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Does the Christian God Really Care About Me?

where is god

One of the reasons given by atheists/agnostics for leaving Christianity is the belief that the Christian God doesn’t give a shit about those who devote their lives to following Jesus Christ. No matter how much time is expended in worship and service, God never says, thanks, good job, or I have your back. Why should he? According to Evangelical theology, Jesus, the sinless son of God, came to earth to atone for humankind’s sin. He suffered horrific brutality at the hands of the Romans. He was then, like a common thief, nailed to the cross. According to the Bible, Jesus was beaten to such a degree that it was hard to tell that he was a man. After hours of suffering, Jesus died. All of this was on behalf of sinners (or the elect, if you are a Calvinist).  Knowing all that Jesus suffered, Christians should be satisfied with knowing their sins are forgiven and a home in Heaven awaits them when they die. The least the Christian can do is, in slave-like manner, devote themselves, without bitching and complaining, to the Kingdom of God on Earth. In other words, shut up, stop complaining, and be thankful for what Jesus has given you. Just remember, God owes you nothing.

Recently, Dieudonne Tamfu wrote a post titled Suffering is Our Story for The Desiring God website. In the opening paragraphs, Tamfu writes:

Suffering tends to produce loneliness. We feel lonely, isolated, sealed off, and detached from others. It is common for us to believe that no one understands our pain.

We can be deceived into thinking that God is distant and uncaring. While I do not wish to invalidate these emotions, I do want to extinguish the lie that the sufferer is ever alone. We are never alone in suffering because in it we join other saints in the pattern of righteous suffering that has been going on from the inception of salvation history.

Are you or other believers around you facing rejection for your faith? Do you feel lonely in your suffering? Does it seem that God is distant and has detached himself from your pain? Do you feel disappointment, bewilderment, or dismay? Are you sitting in darkness, searching for answers and grasping for hope?

Tamfu readily admits that there are times when God seems distant. There are those times when God seems uncaring, content to leave the Christian sitting alone in the dark, weeping. The good news, according to Tamfu, is that there are other Christians facing similar circumstances. Yea! You aren’t the only follower of Jesus who is writhing in pain as cancer robs you of your life!  Are you suffering? Are you alone? Do you feel abandoned? Do you feel like an orphan without a coat, left in a back alley to die on a cold winter’s night? Good news! There are millions of Christians going through similar circumstances. God has abandoned them just as he has abandoned you.

When Christians go through dark trials and adversity, those who are not currently being ignored by God are called on to cheer up those who find themselves under the boot heel of God. They are encouraged to take matters to the Lord in prayer. Seek and trust the Lord, Evangelical preachers tell the downtrodden. What is that God is trying to accomplish in your life? Remember, no matter what happens, God means it for your good. He promises to never, ever leave or forsake us. 

Those under physical, emotional, or economic assault are urged to submit to the “loving” hand of God. Perhaps God is teaching you a lesson, Evangelical preachers tell the afflicted. Or maybe he is testing you or punishing you for disobedience. Regardless, God only wants what is best for Christians. His goal is to make them more like Jesus and to prepare them for the peace and bliss that awaits on the other side of the grace. If God made life easy for Christians, preachers say, we would never appreciate Heaven and all that Jesus did for us on the cross.

Yet, despite all the flowery platitudes and blame-shifting, some Christians come to the conclusion that the reason God seems so distant is because he doesn’t exist. When help came in times of suffering, it was always their fellow humans who helped them. When prayers went unanswered, phone calls were always picked up. When bank accounts were empty and the cupboards were bare, it was family and friends who lent a helping hand. As these former Christians survey their lives, they conclude that wherever God might be, he is not on earth. At best, he is a deadbeat father who cares not for those who love and adore him. At worst, he is a cruel hoax, little more than a promise that is never fulfilled.

The reasons I left the Christian faith are many, but one of them is that I came to the conclusion that God is not intimately involved in the lives of those who devotedly serve and worship him, despite his promises. Over the course of 50 years in the Christian church, I had many so-called God experiences. After I deconverted, I went back through my life and gave a reckoning  of the times I thought God was blessing me, answering my prayer, or meeting my needs. A careful accounting of these events led me to conclude that the only God (s) in my life had a flesh and blood body. Human instrumentation, and not the mighty wonder-working power of God, was the reason my prayers were answered and my needs were met.

While there were certainly a handful of unexplained — dare I say miraculous — events, these moments in time were not enough to lead me to the conclusion that God is who and what Christians claim he is. While coming to this judgment is certainly not sufficient evidence to deny the existence of God, it is enough for me to conclude that the notion of a loving, caring, hands-on God who is intimately and minutely involved in the lives of those who worship Jesus is a myth.

