“I don’t worship that kind of God,” and other Genocidal Musings


“I don’t worship that kind of God.”

It’s a common statement thrown about nowadays for a variety of ethical reasons. Usually, it’s said by someone who is offended at an event in Scripture, or someone’s interpretation of it, and they simply can’t imagine the all-loving God they know condoning, or directly causing, harm to others in some truly visceral ways. It’s a great topic for reflection, study, and prayer. After all, we must openly confront that the Bible writes of God condoning genocide, eliminating entire cities, asking fathers to kill sons, and a flood that supposedly kills almost everyone just 7 chapters into the whole thing. It’s a difficult task that some Christians don’t wrestle with at all because either A. Ignorance is bliss, B. It’d be too difficult to reformulate their image of God from the one they learned in Sunday School or C. They don’t struggle with it because they don’t question whether God is good, or not.

I must admit that I fall into the 3rd category…but not as proudly as you might imagine. I don’t believe doubt is really that bad of a thing. Actually, I think it can really be a thing that sharpens, draws, and leads us towards a better understanding of who God is. The fact I never second guessed the ethical ramifications of a God who behaves as He reportedly does in the Bible has left me with a flat and narrow picture of who He is. The only reason I explore these questions now is only because others do. Without the other voices within evangelicalism questioning what kind of God we serve, I would never have thought to consider Him as deeply as I do, today.

But if I’m honest, I’ll still tell you that the goodness of God is not something I struggle with.

When I read about God ordering the genocide of the Canaanites, I’m really not that disturbed. This isn’t due to a callous, or surface, reading of the text, either.

My understanding is and has been this: “If God is, by His very nature, good, then everything He does is unquestionably good.” If you were to take the adjective “good” and replace it with whatever adjective you apply to Him, then what you’re left with is trying to discover what “good” is. In trying to understand what things like “good,” “just,” and “love” are, I hope to know Him more.

To claim to know those things (goodness, justice, and love) is a claim to know exactly who God is. Make no mistake: God has revealed Himself and continues to do so. But to those who say “I don’t want to worship that kind of God who…” I’m left with the impression that they worship someone who thinks and looks like them. I could be completely off, mind you. Telling the difference between someone who has fashioned a god in their image and those who have actually adopted the language of God isn’t exactly a speciality of mine.

What I hope for that, when Jesus returns, we’ll be able to recognize Him. I don’t want to be like the leaders who opposed Him because they had fashioned an image of God that didn’t line up with what they were seeing. I pray that for the Church, as well.


Gary Cass, Islamophoia, and the Need to Change


Have you ever had a moment of intense anger because someone, somewhere, said something really stupid and hateful? Only to track back and realize that you’re not all that different from them? Or, at the very least, were once like them?

I had that moment yesterday.

Gary Cass is a semi-known, politically active preacher in the United States. The list of issues he tackles range from abortion, traditional marriage, Christian education in schools, christian liberty, and ensuring christians are legally defended when they feel persecuted. In other words he’s a typical, evangelical, right winger with a heavy emphasis on Christendom.

(Christendom is the notion that Christian ideas; values; and even the religion itself, should be at the forefront of each state. It’s adherents believe that the separation of church and state is a farce and should work in tandem to bring Christ’s Kingdom, on Earth.)

My feelings about Cass are less than favorable to say the least. He’s “that” guy. You know…the one whose picture you hold up to 1 Corinthians 13:1 and say to yourself “Yep. He’s THAT guy.” To which he would reply with something like, “I am speaking the truth; and the truth is loving!” Causing my forehead to burn with the intensity of a thousand suns as I face palm eternally.

One of those moments happened yesterday when I read a post from Gary Cass featured on CharismaNews (since retracted). In it, he declared himself a proud Islamophobe. Calling upon the history of extremists abroad, he lists only three possible solutions: 1. Convert, 2. Deport, 3. or Kill. But according to Cass:

“The only thing that is biblical and that 1400 years of history has shown to work is overwhelming Christian just war and overwhelming self defense. Christian Generals Charles Martel in 732 and Jon Sobieski in 1672 defeated Islamic Turks and their attempts to take the West. Who will God raise up to save us this time? Will God even intervene or turn us over to the Muslims for turning against Him?”

