Tag Archives: idolatry

Is God a thinker?

When my eyes open each morning its like my brain hears a starters pistol fire. My mind is off to the races.

At times throughout a given day I will find myself stalled, like this slow computer I work on, frozen, eyes staring out at some sort of nothing and my mind does its work without me noticing for a moment a too. I feel in those times how fast my mind races beyond me.

I have often been criticized for “thinking” too much. Yet I often let it fall away, convinced my thinking is part of the best of me.

So it’s little wonder that the most difficult and most necessary part of my spiritual discipline is to slow my mind down and simply try to not think. Mediation is hard, really hard. Yet the more I think the more I realize I need to think less to think better and be better.

For some reason one of my greatest strengths as a person, my ability to think critically and thoroughly about all that which interests me, is a powerful obstacle to my relationship with the Divine.

So as I continue to sift through the detritus of my recent spiritual slump, I return to one of the fundamental parts of who I am. If I am made in God’s image, it seems fair to ask, is a God a thinker too?

On hand it sounds absurd. Of course God’s a thinker right? It’s the one trait more than any other that makes us fully and uniquely human, crafted in God’s image. He had to think all this up in the first place, right?

But on the other… what the hell does God have to think about anyway? She already knows all the answers, right? Wouldn’t thinking for God be sort of like doing the same crossword puzzle over and over and over and never getting a new one?

My identity is fiercely tied to my thinking. So it serves to reason that my ego is also closely tied to the power of my mind. Where the ego goes, I have learned to be wary.

So I have to pause, reset and think some more. Have I made an idol of my brain in a way that blocks God off from my heart?

God is fiercely jealous. Idolatry seems to be the central focus of scriptural laws in the Old Testament. When Saul tries to “out think” God, Samuel calls it witchcraft and forever removes God’s anointing. Jesus seems comfortable with prostitutes, boozers, course talking men, and swindlers, but he has nothing but harsh words for the religious “thinkers” of his day.

So what do I do with these thoughts? Why, of course, I think some more. I think about how I’ve seen truly intelligent, brilliant, wonderful people bereft of the human connection and ability to connect heart-to-heart with another person. I’ve seen dedicated followers of God who have so little love for others. I’ve seen people blessed with beautiful minds have nothing but scorn and elitism for others less fortunate.

Never one to let a good thought lie idle, I think so more. Like Tevye I say, “on the other hand…” I’ve seen far too many believers with their heads checked at the door. All that happy clappy Christianity lacks what Alan Jones in Soul Making called spiritual maturity. And it’s often not harmless. I’ve spoken to too many religiously intolerant who unthinking barf up Bible verses as excuses for abuse, hate, racism, excess and any number of things I think to be wrong.

Clearly God has some thoughts about all of that right? And round my thoughts go, both a sprint and marathon, a restless always of thought that makes me tired just thinking about it.

I often ask The Bride what she’s thinking. She’ll say, “nothing.” I call bullshit. “You can’t think nothing,” I’ll say. She’ll smile and say, “you can’t think nothing, but I do it just fine.”

See when I set out to write this post I set a goal of 400 words. It’s far longer now… typical…

 

Perhaps, just perhaps, I’ve been thinking about this all wrong for a long, long time. For example: go back to St. Paul, one of the truly great thinkers of the Christian faith, who ironically doesn’t list thinking as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). In the great Romans crescendo of Chapters 12 and 13, Paul doesn’t hail his mind, but : “love, joy and peace… and the greatest of these is love.”  The great song of love that follows comes from a most unlikely source, a zealous celibate with vastly limited appreciation of women.

Old Testament prophets usually use emotional metaphors for God’s love, like that of a lover, mother, shepherd and passionate protector. Rarely is our relationship with God defined by how we think about God.

In short, that which makes me most Godlike is also that which so often keeps me from God.

In someways its simple: Too often my relationship with God is in my head while his heart goes untouched by mine for far too long. I become the old adage of the farmer who tells his wife, “I said I loved you when I married you. If I change my mind, I’ll let you know.”

Too often I become the loveless, passion-less, heat-less lover of God who thinks of Her often but embraces her never.

Have you ever been in love? Have you experienced the all-consuming enrapture of that falling off a cliff love for someone? Does it last? Not often, but do we want it to? Always.