I am unwilling to swear allegiance to a God who cares no more for me than does my cat. My cat demands constant attention, no matter what may be going on in my life. Yet, if I found myself crying out for help, I know for certain that my cat would waddle up to my leg, rub up against it, and with a voice I have heard countless times before, would say, feed me. This is how I view the Christian God.

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8 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Geoff

    Interesting comment about ‘unexplained’, possibly ‘miraculous’ events in life.

    The believer will latch on to that and say ‘there, I told you so’, and try to argue that miracles are real. The trouble is, everyone has a different definition of what constitutes a miracle. Some use it loosely as describing anything unusual; the car that was out of control and just missed you as were walking on the pavement (sidewalk) becomes a miracle. Even philosophers are coming to define miracle as something improbable. My take is that it is something that is, according to our everyday take on the world, impossible. People travel to Lourdes to have their illnesses cured and there are reports daily of individuals being ‘miraculously’ healed. Redundant wheelchairs and crutches are left daily, but there has never yet been a report of a spontaneously re-grown limb (a very few do claim this, but all have been revealed as fraudulent). Winning the lottery when you are down to your last bean may be a miracle for the individual who holds the winning ticket, but is actually just a matter of statistics. Indeed, what would truly be remarkable is if nobody won the lottery for an extended period of time. Or a world in which there was never a coincidence would be evidence of an invisible, guiding hand.

    The same considerations apply with the paranormal. There are many instances of things one can’t immediately explain, but this is a matter that is hi-jacked to use as evidence of whatever it is being argued, be it spiritualism, ghost hunting, levitation or homeopathy. Just because something can’t immediately be explained doesn’t render supernatural causes automatically applicable, be they religious or whatever. Newspapers are guilty at encouraging these illogical types of thinking with misleading headlines, implying no natural explanation is possible. For example, the child with ‘incurable’ cancer who goes to church and comes home well again.

    Most of us, as we get older, or for lots of other reasons that are simply the luck of the draw, will at some time or other wish there was a miracle remedy. The best we’ll ever get is what mankind has laboured long and hard for in the form of medicines, and just very occasionally the body will spontaneously improve for no obvious reason; bodies do that occasionally without divine intervention.

  2. Avatar
    another ami

    Very interesting post Bruce. I am among that number who counts miracles” as one of the main reasons for my continued faith. There have been several that I feel do lend themselves to other possible (albeit improbable) explanations but one seems to defy the everyday physics we can all witness, and mirrors the loaves and fishes story of the Bible.
    Three of us were camped in Colorado, the week after Labor Day; me, my then-husband and another guy called “Mel”, who said he was a fugitive facing federal marijuana charges. “Mel” was moving further up into the mountains and we were giong to head home to Indiana after taking Mel to get food and supplies before we left since “Mel” had no vehicle. Moving a camp, even just for one person is hard work and everything had to be carried uphill. It didn’t take long before we were all sincerely hungry. Combining resources yielded 1 rather large baking potato, one carrot, one good-sized onion, 3 strips of bacon and 2 slices of salami, which I proceeded to turn into a breakfast skillet-type meal. The problem was that the skillet was less than half full and there would be two hungry men eating plus me, so yes, I prayed there would be enough. I put the lid on and gathered my share for the last trip up to the new campsite. When we returned and I opened the lid, food spilled out of the pan. We all ate our fill and actually had enough left we could have fed one more. I’ve been frying potatoes for over 40 years and that is the only time they ever grew instead of shrinking by about half. It’s been 38 years but if anyone has an explanation for this, outside of a miracle, I’d really love to hear it because it actually bugs my rational mind that I can’t figure this one out. My chemistry prof at university said it was impossible and I had to be leaving something out of it or simply lying, but I promise that’s the whole story and it’s absolutely true.

    • Avatar
      Geoff

      Like everybody I have no explanation for what happened. Perhaps someone was nearby and sneaked more into the pan whilst you were away from it? Have you seen those amazing TV conJurors, such as Dynamo? Nobody’s able to explain how some of those tricks are performed, but they aren’t supernatural.

      Whatever, think about the alternatives. If it was god doing it then why? Or maybe leprechauns playing a trick. It seems so unlikely that even an omnipotent creator would help you out with breakfast, whilst ignoring the pleas of the poor lady described by Randy, that it is best dismissed. Well that’s my take anyhow.

