God is not fair

A recent blog posted by Deborah Mitchell, or TXBlue08, on CNN has caught my attention. Mitchell, who is a mother of teenagers, authors a blog called "Kids Without Religion."

In a CNN iReport, "Why I Raise My Children Without God", Mitchell explains that she writes the blog because she '... just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.'

In the first part of this series, I addressed her first point, God is a bad parent and a role model, then we looked at God is not logical. Now we'll discuss God is not fair.

Mitchell writes:

If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other, serious requests, to go unanswered? I have known people who pray that they can find money to buy new furniture. (Answered.) I have known people who pray to God to help them win a soccer match. (Answered.) Why are the prayers of parents with dying children not answered?

If God is fair, then why are some babies born with heart defects, autism, missing limbs or conjoined to another baby? Clearly, all men are not created equally. Why is a good man beaten senseless on the street while an evil man finds great wealth taking advantage of others? This is not fair. A game maker who allows luck to rule mankind’s existence has not created a fair game

In this complaint, Ms. Mitchell addresses the issue of prayer. Why does God answer certain prayers and not others? Why does God answer "insignificant" requests - "silly prayers" while leaving the "more important" requests alone?

These issues have nothing to do with whether or not God is fair. The problem is that we do not understand why bad things happen. The "silly prayers" that God seemingly answers may not be God's replies at all. It may be that finding money for furniture or the soccer team winning just happened. Those events could have happened whether the one praying had prayed for them or not. Sometimes I wonder if God has time to listen to my "silly prayers."

Then, I remember that Jesus said that God notices when a small sparrow falls from the sky. I also remember the many times when I have needed clarification on a "silly thing" like figuring out a crochet pattern or finding my keys and the idea came to mind right away or my eyes fell upon the misplaced object right after I prayed. If God notices when a sparrow falls, then it is possible that God also notices when I am frustrated. Sometimes I think God answers my "silly prayers" because we're friends. He has also answered some of my more meaningful prayers, but rarely did the answers come right away.

Other times, God convicts me for praying silly prayers. God says, "Why are you praying for that when people need me? Pray for them." When this happens, I apologize and then pray for people. It's easy to become trivial. This happens when I am wrapped up in my own world.

When I was a little girl, I learned in Sunday school that God always answers prayer. God's answer might be "yes," but it could also be "wait," or the reply may be "no." The last two answers are never easy for us. We want what we want, and we usually want it now. We cannot understand why a loving God would say "no" or why God would make us wait, but he does.

Last week I shared that my first husband died from pancreatic cancer. It appears that God ignored hundreds of prayers on my husband's behalf. Also, while Gordon was in the hospital he prayed that God would allow him to see his sons graduate from high school. That prayer was not answered in the affirmative. God has also not answered my questions about why it happened. On the other hand, my present husband's first wife died of a form of lung cancer. He prayed that she would be a 'one percenter', which was then the five year survival rate for that cancer. He prayed that she would beat the odds. She did. God answered that prayer. Even though she died, she still lived much longer than expected. So why did God answer Mike's prayer and not Gordon's? Why does God allow people to die? Why do children suffer terrible deaths? Why do the innocent suffer while evil people get what they want? I don't know. The psalmists and the prophets ask similar questions in the Bible. Does God answer their questions?

Yes, but not always in the way they expected.

When my children expressed that it wasn't fair that God had allowed their dad to die, I reminded them that life wasn't fair. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous just like the Teacher wrote about in Ecclesiastes. Then I reminded them about some of the wonderful things that happened during Gordon's illness and I tell them that we may not understand why this happened but that God expressed goodness to our family in immeasurable ways.

Sometimes God's answer is that we just have to trust him. There's no other way around it. The revelations for why some things happen may come later, either in this life or the one to come. However, do I trust God enough to stay in relationship if the answers never come? That is a question we must ask ourselves. There's no reason to think that the Creator owes us anything. Who are we to hold God responsible for answering some prayers and not others? Who are we to give up believing in God because God doesn't act the way we think he should? This is the essence of the story of Job, which Robert Selzer discusses here.

