But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
Not to intervene when it came to you. (Nick Cave)
A recent video that's circulating social networks shows a rowdy charismatic worship service that supposedly ended with a 'supernatural' display of divine power: the appearance of a swirling cloud of gold dust that ended with people apparently walking away 'covered' in specks of gold. I am fairly certain the video was shot at a church with which I am very familiar, due to my own background in charismatic/pentecostal circles.
I did see people's lives turned around in the church - and these are the best kinds of miracles: drug addicts overcoming their addictions, marriages restored, former gang members getting off the streets. I saw Christ-like generosity and service in action. Sometimes, even amongst evangelicals, I saw Christians who genuinely cared about the poor and sought to go beyond charity. They saw the injustice in the global economic system and actively opposed such systemic evils for the sake of the oppressed. This kind of justice-oriented Christianity always impressed me because it actually sounded like Jesus. On the other hand, supernatural-obsessed Christianity often disappointed: it promised so much and rarely amounted to anything more than spiritual masturbation - short-term thrills - and superstition.
|Criss Angel vs. the 'gold dust' God|
Furthermore, an interventionist God like such a supernatural event would probably require makes the problem of evil impossible to deal with. As a Christian, I believe in a God who acts in the world. I'm no deist. But with process theologians, I do not believe that God can do whatever God wants (incidentally, the biblical authors generally tend to agree with me). God works persuasively, not coercively in the world. If God ever intervened to "show off" God's power (as some who commented on this video disturbingly interpreted the stunt), God's love and goodness would be impossible to affirm. Such an all-loving and all-powerful God is totally unbelievable if one actually takes evil and suffering in the world seriously. Such a God would be arrogant, egotistical, selfish, cruel, and unjust.
|Jesus Christ Liberator|
Jesus calls his followers to be "covered in the dust of their rabbi" - an earthy dust, not gold dust. The Jesus worth following isn't a glitzy gold dust preacher, but a revolutionary rabbi on the side of the oppressed. He's also the incarnation of a rather surprising God - one who isn't a magician who has to compete with pop-culture magicians for our attention. S/he's a liberator who faithfully lures the world toward a better future and who suffers with all who suffer in the struggle of life.
"Only a suffering God can help us." (Bonhoeffer)