      • Avatar
        another ami

        I have no answer for that murder (only 50 miles away) or the fucked up nature of our world in general. It’s something I often struggle with, especially in light of that seemingly miraculous breakfast. Frankly, pisses me right off and it’s something I’m expecting answers for in “Heaven”, as heretical as that may be by fundie standards. I am less certain of the nature of God now than I was 40 years ago. I think the Bible may easily get as much or more wrong than it does right. Mankind was still rather primitive back then.
        I also can’t deny my own experience which is that there’s Something that is “Other” than myself and it’s not human. It’s more powerful/advanced and, at times, (though NOT without fail) It has given me comfort and aid. Hell, for all I know. it may well be leprechauns or telepathic aliens from outer space or another dimension. I may even just be batshit crazy, even though my old therapist said otherwise when asked. I would never know the difference. But I often sense that Presence that I cannot see or explain. There is something within me that yearns for that Other and I seek It. I’m willing to abandon old beliefs if they prove false, challenge my understanding of the Divine, and embrace the uncertainty of it all along the way. While I hope and believe that there is something beyond death, I know I may be wrong. It’s the journey that matters anyway, not the destination and spirituality/religion/faith is only one small part of it. I admit it’s totally a sophomoric cop-out, but I’ll figure the rest of it out when I get there.

        *This still-too-long post was deleted, edited for length and re-posted.

        • Avatar
          Brian

          I have no idea why the frying pan was full when it was expected to be half-empty, another ami, but I can suggest a few things which will, in the end make no ultimate difference. One, has to do with the glass half-empty or half full idea. Another has to do with bacon shrinking and filling everything with its fat: One does not need much to feel full-up. But, finally, I have no response worthy of your feeling that something unexplained happened because something unexplained happened.
          Surrounded by nature where I live in the mountains of BC, I am daily forced to replace my socks as they are knocked-off and blown away by glory and wonder. I cannot explain the indwellings of feelings, the rushes of focus, the magic of place. This is a Presence, as you call it and it has nothing to with Wally Woo-woo or Pope Greg or Sister Mary any more than that they too pad around on this earth with me, or have at least at one time padded around. I feel somewhat the same about Jesus and about Pablo Neruda and countless others. I say somewhat because there are always caveats. The Divine is doo-doo, the unexplainable wonder of it, the layers and layers that simply do not begin or end in Science. All the glorious shit! No matter how far in we go in in in looking at a leaf, there is a distance yet to travel. The same goes for ‘out’. If I use the word spirituality, I am referring to the real world magic of breathing in an out, of being-there in the now and seeing the bus arrive. Annie Dillard talks, in her wildly wonderful early book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, of coming upon a tree on fire. In her words, she shares a capturing of the world as it is and she does it in such a fashion that the whole world is burning down in huge wonder and mystery. Why on earth I would impose a murderous old fuck like God on a perfectly given moment, freely given, is beyond me. As soon as Dillard’s burning tree is co-opted by GOD or woo-woo lah-lah, a human insult occurs. The world is full of people who hold up their Black Books and insult one another with something they term, ultimate love. That is my take on it.
          I want to live until I die. It is a lot to ask.
          (As i was driving through the mountains on a job yesterday, the only decent radio station I could hear was a Christian one and the songs, one after the other, basically repeated the wailing praise: Ohhhh Jeeeeezus my wonderful, ohhh Jesus my Lord. I sang along with them because hymn-singing was my first music in life and I have an affinity to d(r)ive into feelings while driving alone. While I sang the lyrics, I applied the adoration to the world instead of the God I do not believe in. I gave the glory to rocks and hills and hawks hunting over the fields as I drove.
          Life is so much more than a pocketful of miracles. As you say, my friend, “It’s the journey that matters anyway…”)

  3. Avatar
    Randy

    One story from last year has really rocked me. It’s the murder of Amanda Blackburn in November of last year. She was a pastor’s wife and was pregnant. In a home invasion she was shot in the head and died, along with her unborn child. I have a real struggle with this. The Calvinist would say this was God’s will and had a purpose to glorify God in some way which is a horrific idea. The non-Calvinist might even say something similar or that her death was the symptom of living in a sin sick world. None of these answers are satisfactory to me. Here we have a husband and wife that are serving God, and when the chips were down he did not have their backs when a trio of thugs invaded their home. The only possible explanation for an omniscient God is he sat back and watched this happen. My question is why? I don’t get it and I don’t have a good answer for it. I have not abandoned my faith, but things like this cause me to ask deep questions. That makes other Christians uncomfortable. I feel terrible for Amanda Blackburn’s husband because I am sure he prayed with and for his wife on a regular basis and this still happened.

  4. Avatar
    Radina

    This is what is very curious to me, and you may have adredssed this elsewhere, what about the people that you led to Christ? If you were never a Christian does that mean they aren’t either? I mean I can see them saying that about some like me as I never was that influential in the church. And by the way, I’m happy to accept that I never was a Christian it really makes no difference to me, if I wasn’t then I’m pretty sure no one else is either. However it would seem they have a problem using this argument with you. As a minister you would have actively led people to the lord in your ministry, baptized people, and other minister duties. What about your old flock? If they were saved by a false Christian aren’t they all false Christians?

    • Avatar
      Brian

      Hi Radina, I suspect that God-magic fixes all that confusion so that because I was saved, the imperfect preacher who saved me just filled in the blanks but God did the deed. If God, then God! Yippee!

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