The questions we ask, seeking an answer to the 'why' of it all, are timeless. Some of this is discussed in 'God on Trial,' a story from Auschwitz, when the Jewish prisoners there are said to have put God on trial for the horrors being inflicted upon them. I highly recommend this Masterpiece Theater production. It may not answer your questions, but it certainly illustrates that you are not alone in asking them, and your feelings about how such questions are - or are seemingly not -answered.

And, here is the conclusion of the matter, according to the Teacher in Ecclesiastes:

Now all has been heard;

here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

for this is the duty of all mankind.

For God will bring every deed into judgment,

including every hidden thing,

whether it is good or evil.

Next week we'll discuss "God does not protect the innocent" and "God is not present".


Remembering Peter

This Easter, in addition to celebrating the Resurrection, we should also remember the Apostle Peter. This disciple, considered the spokesperson for Jesus' disciples, loved Jesus deeply. It was Peter who correctly declared that Jesus was "... the Christ, the son of the living God." When the guards of the Sanhedrin came to arrest Jesus, Peter slashed off the ear of the high priest's servant trying to protect Jesus. When the crowd took Jesus away for trial, Peter followed at a distance and bravely stood near the trial to hear what might happen to his friend. He stubbornly protested Jesus’ death.

Yet, Peter also disowned Jesus:

The Denial of Saint Peter, by Caravaggio

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22: 54 - 62

This is not where Peter's story ends. After Peter found out that the Lord's body was missing, he remembered that Jesus had said that he would rise from the dead. He raced to the tomb to see what had happened. The Bible says that Peter believed after seeing the empty burial wrappings. When Jesus later appeared to the disciples, he addressed the matter of Peter's guilt over the disowning. He told Peter to brush himself off and fulfill his calling. Peter did this. We see in later scriptures that although he still had struggles, Peter never denied his Lord again. Tradition says that Peter refused to allow the Romans to crucify him right side up. Instead, he chose an upside down crucifixion because he felt that he was not worthy to die the same way as did Jesus.

This Easter, remember Peter not only for disowning Jesus, but because he did not let guilt dissuade him. Peter trusted Jesus. He accepted Jesus' forgiveness. He forgave himself. The Bible shows us that Peter was fully human in that he still made mistakes, but he was willing to learn from them and keep going.

This post was originally published on the Create in Christ team blog February 22, 2013

Are we like Peter or do we let the sins of our pasts block us from fulfilling our calling?

Lord, help us to forgive ourselves as you forgive us. Amen.


Unpacking Forgiveness: Two Principles for Response

I hope you have learned a lot about forgiveness in our study of Chris Brauns' book Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds, because now we're getting down to the heart of the matter.

It's easy to define forgiveness and talk about it, but what about when it actually comes down to doing it? Well, that's another story. Forgiveness is difficult, especially when we are trying to practice it from a biblical perspective.

Today, our chapter is called 'How Should I Respond to the Unrepentant? Two Principles' (the third comes next week). This piqued my interest because that is exactly where my struggle lies. I'm definitely a Peter. "Lord, how many times shall I forgive? Up to seven?" I also like to back off and forgive from a distance. I may never speak to the person again, but I do not wish them any ill will. Can you identify with that?

According to biblical principles though, forgiveness is a lot more than not wishing someone ill will. It's an active process in which two people - the offender and the offended - are involved in reconciliation. But what if the offender could care less about what he or she did? What if he or she keeps repeating the offense? What if the offense is heinous, like murder, rape, molestation, genocide, and abuse in all of its forms? These are not easy issues that we can just get over by glibly saying "I forgive you." Remember, forgiveness is a process - not a magical formula.

As Christians, we dare not dismiss the awful things of this world by telling other people 'everything will be all right if you just forgive.' or by telling them that God had something to do with their pain by the way of punishment. "We must speak to these questions responsibly," Brauns writes. "For the Christian, this means reflecting deeply on what the Bible teaches and following through in obedience."

