isms” have ravaged God’s own people. God has provided the arrogant with sense of the rightness of their arrogance; God has done nothing to stop dead in their tracks those who oppress others. And in the area of politics, God’s silence has really cast God as a Conservative. While God may not have worked with Conservatives, God certainly has not done anything against Conservatives, black and white, who use God’s name as justification to oppress others. God has sadly come off as white, comfortable, privileged …and white.
The difference between the God of white and black people has long been a source of struggle for activists. The Rev. C.T. Vivian, who worked closely with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, wrote a sermon entitled, “Whose God?” The God of the racists, he said in that sermon, is not the God of black people working for justice and dignity and human and civil rights. The God of the latter despises oppression, but the God of the former seems to sanction that behavior, or at least, seems to ignore it. Whose God are you thinking of when you say, “God?” he asked.
The lack of a clear voice from God is problematic in any political season, but God’s silence and absence is especially troubling in this 2016 race for the White House. Donald Trump is using dog whistle language – sometimes – and sometimes, he is just outright racist, sexist and/or xenophobic, and God does not silence him. Should God do that? Should we expect God to step in in the name of justice? God’s silence and absence has reminded people of what Sir John Acton said: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” God the omnipotent knows that and does nothing to stop corrupt rulers from wreaking havoc on the masses?
The faith that was imparted to me by my mother stays with me; her stories of racial oppression in the South, coupled with the directive that we had better always work for justice, stay with me, but it is her words that compel me to vote, not God. This God has been disappointing. This God has allowed slavery and Jim Crow and lynching and police brutality. This God hasn’t convinced me that He/She is concerned about justice, in spite of what the Christian Bible says to the contrary. Certainly, churches in the South (and, quietly, in the North as well) during the 60s taught that God was not, in fact, concerned with justice or with the civil rights of black people. Some preachers taught that those who fought for civil rights of black people were in danger of losing their salvation.
What kind of a God is that?
Our ancestors relied on God with everything they had; the notion of an all-powerful, strong, compassionate, justice-loving God no doubt kept our ancestors alive with enough energy to fight racism. But God has just not done enough to shut down injustice and evil. God allowed Hitler to come to power, as did God allow Mussolini to rise to power as well. God allowed presidents of these United States to own slaves and to write words that dehumanized black people and women. We are living in the legacy of America’s racism and sexism, as described, defined and outlined in the Constitution. God has done nothing to compel that legacy to change.
So, I vote not because I hear the voice of God telling me to. I vote because my mother heard God tell her to vote and my grandmother no doubt told my mother that voting was something God wanted them to do.
I don’t think God cares whether or not we vote. I think God cares that we respect God even though God allows so much injustice to run rampant. What will happen to black, brown and poor people should Donald Trump win the election? For that matter, what will happen if Hillary Clinton wins? God has a history of being sorely absent when it comes to hearing the cries of “the least of these” and compelling the oppressors to just ..stop trouncing on those who are least able to handle it.
The only consolation I have is the truth in the words of Origin - that God cannot be understood. Clearly, I do not understand God, but maybe, in hearing the voice of God vicariously through my mother, I will lose some of the lack of confidence I have in God to make this world a better place. With the current two candidates, the world doesn’t seem to be headed anywhere but to a swift downward spiral. I would love to believe that God wouldn’t let that happen, but if the Hebrew scriptures are to be believed, God certainly would allow it. This God is an enigma, an unfortunate truth at a time when the world needs a God who is not only clear but decisive. The country, in spite of religious-talking people, seems to be moving away from a God who desires justice and who demands that people are compassionate toward each other.
This enigmatic God offers little peace, comfort and reassurance at a time when much peace – and reassurance – is needed.