Crazy For God

I have been on call so much lately that my reading has dropped off a bit. But my duties have lightened a bit now, and I picked Crazy For God back up. This book is so full of the same feelings that I have had for the last 20 years that I feel I could have written it. The details, of course, would be different, but the emotions and the feelings that Frank Schaeffer puts out there of being trapped in a religious system that you didn’t create and don’t own are identical.

Last night I was reading about how he came to see prayer as practiced by the hyper-Christians (my terminology, not his) around him. He describes what seemed to be the “logic” behind many of those prayers. His description is contained in a “reading between the lines” prayer. On page 151:

“Dear Heavenly Father, in Your Word You say that when two or three are gathered together, You will be in the midst of them. Well, we’re gathered here, so do what we’re telling You to do because we have you over a barrel and can quote your own book back at You! And in case You’re thinking of weasling out of this deal, we claim your promises, and because You can’t break any of those since you wrote them all in the Bible, You’ll do what we say and You’ll do it NOW! Amen!”

I don’t know how many times, countless really, that I have heard a prayer that seemed to be saying exactly that. I have become so frustrated with the fact that we try to use God as a tool to accomplish what we want, ordaining what we do with his stamp of approval. It makes me sick.

On the same page and continuing onto the next, the author continues, this time describing how none of this talk and prayer about God really seemed to match up in his mind.

“Theologically speaking, we believed in an absolutely powerful omnipotent and sovereign Lord. But in practice, our God had to be begged and encouraged to carry out the simplest tasks…

How exactly was this supposed to work? God was in charge, but he wouldn’t do anything for us unless we believed he would do it. But if he didn’t do anything, what reason was there to believe?

We lacked the faith to pray effectively and make God do stuff. So we prayed for the faith to make God give us the faith to make him do stuff. But getting enough faith was the biggest problem, so we prayed for the faith we needed to pray for faith. But how much faith did it take to pray to have the faith we needed to pray for faith? And if God knew you wanted faith, why didn’t he just give it to you? It was like spending all your time calling directory information for phone numbers that you aren’t allowed to call unless you can guess the number right without asking.”

These words exress very well the frustration that I have felt trying to juggle all the pieces of theology I was handed and expected to keep properly lined up so that they would fit together and have God all explained in nice packeage that I could then hand to others. Eventually, I gave up trying and have deconstructed my faith in a search for the pieces that really have something meaningful to which to cling. I continue to maintain and believe more and more that one of the most important aspects of God is mystery, the fact that God can’t be completely explained, and that it is in this tension among this mystery that one finds the most genuine relationship with that God on a life-long journey of discovery.

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20 responses to “Crazy For God

  1. Hi Frank Schaeffer her, grateful for your kind review. Thank you! Best, Frank

  2. Mr. Schaeffer. I am shocked that you would check me out. Thank you so much for taking the time. I feel that I really identify with what lies behind your words and suspect that I am on a similar journey that you are describing in Crazy For God. I am eager to get it finished. Will probably post more as I get it further along in it.

  3. One thing that always amazes me is how many “intellectuals” are actually able to juggle those things for as long as they do. I think it has more to do with personality than with intellect.

  4. wow… 1st celebrity sighting from the canon! cool!

    i’m right there with you. God is not our cosmic bellhop!

  5. Shaeff came – he saw – he read – he wrote. Celebrity sighting – ha ha – well maybe for us this is huge! I kind of happy for Doug in a way that Frank came and wrote – vindication? Now to comment on prayer.

    Prayer as I see it in churches is what Frank describes and what Doug is also getting at…it’s begging, it’s holding God at gunpoint, it’s all (self)talk if you ask me.

    I don’t pray – well not like that anyways – publicly is right out of the question for me. If I trust God – I trust God – now sometimes this leads me to prayer – but not for asking reasons – more for wrestling reasons than anything. I ask, I see my self, I see my selfish…ness. The call of God, if there is one, is to trust this Spirit knows a little more than we do…and what is best for us (as much as that sucks sometimes).

    I find prayer to be rather offensive to be honest. I was in church this Sunday for my niece’s baptism and I watched the ‘show’ unfold before me…I felt so much distaste for the way faith and prayer’s treatment. Public prayer us nothing more than someone reciting their knowledge of scripture – point blank. Public prayer is being used exactly as Jesus spoke of it in Matthew 6 – to bolster the one doing it. Sickening.

    I think we need to have qualms with what is going in out faiths – in our churches – in our communities with this religious stuff – it is offensive on some levels…to someone being honest in their quest for a real and true God.

  6. Well, I guess you never know who will see what you post, do you?

    I agree: this view of prayer is too simple, too selfish, too contradictory of the rest of popular Christian theology. The reality of prayer is much more mysterious, like God Himself.

    I mean, those verses that people are abusing to pray these kinds of prayers are really in the Bible, and they seem to invite exactly that sort of interpretation. But my experience with God (and I’m sure I’m not alone) is that He often doesn’t give me what I ask for, even when what I ask for isn’t for myself but (within the limits of my understanding) for His kingdom. So the question I often have is, if God is going to do whatever He thinks best regardless of what I pray, then why bother?

    I agree with societyvs: “…more for wrestling reasons than anything. I ask, I see my self…” God seems to help me most when I don’t ask for anything but just talk honestly with Him.

  7. Jason. I like your idea of prayer being a wrestling with God. Too often we make it an asking session and pull God out of our toolbox to solve our problems or ordain our actions. The wrestling is where the healing and growing is, not the getting. I also agree with your line, “…I watched the ’show’ unfold before me….” How often does a church service seem like that. I am happy to say the my little family has found a place that is not about that, where there is a greater degree of genuineness, and minimal attempts to be something we are not. The church needs to get back to that.