Consider Romans 12: 17 - 21:

      Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary:

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Bold phrases are from Brauns, 131).

Principle 1: Resolve Not to Take Revenge

Before I really dedicated my life to Christ, revenge was my weapon of choice. I liked to serve it cold, after the original offense was long passed. I enjoyed the look of shock on the face of the other person when I avenged the wrong that was done to me. I started to note the error of my ways, however, when my pastor's wife laughed about how I had taken revenge on an old boyfriend. At the time I didn't think it was revenge, but she knew it was. That gave me pause for thought. Later, as I grew more serious about Christ, I realized that revenge was not an option for me - and that was hard.

Many people go through much harder circumstances than anything I've gone through. Is it right for them to take revenge? No, it is not. Avenging oneself is even outlawed in certain circumstances. We cannot go out and kill someone who has harmed us, nor is it lawful to commit any crime in retaliation, no matter what has been done to us. However, there are other ways we take revenge. Brauns lists a few:

  • "A spouse is rude and insensitive. Affection is withheld, and the silent treatment is implemented.
  • "An insensitive cousin is greeted with an icy reception at a family dinner.
  • "A pastor behaves irresponsibly. Phone wires burn as the offended tells his or her story to others.
  • "A boss is harsh and unreasonable. Frustrated employees talk viciously about him to one another."
The list goes on, but those are just a few examples of how harsh we can be in a "socially acceptable" way. These methods, however, are vengeful and God has told us not to take revenge. We are not to be overcome by evil.

Principle #2: Proactively Show Love

The Amish community serves as an example in this regard. Do you remember the shootings that happened at the Amish school house back in 2006? Five girls died that day and more were injured after milk truck driver, Charles Carl Roberts, decided that he was going to take out his anger at God by hurting little girls. The man killed himself when law enforcement officers broke into the building.

Although the Amish community was suffering tremendous pain, their response was amazing. According to news reports, Amish people attended the Roberts' funeral. They also invited the Roberts family to attend the funerals of their daughters. When the community received funds, they gave some of the money to the Roberts family.

"Who will take care of their family?" Brauns quotes the Amish people as saying. "It's not right if we get $1,000 and they get $5. We must set something up for these children's education."

"Overwhelmed by such love and grace, Marie Roberts wrote to the Amish, 'Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing the world" (Brauns, 139).

When I heard about this through the news, I remembered thinking that I needed to be more like that.

"These principles are not simply for the Amish," Brauns writes. "All Christians are called to embody these. Revenge is never an option. We must resist the temptation to retaliate, even in small ways. And we must lovingly and proactively reach out to those who have injured us with the quality of grace that the Amish extended to the widow and children of Charles Roberts.

"But these two principles are not a complete answer to how Christians should respond to unrepentant offenders. One more important principle remains ..."

See you next week!


Ash Wednesday - a time of confession and grace

Today is Ash Wednesday. It is a day of repentance that marks the beginning of the Lenten season for the western Christian churches. Today, many Christians will go to church and receive the mark of a cross on their foreheads. This mark is made up of ashes burned from the palm leaves used in last year's Palm Sunday celebration. It is a meaningful practice to mark the beginning of Lent - the six weeks before Easter. Lent is a time of contemplation, sacrifice, and yearning for the resurrection of the Lord and of our hearts.

The Eastern Churches also celebrate Lent, of course. In those traditions, it is referred to as "Great Lent." They do not, however, observe Ash Wednesday, according to the Wikipedia article on Great Lent.

Here are some verses that may serve as an encouragement today as you confess your sins before the Lord. May you receive his loving embrace and forgiveness.

Isaiah 1: 16 - 20

Wash and make yourselves clean.

Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;

plead the case of the widow.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land;
but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

I John 1: 9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.


God is not logical

A recent blog posted by Deborah Mitchell, or TXBlue08, on CNN has caught my attention. Mitchell, who is a mother of teenagers, authors a blog called  "Kids Without Religion."

