Last week, a friend and I were browsing through the Religion section of our favorite independent book store, and I sanctimoniously pulled out all the ones I recently read and loved. My friend graciously accepted all the books I piled into her arms, but stopped to point one out I actually hadn’t read before. It was one of those self-help-meets-devotional kinds of books that, admittedly, I tend to judge pretty harshly.
The cover showed a woman wearing a loose-flowing tunic over dark leggings with cute boots (how bad is it that I was tempted to purchase the book because I really liked that cover model’s outfit?) holding a bouquet of flowers, her eyes cast upward toward heaven. It was a book about dealing with rejection, something that has never not been relevant to my life. And yet…I had some doubts (but we both agreed to buy the book).
I thought, rather judgmentally, that I had already read this book – not this specific title, but its ‘type.’ The “successful Pinterest-loving Christian blogger/speaker with a great marriage and a bunch of kids who doubts God’s goodness because of her cellulite” type. The “toss a Bible verse on it and call it fixed” type.
As you can guess, I can’t stand that type. I’ve seen so many of that type posting what they sincerely believe are helpful Facebook posts reminding us all that “God is in control” even if Donald Trump is now our president. Thanks to Facebook’s “On This Day” feature, I’ve been privy to all the times I too wrote posts like these, completely unaware as to how anyone could possibly find them anything but comforting.
My eyes have been opened to a phenomenon I’m not sure what to call other than Privileged Theology. Let me explain.
Privileged Theology is well-intentioned, don’t get me wrong. But in dire circumstances, like when the new president appoints known neo-nazis as his advisors, it isn’t helpful. God is in control…but swastikas are being spray-painted on buildings. God is in control… but immigrant children are being told by school bullies that their parents will be deported. God is in control…but gay couples are fearing that their newly-minted marriages will be overturned.
God was, presumably, in control during the Holocaust, during the lynchings of the 60s, and during 9/11. I’m not, at this point, entirely clear on what God being “in control” actually looks like if it doesn’t prevent innocent people from profound suffering. That’s what people are afraid of, and that’s why this theology isn’t calming anybody down. God’s control may be evident in the bigger picture, but the days that make up the next four years will feel incredibly long, and this line will not help anyone.
It has been my experience that the people who tout this line – myself included – are people who are highly unlikely to be affected by any of the risks a Trump presidency poses on America. This line, from what I’ve observed, comes from the computers of comfortable white, upper middle class Christians as they sip their lattes and prepare for their next speaking gig, or women’s group, or MOPS meeting.
They mean well, no question about that. I have no doubt that they sincerely believe what they say, and it works to assuage their fears about the unknown.
But, to paraphrase another popular Christian blogger, Jen Hatmaker, if it isn’t true for a poor person or an immigrant or struggling single parent, then it isn’t true for anyone.
At this point, no one can make projections about what the next four years will look like. All the experts who analyze election trends for a living were completely wrong about Hillary having this one in the bag, so we really don’t know what to expect anymore. For many people, there will never be a time when faith is needed and depended upon as much as it is now.
But the very legitimate fears minorities feel at this moment will not be soothed by any Facebook post or Bible verse. They will be comforted by the church stepping up and acting like a church, caring for the marginalized in its midst. They will be comforted by the Christians going where I believe Jesus would go: into the gutter with the poverty-stricken and the grieving.
Like this post? Check out Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic, now available on Amazon.