The God of Unbelievers #2: Absence

(If you’re interested, here’s part 1)

I arrived from work and entered my house, saw a few lights on and assumed my roommates were at home. I enter my room, change clothes, go to the kitchen prep something to eat, go downstairs get my laundry done, come back to the kitchen, and realize that everything is a bit too quiet. I call their names, nobody answers. I am, after all, alone.

Next day, I come home and all is dark, I don’t hear a sound, so I turn on my music and sit down to relax for a bit. I cook something, wear something comfortable, all is so good.

Hey man!

The musical silence inside my head is broken; I am not alone.

Light and darkness, presence and absence. My experience at home is but a shade of the dance that is life with(out) God.

Sometimes the world is bright, specially inside church, inside home. There is a positive light over everything, there are hymns and gospel songs and everyone tells you “God bless you!“. God’s love is reaffirmed over and over through song and preaching and all possible repetition. We drill down over and over again what is the gospel (usually we really mean Pauline Substitutionary Atonement) and our protestant theology of faith alone, we weave the doctrines of Grace into every conversation, and it makes us feel so sure that God is there. All is so bright, and we have so much purpose.

But sometimes, sometimes, amidst all the music and noise, we feel alone. If we are brave, we might even question “what in the world are we doing?“.

Most often, however, the world is dark. So dark that we do everything in our power to avoid thinking about it. We try to muffle it with all our noise and screens and busy-ness, but the facts remain: This past century had the most genocides and bloodshed of all of human history: yes, our modern and civilized society, our very well educated, moral, advanced society, has shed blood and done carnage beyond what generations would ever conceive. We exceeded all barbarians, and with much more class too. We have systematic oppression of millions and billions of people for the profit of bankers and corporations, we have modern slavery, sexual slavery, biological weapons, medical systems that would rather have you eat stuff that will make you sick so you buy pharmaceutics than have you live a healthy lifestyle… You can look up the details and the number of deaths in conflicts in Eastern Europe, Middle East, South America, Africa, so often in the name of God, but mostly in the name of Power and Money. Today, yesterday. In the past ten years. Think about North Korea. Think about first world countries drowning their own population in debt and selling the American dream for people who will finish their education and never work in their fields. Think about all the food and energy and things that first world countries’ people waste, over and over again, things for which many would give everything to have. Think about all the churches that affirm these values every Sunday. Think about all the stupid things people do because they believe stupid things about God or themselves. Think about the scars in your own heart. Think about those you have hurt. Think about all those who do not care. Think about how you, yourself, don’t want to care anymore.

All is dark. All is meaningless.

Yet “He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him“. In the darkness, strangely, you find Him. I cannot really explain this, language fails. But if you know Him, you know what I mean.

I understand the human delusion with God. Sometimes I think that I understand God’s delusion with humankind, too. To me, any theology or religious talk that does not take these two seriously should not ever be allowed outside their ivory towers. Too much harm has already been done by heartless religion.

What is amazing is that in this mutual delusion, in this mutual absence and removal, in this enmity and bitterness, there is presence. In Love, God refuses to let go of Man. In repentance, Man turns to God. In forgiveness, we are found.

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