In a CNN iReport, "Why I Raise My Children Without God", Mitchell explains that she writes the blog because she '... just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.'

In the first part of this series, I addressed her first point, God is a bad parent and a role model. Now I'd like to address Mitchell's second reason as to why she is raising her children without God.

God is not logical.

Mitchell writes:

How many times have you heard, “Why did God allow this to happen?” And this: “It’s not for us to understand.” Translate: We don’t understand, so we will not think about it or deal with the issue. Take for example the senseless tragedy in Newton. Rather than address the problem of guns in America, we defer responsibility to God. He had a reason. He wanted more angels. Only he knows why. We write poems saying that we told God to leave our schools. Now he’s making us pay the price. If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?

The question we should be asking is this: “Why did we allow this to happen?” How can we fix this? No imaginary person is going to give us the answers or tell us why. Only we have the ability to be logical and to problem solve, and we should not abdicate these responsibilities to “God” just because a topic is tough or uncomfortable to address.

I agree with Mitchell's anger regarding pat answers to deep problems. Like Mitchell, I too would like to know why we church people answer difficult questions with "It's not for us to understand." That answer is an easy out, as far as I'm concerned. Why can't we just say, "I don't know"?

In the Bible, there are several examples of people,such as Job, Habakkuk, and David, who dared to ask God why. They asked bold questions such as, "Why are you treating me like this?" "What have I done to deserve this?" "Why don't you fix this problem?" We should do this too and teach our children to do the same. Along with the honest "I don't know" answer we would do well to add "Let's pray about it" or "Why don't you go pray about it?"

In February 2006, my first husband died of pancreatic cancer. Gordon was a pastor and a good person. He lived what he preached. Why would God allow such a terrible disease to kill him? At the time, my three boys were young. They asked the hard questions and I had to tell them that I didn't know why it had happened. When my middle son asked why God had allowed his dad to die, I told him that he needed to ask God that question. I also told him to tell God exactly how he felt - even to yell if he had to.

Well, my middle son took my advice and found some peace. God never answered our questions about this tragedy, but we knew that God was taking care of us. The reasons I know this is because of the peace I felt despite the harrowing circumstance, and by the way all of our needs were met.

I noticed in Mitchell's complaint that she used the word "allowed." This is better than the word "cause", which so many Christians seem to use when describing God's involvement in a disaster. I don't believe that God causes disaster and mayhem. I believe that God knows what's going on but that free will gets in the way of God's ability to act. Mitchell is correct in saying that humanity should accept the responsibility for the awful things that happen. We should use our minds and our knowledge to solve problems. As a follower of Jesus, I believe that God gave us our minds and wants us to make good use of them. But, if we lack wisdom, we can always ask. The book of James says that God is faithful and will provide wisdom without finding fault. This does not necessarily mean that you will have the answers. According to Matthew Henry, a Puritan theologian, it means that you will be given wisdom to make "right use" of affliction. In other words, you'll have wisdom to handle situations - ideas will come to mind that you did not think of before prayer. This has happened to me many times and it is one reason I know that God is not imaginary, as Mitchell claims.

Mitchell is correct in her other statement, "If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?" All of the "murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts" are against everything that Christ taught in the New Testament, but not everyone follows Christ. Even the so-called followers of Christ have participated in this wretched behavior throughout history. Again, it's that free will thing. Because God set free will in motion, he is faithful to it. God will not get in the way if humanity chooses to wreak havoc on itself. Christ came to teach us that God will help us live above sin. He died so that we could do that. In Genesis 4:7 we find what is one of the most important phrases in the Bible, but to really grasp its meaning, we have to go to the Tanakh:

If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it.' 

"... thou mayest ...".

This is the heart of the concept of 'free will'. It comes from the Hebrew word "timshel." It is translated differently in other versions of the Bible. In some versions, it is translated as "thou shall" and in others, "thou must."  But in the Jewish Bible, it is "... thou mayest ...". That leaves open the alternative: "thou mayest not ...".