And I think God wants it too as well. I think the other side of this life will be a place where love endures with all its thrilling, all-consuming intensity. I know there will be plenty of time for my brain to do its best work in heaven too, but as I pursue the idea of Jesus prayer here “on Earth as it is in heaven,” I realize that this slump is not one I can think my way out of.

Is God a sports fan? A question for a spiritual slump

I’m in a spiritual slump.

Like a hitter than can’t get good wood on the ball, or the San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick against the Seattle Seahawks, I am not living up to my full purpose lately. So I’ve tried to spend some time with God sorting it out. But true to my slump, my energy and focus during those times isn’t sharp at all, certainly not enough to reconnect me to the God who inspires most everything I try to do these days.

That discordant reality brought me around to a basic primer I often employ in my ongoing 11th step process of Daily Moral Inventory taking. I often ask myself how do I spend my time? How do I spend my money? Both reflect my priorities better than my hopes, talk, and wishful thinking of well-intended beliefs. They are true tests of my spiritual condition.

Which brings me full circle to the opening question: is God a sports a fan? Because I spend a lot of time lately watching sports. I spent some money lately on sports, like San Francisco Giants playoff tickets and a World Series Giants sweatshirts and a big spread for the Oregon Ducks thrashing of Stanford.

Despite it being Thanksgiving with my family and a really beautifully simple day, I found my mood turn plenty sour watching the 49ers beating by the defending Super Bowl Champs. It all feels a bit out of balance.

I am not one of those sports fans. You know, the crazy eye-black wearing fans, the dropping numerous C-Notes on the latest gear fans, the watch a full slate of games Saturday and Sunday and watch two hours of ESPN fans. I don’t “live and die” with “my” team. But the current 49er offense sure can ruin any given Sunday.

During the season I watch the Giants most nights, but the Bride and I do that together while doing other tasks. Our whole family loves baseball. I rarely feel guilty about my lifelong love of the beautiful game because it binds us all together.

We are also a family of Ducks. Three generations have ties to the University of Oregon. My loyalties to the Green and Yellow (back when they still wore their colors… before they became a weekly habashery of Nike fashion) go back prior to the Kenny Wheaton interception that turned the Ducks into a real college football team back in the 1990s.

It remains one of the top five favorite moments I’ve ever had in sports.

And of course the San Francisco 49ers, my longest standing loyalty to a team, dates back to when I was a kid and watched a fellow Catholic become the team’s new quarterback in 1980. Joe Montana remains my favorite player of all time and The Bride’s favorite player, so much so she chose to name our youngest after him even though she’s a girl.

So while I may not one of those fans, I’m still pretty invested in sports. It still takes a decent amount of my time, and a chunk of my money and assumes a priority in my life that could very well be outweighed with other things if in fact, God is not a sports fan. 

Even as an athlete I mocked the idea of praying for victory. I roll my eyes at the gyrations players go through to cross themselves and point to the sky and even pray after games, all in an attempt to bring God into the arena of sport that seems … well… weird, if you consider it for very long.

It’s hard to see God giving a rats ass about the 49ers injuries and ridiculous front office sniping. I see Her rolling her eyes at me as I pout following the 49ers loss on Thanksgiving.

The easy answer of course is hell no, God is not a sports fan. Consider that about the only thing God gets really, really pissed at in the Bible is idolatry, then look at the idol worship, egoism, gross extravagance and insular narcissism of professional sports and even thinking there is a chance that God is a sports fan seems ludicrous.

But…

But…

But, I think God may well be a sports fan. I could make a list the length of the the Book of Isaiah on the good sports does and the values it instilled in me. But it’s easier to recall that impressive speech in Chariots of Fire, when the humble servant of God who would become a missionary and die in China after devoting his whole life to God says, “But when I run, I feel His pleasure…” and I get all chocked up and know God is a sports fan.

If Eric Liddell could compare faith to running in a race, much like St. Paul himself did, then its not hard to believe God can be a sports fan.  I remember back when I was a young athlete and young believer and heard this comparison. I felt inspired both as an athlete and a follower of God.

I could use some of that inspiration these days. Perhaps God’s not a sports fan. Perhaps She is. Perhaps it doesn’t matter and like many things I obsess about it has little to do with my spiritual slump. Perhaps. But I know that by taking the time to consider what God thinks and what God wants and what God prefers for both my time and money, I get closer to breaking out of the slump than if I go on without a care.

Is God a sports fan? I dunno. But what matters is that I care about it one way or another.

So what do you say? Is God a sports fan?