One of my professors enjoys saying, with emphasis and a smirk: "People make their gods."
"You make your gods up in your heads. You fashion them yourselves."
Would it help anything for me to disagree? I could never fashion God. He fashions me.
It's an African-American literature class, so the poetry and prose often touch on African heritage and tribal gods and so forth.
And so tribal masks and stick idols are talked about with reverence and a scholarly tone but with an air of above-ness. I don't quite know how to describe it. It's like someone talking above a guinea pig cage, praising the guinea pig habits and culture and their "guinea pig-ness," but obviously speaking as their superior. They are a study subject, a specimen, not an equal. She belittles their belief, in everything she doesn't say and in her frequent line.
And I find myself taking the side — the side of the tribes!
Her arrogant unbelief, her belief in herself, is staggering, and she pats herself on the back by, in no uncertain words, equating the son of God, Jesus Christ, with some crude sculptures.
(I am sorry if this turns into too much of a rant. I am called to love this professor and pray for her good, not to be sinfully angry with her!)
I respect the pagans for their belief, their wild longing. They knew that there is something more than the materials they saw, or they longed deeply for the "something else." They worshipped something outside of or beyond themselves.
Atheists, they worship at the altar of self.
I pity the pagans, for they worshipped what they did not know and yet what they created with their own hands. They bowed to dirt and dust, to nothing. But I hold a respect for them, for their wild longing and leap, for their acknowledgment that we are made to worship, for their dancing expression of longing and hope, for their search.
They are a million miles closer to the truth, to beauty, in their native ignorance of Christ, than this professor who looks upon the crucifixion with amusement.
If only she could let the possibility of truth pierce her hide, if only she could walk down from her intellectual pedestal, to worship at the baby's manger, at the humble, horrifying cross. I want more than anything, that her eyes may see and eyes may hear.
If only she could look on Jesus, not as a specimen, but as her Savior.
I pray for the day! In the meantime, she teaches me ever more about the startling beauty of humility and about the incredible limits of the intellect. Rationalization and education are a load of crap if they lead us up into the dungeons of pride.
The soul of the unbeliever, of the atheist, is more chained and poisoned and broken than that of any human slave who ever lived in the freedom of Christ.
We come upon a lot of hard questions in literature, some hard morsels that will knot your stomach. Like there's this slicing fact that the salvation of many people into God's kingdom (and out of paganism) came by the way of kidnapping and brutal slavery.
Many of the African-American poems talk about the cost, the high cost of knowing Jesus. Many Africans paid the great cost of slavery in finding Jesus. Was it worth it?
Not if you think Christianity is merely soul comfort. Not if you think it just provides structure and purpose. Not if you think it's just a constraining religion or just one of many ways to God.
Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And to those who believe, yes, He is worth everything, though His ways are beyond our understanding.
Christ is not a God for white people alone! What a joke. He came 'first for the Jew, and then for the Gentile.'
Jesus reaches out to every nation, to every pagan, every atheist. He reaches out a loving hand to all men, none excluded, asking them to feast around the fire, to know Him and forsake their sin.
A relationship with Jesus makes joy central, and suffering, no matter how great, peripheral, in this life. For we know the end of our stories (and their real beginnings) will be glorious and good: redeemed. This harsh world of our sight is not all there is.
Christ is the hope of all nations, a healing balm for the bitter cynic, and the fulfillment of longing for the pagan.
Through the tribal fire, through the haze of death and the burning horror, through the pains of great wickedness, our perfect God reaches out a hand to those who run from Him. He offers love, He offers His one and only Son, bearing our sin on a cross. No one could have made this up, this radical, forgiving love.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." — John 3:16