And in the next verse, Genesis 4:8, Cain exercises his "mayest not" option in ruling over sin, and murders his brother, Abel.  Should God have interfered? Should he have stopped Cain?

Did not Jesus not only offer us the same choices, but also guidance on how to make the right choice?

You can read more about "timshel" here:

Timshel (thou mayest)

Now back to free will. Even though God does not stop us from wreaking havoc on ourselves if we so desire, there are instances in modern history in which I believe God was trying to stop terrible things from happening. For instance, before World War II began, all of the warning signs were there. Hitler's book Mien Kampf spelled out what he planned to do if given power. Once he came to power, the world leaders knew he was beefing up his military. Plus, people coming out of Germany were talking about the beginnings of genocide - heavy discrimination against the Jews and other groups, sterilizing or killing "unfit" people such as the disabled. The signs were there but humanity just didn't listen. Could we not say that God was yelling at us to wake up?

Mitchell mentions the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Maybe there were signs as well. We may never know. But why was a mentally ill person allowed access to guns? Why were the guns not locked up in a gun safe and if they were, why did he have access? There are so many variables, but there is no reason to blame God. The Religious Right did a dastardly thing by using the situation to push their "prayer in school" agenda and, as usual, God became the bad guy.

Mitchell is partially right in her complaint. God is not logical, at least to us he isn't. Scriptures says that God's thoughts are not our thoughts. So it is logical to say that God's logic is higher than ours because God sees the big picture. God limits Godself because of free will; therefore, God is not all-knowing. We humans can surprise him. The Bible has many examples of this. God also limits his power because of free will. Because God wants us to willingly follow him, he will not interfere with our power to choose. Acceptance of his grace is our choice. Timshel. "Thou mayest ... or thou mayest not."

Here is another post on Timshel.


Mold me ...

Some weeks are emotionally difficult. I get restless and wonder if I am allowing God to shape me for his purposes - like a potter fashions clay - or if I'm trying to squeeze him into a mold comprised of my plans.

During these times I have to examine myself and pray for the Lord's wisdom. If it appears that I am out of step, the Lord will gently pull me back on the path. If I am not out of step and growing impatient with God's timing then I have to focus on contentment and trust him.

I wrote this short devotional for the Create in Christ team blog. To add to it I made up a treasury of arts and crafts that are molded. Pearls also spend a lot of time being molded. If you would like to take a look at these products in their stores, just click on the photographs.

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64: 8, NIV

'Mold Me' by WritingPlaces

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Unpacking Forgiveness: What if I Won't Forgive?

"I cannot forgive."

"I will not forgive."

Two different statements. Two different implications. The first indicates ability. The second indicates a willful act.

"The implication of the first question is that there are times when forgiveness can be limited by the seriousness of the offense," writes author Chris Brauns in his book Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers to Complex Questions and Deep Wounds. The second statement says that while the person could forgive, he or he is for whatever reason unwilling to do so.

Check out this parable from Matthew 18:

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

This is a well-known story. The servant whose master forgave him of a huge debt had no mercy on someone who owed him a lesser amount. When his master heard about this deed, he threw him in debtors’ prison to be tortured until he could pay everything in full. The servant owed such a large amount that this would never be possible. Unless something miraculous happened - like the servant's family winning the lottery - he would have died in that prison still in debt up to his eyeballs.

The implication is that those who will not forgive will spend eternity in torment.

In Matthew 6: 12, 14-15 Jesus does not use a parable; he is very direct:

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors . . . For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

That is scary stuff. When I was young, and learning about forgiveness, it terrified me. I did not want to spend eternity in hell. I wanted to be in heaven with Jesus. So I really tried to forgive people quickly. Unfortunately, I also found that deep down inside there were times when I was still very angry. I carried that anger around like one carries baggage in an airport.

In my early years, the church taught forgiveness while holding the fear of hell over us. In accordance with Christ's teaching on the subject there is no way around the fact that God forgives those who forgive and does not forgive those who will not forgive. Instead of terrifying us, though, I believe the church would have provided a greater service if they had taught us to be willing to forgive and work through the issues rather than scaring us into skipping over the issues, stuffing our anger into the suitcases of our hearts. I carried many issues around the airport of my life for years. It was wearisome.

