This is the time of year when Evangelicals spend significant amounts of time fawning and prostrating themselves before their God, thanking him for all that is good in their life. They go to great lengths to make themselves feel insignificant — little more than worms. I am nothing, you are everything, weeping Evangelicals say to their God. It’s all about you Jesus! For Evangelicals, life is all about God. He alone is worthy of praise, honor, and glory. Every bit of good that comes their way is due to Jesus. After all, the Bible says that without God Evangelicals can do nothing. The Bible also says that God gives Evangelicals the very breath they breathe and the ability to walk. Simply put, God is EVERYTHING!
The sum of Evangelical existence is to worship, praise, adore, and serve God. If they do so, their God promises to give them an eternal home in the sweet by and by after death. And what will they do in heaven for ten billion years? Why, they will worship, praise, adore, and serve their God. In other words, a narcissistic deity demands absolute fealty if Evangelicals hope to escape eternal torture in the flames of the Lake of Fire. Worship me or burn seems to be what the Evangelical God is saying. Is it any wonder that the majority of the human race rejects this God, and that the fastest growing American religious demographic is that of those who are atheists, agnostics, secularists, and those who are indifferent to organized religion. Who would want to serve a God who demands his servants give every waking moment to him. I know I don’t.
No one will argue the fact that Christians in general and Evangelicals in particular do many good things. The problem is that they are not allowed to accept praise from their fellow humans. How often have you thanked an Evangelical for doing good, only to have them say to you, give all the praise to Jesus! He is the only reason I can do anything good. Those of us raised in Evangelicalism know the drill. Someone says something nice to you, perhaps thanking you for helping them or giving something to them. Godly humility requires you to bow your head downward, staring at the floor while you tell them that it is Jesus they ought to be thanking, for he alone is the one doing good works through them. Is it any wonder that many Evangelicals have low self-esteem? How could it be otherwise. It should surprise no one that spending a lifetime being told that your life is nothing without Jesus and that — in and of yourself, you have no power to do good things — leads to Evangelicals thinking poorly of themselves. Sunday after Sunday, their pastors remind them that they should make much of Jesus, that life is all about him; that history is HIS-story. Remember the J-O-Y acronym? Jesus first, others second, yourself last. In many churches, the acronym goes something like this: Jesus first, others second, and you don’t matter.
Rarely do Evangelicals ponder the question of whether their thankfulness is misplaced. The Bible explicitly teaches that all praise and honor belong to God. As with many things the Bible says, Evangelicals accept this claim without further investigation. Why should anyone give praise and honor to the Evangelical God? What has he done for me, for you, for anyone? The fact is, if Evangelicals are willing to carefully examine their lives they will find out that their God hasn’t done jack-shit for them.
Several years ago, I decided to carefully examine all the prayers that I said God answered for me when I was an Evangelical pastor. I found that almost every answered prayer could be attributed to human intervention. I was left with a handful of “answered” prayers for which I could find no human connection. Now, this does not mean that God answered these prayers, it just means that I was unable to find who was behind answering my petition. I can think of several instances where I received money anonymously in the mail. Does this mean that God pulled some greenbacks out of his wallet, put them in an envelope, affixed a stamp, and mailed it to my home address? Of course not. A kind human did this, not God.
Look at all the hurt and heartache in the world today. Countless prayers are uttered to God by people starving, homeless, sick, or dying. Their prayers, for the most part, go unanswered. Sometimes their prayers are answered, not by God, but by kind, compassionate human beings. As our planet heaves and groans under the weight of an increasing population, global climate change, war, disease, and political unrest, where is God? Evangelicals are taught to never asked this question. God is on duty 24/7, Evangelical pastors tell congregants. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Yet, by any rational, reasonable estimation, God has indeed done just that. David said in Psalm 37:25: I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. Is this statement true? Of course not. Everywhere one looks, they see Evangelicals and unbelievers alike forsaken and begging for food. Should we not in Waldo-like fashion ask, where is God?
I am a firm believer in giving credit to whom credit is due. I don’t give credit to a deity because I see no evidence for a God of any sort being involved in our day-to-day lives. On Thursday most of us will celebrate Thanksgiving. Duty-bound Evangelicals will spend time going around the table thanking God for all that he is done. And when everyone is done giving Jesus all the praise, honor, and glory, everyone will bow their heads in prayer as someone thanks God for the food. No one will bother to consider exactly what God did to provide the food they are about to eat. It will be assumed that God did everything.
On Thursday, we will open up our home to twenty-three people — our children, grandchildren, and their significant others. While some of them are religious, none of them is Evangelical. So when it comes time to say thanks, the grateful utterances will go to those who prepared and cooked our meal. Most of that praise will go to my wife Polly. Tomorrow, she and our daughters and daughters-in-law will spend the day making pies. Our daughter Laura will devote Wednesday evening to making dinner rolls. Several of our sons will do the only baking they know how to do — writing a check to help pay for the meal. Polly will get up early on Thursday and put the turkey, ham, and pork roast in the oven. She will have, the night before, brined the turkey, thus making it moist and tender. As our sons arrive, several of them will be asked to get out the folding tables and chairs and put them in the kitchen. One of them will lengthen the dining room table so as many people as possible can sit there. Older grandchildren will wonder if this will be the year they get to sit at the big table. Someone will place the burgundy tablecloth on the table, and then set it with Mamaw Shope’s china. Wineglasses will be removed from the hutch and placed near each plate, as will silverware and linen napkins. Polly will go to the bedroom closet and retrieve several candleholders and candles and place them on the table. She will then light the candles. Now it is time for the meat to be cut and put on serving plates. Polly will likely ask one of our sons to do this. While the meat is being cut, several bottles of wine will be uncorked and taken to the table. Once the meat is carved, the mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, corn, sweet potatoes, and rolls will be put in serving bowls and placed on the table. Salt and pepper shakers will be put on each end of the table, along with butter and gravy. And then, finally, the words everyone wants to hear will be said, time to eat!
From start to finish the work that went into Thanksgiving dinner was provided, not by an invisible deity, but by real flesh-and-blood human beings. If I am going to praise anyone for the wonderful meal I will eat on Thanksgiving day, it will be my wife and those who helped her cook the food and desserts. If I wanted to extend my thankfulness further, I would thank my wife’s employer for giving her a job and thank the undocumented workers for harvesting much of the food that we will consume. Everywhere I look, I see, not the hand or foot prints of God, but the hands of a woman who loves to cook and enjoys blessing her children and grandchildren with her culinary skills.
Evangelical readers of this post will likely remind me that none of this would’ve been possible without God. They make such a statement based on the presupposition that their version of God is the one who gives us all things. They assume, without evidence, that God is behind everything. As a nonbeliever, I make no such assumption. I believe what I can see with my own eyes, and what I will see on Thanksgiving Day is a wonderful family pulling together to make the day memorable. It is to them and them alone that I say thanks. And most of all, it is to Polly that I will say thanks. For without her we would all be eating Thanksgiving dinner at the Golden Corral.