He continues:

This is not irrational, but the loving thing we must do for our children and neighbors. First trust in God, then obtain a gun(s), learn to shoot, teach your kids the Christian doctrines of just war and self defense, create small cells of family and friends that you can rely on if some thing catastrophic happens and civil society suddenly melts down.

He’s wrong, of course, and for several reasons; but this post isn’t about Gary Cass. There will be lots of blogs written about the man and I’ve really nothing of value to add in that department. Rather, this is about turning his words back to those who obviously disagree with him:

What have we done, as Christians, to love Muslims?

Sometimes I wonder when the “us versus them” mentality will finally catch up with me. I’m so prone to shield myself from what I don’t understand; and I know I am not alone. The reason I know this is because my comfort, in relation to Muslims, isn’t that I trust God: it’s that I am surrounded by people who similarly do not trust, understand, or love Muslims.

But there are so many people I don’t understand…so many people I don’t love. How are we so different from the Gary Cass’ of the world? Of course few are as bombastic as he. Nor do many of us aspire to see Muslims forcefully converted at the barrel of a gun. But do we know the way forward with our Muslim neighbors? I’m not sure I do; especially as I sit here in the comfort of student housing of a seminary. What I do know is this: I must change. My heart must soften or it will find itself in a state all too similar to Gary Cass’.

What is Love (Jesus, don’t Hurt me)


Name an album, in English, that doesn’t use the word “love.”

I’ll wait.

For as often as we use the word, getting a proper definition for “love” is something of a challenge. More times than not, the answer will be something to the effect of, “love is…just like…love,” or, “love is an overwhelming feeling of…feelings.” This can be a problem for Christians since so much of the Bible (arguably all of it) is dedicated to that very concept.

The Christian definition of love typically centers on three principles:

  •  1 Corinthians 13 (love is patient, kind, etc.): In this sense, love is an attribute. To be patient, kind, good, faithful, etc., is a part of assuming the character of Christ. As we become more like Christ, we become more loving (more on this in point 3).
  •  Luv is a verb (classic 90’s nostalgia reference, Luke 10:27): Are you d-d-down with the DC Talk? I can’t speak for everyone, but they aren’t alone in the sentiment that love is action oriented.
  • Jesus is love (plenty of bumper stickers and coffee cups to remind you, just in case you forgot, 1 John 4:8): Love as a proper noun might be jarring to non-Christians, but people have been chanting this for years. In combination with the aforementioned 1 Corinthians 13, we begin to apply all the adjectives to God and look for the evidence of that love in His work.

Love as an adjective, verb, and noun are all Biblically founded, and will help us in our application. Yet, if you pay close attention, all we’ve really done is describe what love is without ever really defining it. The problem with that is we’ve never truly escaped the circular logic of “Jesus is love.”

Yes, he is the essence, author, and example of love; but without an actual, working definition of the word all we’re left with is a hollow image of the Triune God; one that isn’t knowable, or relatable. In defining love, our thoughts about God can profoundly impact the dynamic of our relationship with Him.

Before we do this, however, let me say that I don’t wish to abandon the descriptions of love I mentioned before. Those sentiments are useful reminders of how God is both imminent and transcendent. He reveals Himself in ways that allow us to know love and who He is; yet this also sets God apart from anything else we’ve ever known.

What I do not care for is God becoming subject to our conclusions and definitions. If we know God is love, then it is He who truly defines it by nature of His…well…nature. If the definition doesn’t fit with what we know of His character as revealed in the Bible than it is our definition that needs changed.

With this understanding in place, we can try to navigate a way to a scriptural, Christ-centered definition of love that is both affective and applicable.

Next time, though.

We’ll continue the conversation in the next blog. I hope you’ll join me on this journey of discovery.