Some may be asking if Brauns believes that we earn salvation by forgiving others. He does not. Jesus was not teaching that we must forgive others in order to be saved. Rather, Braun writes that Jesus was teaching that people who have genuinely received grace are characterized by a willingness to give grace to others.

I would also like to add that it's difficult to give grace if you do not understand the sacrifice that God made for us in the person of Jesus. Once we do understand, our hearts will be filled with gratefulness to God and we will forgive others. No one has done anything to us that compares with what humanity has done to God. Jesus was innocent. He died a horrible death - one set aside for the worst of offenders in Roman society.

If you struggle with forgiving people, I suggest praying that God will help you understand and be truly grateful for Jesus' sacrifice. Pray that God will change your heart and help you to forgive. If you will not do this, you should really be concerned for your soul because an unforgiving heart will adversely affect not only your eternal destiny but your life here on earth as well.


Raising children without God

A recent blog posted by Deborah Mitchell, or TXBlue08, on CNN has caught my attention. Mitchell, who is a mother of teenagers, posted a blog called "Why I Raise My Children Without God" because she feels like there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.

In a subsequent article, CNN reported that many parents identified with Mitchell's concerns. The post drew 650,000 page views and more than 56,000 people shared it with their friends on Facebook.

As you can guess, her blog has raised the hackles of some in the religious community; CNN reported that:

Lots of people disagreed with her. Tons. They flagged her iReport as inappropriate and criticized CNN for linking to her essay on the CNN.com homepage. But there were plenty of others who wrote thoughtful rebuttals, respectfully disagreeing with Mitchell while not foisting their own beliefs on her. Take, for instance, a Methodist dad, who said faith can be hard to nail down, but “not to avail ourselves of the power of something we don't completely understand is silly.”

Others said Mitchell presented a simplistic view of religion.

“Presentations such as these seem to ignore a substantial percentage of believers - well-educated, compassionate, liberal folk, Christian and non-Christian alike - who, I feel, are able to worship without being blind to the realities of the world, or without lying to their children about their understanding of these complexities,” wrote commenter RMooradian. “I'll be raising my children with God, but I understand those who cannot!”

I applaud the believers who responded with respect and gentleness, as Peter advocates in 1 Peter 3:15. The ones who didn't respond in such a way really need to return to the gospels and reevaluate what Jesus said about loving others.

That being said, I wanted to take the opportunity to respond to Ms. Mitchell's claims one by one as she presented them. This is not the first time I've heard these arguments, so I hope I can offer help from my own experience. Like Mitchell, I have teenagers - two at home and one about to turn 20 who is not living at home. Also like Mitchell, I grew up in church. She was raised Catholic and left the church in her 20s. I was raised Protestant and considered leaving the church in my late thirties. The reason I did not leave, however, was because of my children. Now there are other reasons why I stay, but the first three reasons were my sons, who I knew needed God even though I felt hurt by his people.

Here are Mitchell's claims:

God is a bad parent and role model
God is not logical
God is not fair
God does not protect the innocent
God is not present
God does not teach children to be good
God teaches narcissism

Let me first start by saying that I think Mitchell's accusations are not aimed at who the Bible says God is. She may not think so, but I believe her accusations justifiably demonstrate how the church has portrayed God over the years.

I will also address her claims in a series of blog posts because these answers require explanation.

God is a bad parent and role model.

Mitchell says, If God is our father, then he is not a good parent. Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. Good people don’t stand by and watch horrible acts committed against innocent men, women and children. They don’t condone violence and abuse. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them.

In scripture God is portrayed as a father. We see this depicted in the Lord's Prayer, the story of the Prodigal Son, in which the father lovingly welcomes back to the family a son who spent his inheritance and basically told his father that he would think him better off dead. This portrayal of God is used in both the Old and New Testaments, although in pre-Christian literature, the reference is rare.  In his article Fatherhood of God,  Robert H. Stein claims that there are 15 references to God as Father  in the Old Testament compared to more than 200 times in the New Testament - 165 by Jesus alone.

