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Compulsive Divine Dummy-Sucking

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Some time ago I was in a hall listening to a number of people sharing their experiences of what they believed to be Divine action in their lives. In some cases it was intriguing, even inspirational, but in others rather disturbing. One woman, young, intelligent, and extremely articulate, stepped up to the lectern and shared how God had helped her buy a saddle for her daughter, who loved to ride horses.

This woman lived on a farm and had to travel to the city in order to get the saddle. She described how God provided a map of the city for her through a friend; how God had directed her through the traffic, even enabling the traffic lights to change at the appropriate moment; how through Divine intervention she had been provided with a parking space and someone to guard her vehicle. She also spoke of how, on entering the shop, God had led her directly to the very saddle her daughter wanted.

The more she went on, the more absurd it got. Her perception and interpretation of this event was void of all recognition of her own ability to reason things out, although ironically that’s precisely what she was doing. This robotic-like description of Divine action in her life was deeply disturbing, and annoying.

I’m convinced that thinking people, whether Christian or not, experience this sort of thing as an affront to human freedom and rationality. Sadly, it characterizes much of what is called Christian today.

Contrary to how religious people often think, is there not a healthy God-intended space between the Divine and human for the sake of growth? This constructive Divine space, however we define it, is absolutely necessary.

A religious consciousness which persists in calling for obsessive Divine intervention, protection, and guidance is poverty-stricken and immature.

Obsession with the miraculous is another example of this. It’s simply a way of seeking to avoid the hard work of spiritual maturation, which can only come by facing and dealing with the harsh realities of life.

The more intervening the Divine is seen to be, the more it simply becomes an extension of our needs, whims, and fancies. It becomes god created in our own image, shaped by our own neurosis. It’s the god the great 13th-century mystic, Meister Eckhart, spoke about in a prayer he often prayed: “O’ God, rid me of god.”

Christianity has to rediscover this creative space. Failing to do so will keep its followers in a perpetual state of religious naiveté, where even the simple act of buying a saddle for your child is performed with compulsive Divine dummy-sucking.

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About Don Scrooby

  • Don

    Thanks for your comment Tom. Creative space for me is an essential element in all relationship. It’s that space which allows us to grow through times of joy as well as turmoil without always wanting to intervene. I remember teaching my two sons how to swim. Inevitably, with both of them there came the time for me to let them go, to give them the space to swim without me always holding onto them. That’s the kind of space I’m speaking about. I think our relationship to the Divine is too often seen in an automated way – the Lord told me to do this, the Lord told me to do that, etc., it’s immature without the necessary space for initiative allowing us thus to grow up. Hope that helps, Tom

  • Don,

    Like you I am troubled by stories of how people sometimes go overboard with their faith. Sadly, because of spiritual immaturity, lack of basic biblical knowledge, and because of false converts situations like this are all too common.

    With that said I have a question about one point in your article. What exactly do you mean by the “creative space” that Christians need to rediscover? I don’t remember ever hearing anyone refer to this “creative space” before and since it is a central point in your article I would like to better understand what you mean.

  • Don Scrooby

    Thanks Glen. A real sober description of your faith. As you say far different from what I described which is the kind of Christian spirituality I really struggle with.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Don –

    I am a strong Christian – but I well understand the kind of people to which you refer. The thing is, we are warned in Scripture that satan can perform wonders that are meant to deceive. We are also warned that we are foolish if we look for signs. We certainly beware of those who say, “God told me to run for [insert political office here]!”

    That is why, in the Church of which I am a member, we do not look for signs and the ministers do not claim that such-and-such events are a heaven-sent miracle. What we do instead is pray for guidance – we do our best to do what we believe is right in God’s sight, and if we succeed, then it was His will. If we don’t succeed, then it wasn’t His will.

    There will always be those such as you describe, who go overboard in their belief without ever paying real attention to what the Bible (or whatever writings they hold to be holy)…just as there are those who are loath to believe that there’s Someone Up There who would actually deign to pay attention to us.