  8. 2 Reasons. Glad to see you back. It’s been too long. Thanks for contributing. I like what you and societyvs have said and emphasized about prayer being a “wrestling with God.” Isn’t that what God really wants with us anyway, a relationship. All the asking and getting really is not that important. Just the knowing is the thing that is best to go after.

  9. Jesus said God knows what we need even before we ask. So it’s not like we can tell him anything. I believe in His goodnessa and love. I believe he is always at work for good, though from an entirely different and greater perspective and I can comprehend. The purpose of prayer is knowing him in as great a depth and intimacy as we can discover.

  10. Great post Doug. I love Franky Schaeffer and look forward to reading his book sometime. Hope he doesn’t mind me calling him “Franky”… I just remember him from the old days.

    On this prayer discussion I wonder if we could think about the idea of language. Prayer is a language which we use in communication with God. It’s not about telling God what we need or want…although Scripture suggests that he does want us to share. Instead I think language is about revelation, personal revelation, rather than sharing information. (this is E.Peterson’s idea not mine)

  11. Yes, I agree. I used to think of prayer as a hoop I had to jump through to get God to like me. But it is all about a conversation, about getting to know someone really.

  12. Paul. I like that idea, but there is part of it that is problematic for me. This implies a two way coversation doesn’t it. And I haven’t ever heard any words from God. Sure, I have times I wonder if an impression that I have is from God. But how do you really know? How do you not know that you are just fooling yourself? So it seems to me that prayer is really most important for us, for us to share, not for God to in return speak. There is something about doing it that helps us. It doesn’t seem like a conversation.

  13. But it is all about a conversation, about getting to know someone really(freestyle)

    Come on, really? A conversation is when someone replies to what you say, not when you have to guess what they might be saying. Sorry, but youre way too damn smart for that.

    It doesn’t seem like a conversation(freestyle)

    And now his brain kicks in. ;)

  14. John. I accept your karate hands (not sure what you karate guys call all those hand movements you are so fond of). It does appear that my brain checked out for a bit. My meaning in that first comment was that prayer is not just a magic genie session, and it was in response to Larry who happens to be my dad. In the second comment my meaning is then that prayer seems to one sided to be considered a conversation. Glad to know you are watching me so closely. Wax on, wax off.

    I feel like just deleting that first comment I made but will let it stand for all to see my mistake.

  15. The purpose of prayer is knowing him in as great a depth and intimacy as we can discover.(Larry)

    Well Mr. Lewis, If I may be so bold, I would have to say the words we hear from our fathers our the most intimate a son can imagine. Doug is fortunate enough to be able to hear yours.

  16. “my meaning is then that prayer seems to one sided to be considered a conversation” (Doug)

    Really? God doesn’t say anything back but this is what I compare that to:

    I am watching tv and my wife is in the other room reading a book – although we say nothing to one another we are content knowing each is there…I call that simply ‘presence’.

    I think prayer is about the same thing – presence – not words. Is God there…I really couldn’t tell you or myself the answer to that – but when I lay it all on the line to that mysterious something – I always get the sense I am heard. God is a Spirit – makes sense it would feel more like a presence – something we would sense in a 6th sense kind of way (shout out to Bruce Willis – lol).

    All I know is when I laid it all on the line to God a few months back – something happened that broke me and built me at the same time. I wanted things – I was selfish – I asked for those things – but in the end I accept God knows better than I do on some things. And I sense God does. The way things worked out actually make more sense than what I imagined in my moment of anguish with God….all my asking is all my bullsh*t usually. Maybe this God see’s through that stuff?

    I also realized that if God is real (and I think God is) – then God is way more complex than I ever imagined. God is more big picture than I am – and can see what needs to happen…I can only see what is best for me (limited to self). So – life is going to really suck sometimes and that’s part of living in this reality.

  17. Jason. I both agree and disagree. It can’t be a conversation when God is talking back. That just gets to the definition and semantics of what a conversation is. God doesn’t seem to be talking.

    But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t communicate. I maintain that your “laying it all on the line” is more about you doing something that you needed to do than it is about God doing something for you. God set it up that way. Meditation and prayer and laying it on the line to him and others is something that we humans need. When we live in any other way we live cheaply and falsely. And sure, I believe God hears you and us and interacts with us in the ways you describe, mainly sensing and presence, and in ways that we probably have no concept or knowledge of.

  18. “It can’t be a conversation when God is[n’t] talking back.”

    Yeah, I’ve had that thought many times. I know people who have heard God speak to them in words — and even for them it was an isolated experience. That hasn’t happened to me. There have been a few occasions when I had a feeling so powerful and so specific that, even though there were no words, I had no doubt what God was saying to me. But that hasn’t happened for many years. I do identify with societyvs: “I always get the sense I am heard.” Still, sometimes I wish I weren’t doing all the talking.

    But it is helpful sometimes just to talk to God, even when He doesn’t say anything. I can say things to Him that I wouldn’t say to anyone else. After all, He already knows everything, so why try to hide anything? And sometimes I find that I can answer my own questions once I say them out loud, so I don’t really need a response.

  19. I know people who have heard God speak to them in words — and even for them it was an isolated experience.(2reasons)

    Yeah my brother had this happen too. Unfortunately it was after smoking an ounce of Hash. :(

  20. freestyleroadtrip

    John….(karmen, here), You just made me laugh out loud!

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