This is important because there are more than 100 metaphors for God in the Bible. God our Father is only one. Stein writes: When God is referred as a father, this is simply the use of a metaphor in which he is likened to a kind and loving father. Elsewhere God's love and care can be compared to that of a concerned and caring mother ( Isa 49:14-16 ; Luke 13:34 ). Yet to avoid the metaphor of father as a description and designation for God is to lose sight of the fact that Jesus chose this as his metaphor to address God and that he taught this as the metaphor by which his disciples should address God."

A portrayal of God as anything but a loving Father is false as far as the Bible is concerned. Unfortunately, his children, or people who call themselves God's children, are another concern. Here is what I think needs to be addressed based on Ms. Mitchell's claims:

We are not all God's children

Mitchell's claim that good parents don't allow their children to hurt others is true. However, not everyone is a child of God. If I am a good parent, I will step in and guide my child, but it will be difficult to step in and guide someone else's child unless I have permission to do so. God is like that too. He's not going to step in and guide someone if that person does not want him to. This is a component of that 'free will,' as well as the acceptance of God's grace. Unfortunately, this is where free will can go wrong because some choose to exercise it in a harmful way. If God stepped in and stopped all things negative there would be no such thing as free will. We would all be puppets.

God is often misrepresented

Photo from GoogleBooks
I'm not sure how to fully answer Mitchell's claim that parents don't condone violence and abuse in relation to God. Of course for human parents, advocating gratuitous violence and abuse is wrong. I do advocate self-defense through violent means, if necessary. In our house, the boys know that we support them defending themselves or someone else, but they will be in big trouble if they start a fight. That's the rule. I don't believe that God condones violence and abuse either. Any abuse handed down in God's name, such as the oppression of women, slavery, beating up children, verbally abusing others, etc., is misrepresenting God. In Scripture, God is said to be love itself. If this is so, how could God condone violence? Images from some Old Testament stories are troubling. The good news is that I've picked up a new book called The Violence of Scripture: Overcoming the Old Testament's Troubling Legacy by Eric A. Seibert. I'm reading it right now and as soon as I'm done, I hope to be able to address this issue.

Things are going on behind the scenes

Habakkuk, a Russian icon, Wikipedia
 My former Bible professor Dr. Ruben Welsch said, "When it looks like God isn't doing something, God is doing something." It's true. There have been times in my life when it seemed like God refused to answer my prayers and then all of a sudden, he did. I had to learn that God is often working behind the scenes answering our prayers, but there are often delays such as working through the free will of others. Another interesting answer to this is found in the book of Habakkuk.

Habakkuk (my pastor just preached on this Saturday evening), was an Old Testament prophet living at a time in Israel's history when there was a lot of violence and injustice taking place. The prophet asked why God didn't stop the nonsense from continuing. God's answer to his prophet was that he was sending the Babylonians, a wicked and violent people, to take over Israel. Because of their stubborn sinfulness, the nation of Israel would have to experience destruction and exile before they learned. Sometimes as parents, when our children do wrong, we have to step in and punish our children in a way that will speak to them,  so that they will not repeat the offense. God does that with his children, but to say that he does it with people who are not necessarily his children is up for debate. Pat Robertson can say that Haiti had that terrible earthquake because of the sins of the Haitians, and Mike Huckabee can say that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings happened because Connecticut took prayer out of schools, but is that really correct?  We have to get to know God for ourselves and recognize that we do not have all of the answers, nor does God give us all of the answers.

By praying to God about his concerns, Habakkuk did the right thing. Was he mad at God? Yes, he probably was, but he took his concerns to the right place. That is what we should do with the questions that trouble us. We should not lose faith because of what someone says about God. We should ask God to say something about Godself ... and then try to understand the answer, when it comes.


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