What to make of this?
What word describes the kind of deep-seated confusion you smell when reading something like this?
It’s hard to pin down, because it seems like an empowering, uplifting message of how weirdness is bringing together people in their love of God. But really, cut the shit. What kind of God is this? It’s certainly a Lutheran God, as Bolz-Weber has her theology right. It’s the God offering grace regardless of action, regardless of who you are, a non-judgmental God with no answers. This is what she says, no argument. It’s not supposed to be an actionable faith.
Come on, ask the obvious question: what’s the point?
You might say the point is in the belief itself, but if the belief creates no consequence, then why does it matter if they believe? Bolz-Weber assaults “spirituality” as a cheap form of self-help; bless her, she’s right. But then, what’s the big deal about God? If it isn’t to make people feel good about themselves, help them cope with reality – a la “spirituality” – then why does it matter if you believe? Why does this come off as such an alien piece to the religious fabric, while grabbing so many people who can’t see themselves as the kind of people who are religious? Why pull in the freaks and geeks
Let me just go ahead and tell you what religion is as a matter of my opinion:
In the past, religion legitimized the hierarchies and social demands of society through various types of divine narrative and mandate. In societies rife with stratification and forced discipline, where stupid people were perpetually confused and disoriented by their existence as subjects, religion offered an explanation meant to be grasped by anyone, and reinforced it through ritual that bound people together with the artistic identity of the culture they lived in.
Then, the idea left its moorings as monotheism took over, resulting in purposelessness as the paradoxes of faith failed the sniff test. What all-powerful entity would set up existence as a losing test or game for creatures he loves, knowing some will fail? This started around the Protestant Reformation.
Religious variety required selling the faith to people, and the non-judgmentalism came gradually, as near-militant Protestant faiths built on gratitude to God for their grace gave way to institutional competition, theologies built to draw in customers like streamers at a used car dealership. No expectations of rigor sells well with a consumerist people, and we live in a world now where religion is basically expected to be what people want it to be. This is how God becomes irrelevant, taken from an shared idea with meaning to a symbol of the biblical literalist’s desperation.
But it’s really beautiful, tho!
Ah, but beauty is a subjective matter, an element of personal recognition that comes with high practical value ex post facto. If it has no practical purpose, then it’s vestigial and a waste of resources. You might not think it’s totally pointless. It helps with issues of conscience and alienation. But at this point, religion is just barely easing the pain of the side effects it’s own ideas created. The conscience element is a direct result of living in a society still surrounded by ideas of sin. The alienation comes from living in a society which has found identity through shared ideas and faith, and then suddenly didn’t. If we know these ideas to be wrong, then why not just deal with it directly and kill them off?
We’re workin’ on it already!
The last facet of the faith with value? Specialness. This is the idea that people grasp when they realize how disposable they are. Imagining an intangible parent figure loves you is how modern Western freaks and geeks cope with the fact that not only do they not belong, but there’s no practical reason for anyone to care. In a world of 7 billion people, what’s one more? Well, the Big Guy cares about you! God now exists for the sake of your self-esteem.
Do we have a word for this?
Yes we do.
That word is pathetic.
Religion’s value is disciplinary. The idea that God is love was, and is, the fever dream of childish ideologues. No matter how hard you market the idea, it will never make sense that an all-powerful God loves you yet still allows you to not live in a state of perpetual bliss.