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.