Imagine for a moment a passionate, uninhibited couple making love. As their naked bodies writhe in unison, they reach a point of sexual release. And in that perfectly timed moment, both simultaneously have an orgasm. Nothing is better, at least to me, than such moments in life. My wife and I have been married for 45 years. We have made love a time or two. Okay, at least six times. 🙂 As any long-married couple will tell you, not every sexual encounter leads to skyrockets in flight, afternoon delight. Sometimes, the sex is just good or okay. But there are also times when the sex is magical, when it seems that everything is perfectly aligned, leading to the type of momentary experience I mentioned above.
As I was reading a comment on social media from an Evangelical talking about God’s “perfect” timing, I thought about how this notion is quite similar to a couple having mutual orgasms. Bruce, you have a “dirty” mind, some Evangelical is sure to say. Yep, I do. Now that we have THAT out of the way . . .
Most Evangelicals believe that their God not only created the universe, but also controls every aspect of their lives. Calvinists, in particular, preach up the sovereignty of God, believing that everything that happens — past, present, and future — is ordained and decreed by God (including orgasms).
Most Evangelicals believe that their God is involved in not only life’s big things, but also what is considered minutiae, the trivial things of life. According to Evangelical orthodoxy, the Triune God of the Protestant Bible is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. God is all-powerful, present everywhere, and knows everything. According to the Gospels, God cares for the fallen sparrow and knows the very number of hairs we have on our heads. He is a God of detail; a God who pays close attention to the small stuff. Years ago, I preached a sermon about the cliché, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I rejected this notion, telling congregants that God sweated the small stuff and so should they. Nice guilt inducing sermon, but I digress. A cursory reading of the Bible reveals that the Christian deity most certainly cares about our every behavior. The Bible story that illustrates this best is that of Uzzah and the Ark of Covenant. 2 Samuel 6:1-8 states:
Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day.
Uzzah, being a good Jew, saw the Ark shaking, and fearing the embodiment of God’s presence would fall, he put out his hand to steady it. How did God reward Uzzah for his quick save? He smote him — love the King James Bible! — and Uzzah died.
According to the Rational Christianity website:
The Ark of the Covenant was an embodiment of God’s presence with the Israelites. The atonement cover (or “mercy seat”) that covered the ark was God’s throne (2 Sam 6:2) and God’s presence was above it (Lev 16:2); it was also the place where God met Moses and gave him commands (Ex 25:22). If someone approached the ark, they would effectively be in God’s presence – a sinner standing before a holy God who does not tolerate evil (Ps 5:4-6) – and would die as a result of their sins. For this reason, God had given the Israelites many rules concerning the Ark of the Covenant. It was to be kept in the Most Holy Place in the temple, hidden from view by a curtain (Ex 26:33). Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and then only after he had undergone ceremonial cleansing, made sacrifices to atone for his sins and the nation’s sins, and burned incense to conceal the atonement cover (Lev 16). When the ark was moved, it was covered with at least 3 layers of cloth by the priests to protect others from seeing it (Num 4:5-6, 15, 18-20); the priests/Levites carried it and everyone else had to stay about a thousand yards away (Josh 3:4). These laws enforced the concept of God’s holiness: sinful people couldn’t be in his presence, not even the high priest.
Hence, when Uzzah touched the ark, he was profaning it and disobeying God; he should have grabbed the poles used for carrying the ark instead, for that was their purpose (Ex 25:14-15)
God sure made his point, didn’t he?
Another Bible story that punctuates God’s attention to triviality is found in Acts 5:5-11:
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
Acts 4 details the story behind the aforementioned passage of Scripture. Recent Jewish converts were selling their lands and houses and giving the proceeds to the Apostles so they could buy a Lear jet. Verses 34 and 35 state:
Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
Married converts Ananias and Sapphira wanted to do their part, so they sold a parcel of land, planning to donate the money to the Apostles. Being good Independent Baptists, however, Ananias and Sapphira decided to short God a few bucks so they could take a vacation to Rome. Somehow, the Apostle Peter, who just weeks before denied knowing Jesus, found out about Ananias’ and Sapphira’s greed and exposed their subterfuge. Once exposed, God rained judgment down upon their heads, killing them both. As a pastor, I said on more than one occasion that if God still killed Christians today for lying as Ananias and Sapphira did, churches would be empty. One little lie, and God struck both of them dead. Damn, Jesus, your Father sure has a temper!
It’s clear from Holy Writ that the Evangelical God cares about everything Christians do. Thus, it is not surprising that Evangelicals believe that Jesus sits in Heaven hearing their prayers, making sure that their requests align with his will. And at the exact moment a prayer lines up with the perfect will of God, the request is granted, leading the recipient to praise God’s “perfect” timing.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Evangelicals believe that these verses teach that there is a time (and purpose) for everything. Evangelicals are known for divining what happens in their lives as God’s “perfect” timing. Meet a man at Starbucks you later marry? God’s “perfect” timing. Find a red Ford Fiesta at a price you can afford? God’s “perfect” timing. Need a house to rent and find one that’s just the right price? God’s “perfect” timing. Receive a call from a church wanting you to be their next pastor? God’s “perfect” timing. Leaving a church to pastor another church? God’s “perfect” timing. Having sex with your secretary in your study? God’s “perfect” timing. Okay, I am kidding about the last one. That aside, Evangelicals believe that whatever unfolds in their lives is according to some sort of divine clock God uses to determine what will and won’t happen in their lives.
Bruce, this is nonsense! Yes, it is, but this doesn’t change the fact that most Evangelicals view God as the controller of their lives (as do many Catholics, Muslims, and other religious people). In the real world, there’s no master string-puller. Luck, and not divine decree, often facilitates many of the events in our lives. Back in my college days, I believed the Evangelical God brought my wife and me together. After all, I had planned to enroll at Prairie Bible Institute in Canada, but at the last minute God — also known as a lack of money — “led” me to register for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I planned to have fun dating as many girls as I could, eventually settling on one to marry when I was a junior or a senior. God, however, had other plans for me — a beautiful, dark-haired seventeen-year-old preacher’s daughter. I dated one girl for a couple of weeks, but then I decided to ask Polly out on a date. Talk about God playing matchmaker! Six months later, I asked Polly to marry me, and in July we will celebrate forty-five years of marriage. God’s will? God’s timing? Pfft! Luck, just plain luck, and raging hormones. Two years before meeting Polly, I was wildly in love with a college girl I met while attending a Baptist church in Sierra Vista, Arizona. We talked about marriage, and for six months we had one hell of a torrid relationship — within the boundaries of no-sex-before-marriage Christianity — barely. And then, POOF! our relationship was over and I moved back to Ohio. Years later, I would conclude that had this girl and I married, one of us would have ended up in prison for murdering the other. Both of us had similar personalities: outgoing and temperamental. Was our failed relationship God’s “perfect” timing for our lives? Of course not. We were lucky that we dodged a bullet.
As I look back over my life, I can see luck playing out time and time again. Not always, of course. Sometimes, I can see that things happened because of decisions I made or decisions that were made by others. Who is absent in this survey of my life, however, is the Christian God.
The next time you are having an awesome roll in sheets with your lover, I hope when you achieve mutual orgasm, you will be reminded of God’s “perfect” timing. 🙂 Or at the very least, how lucky you are to have had such a wonderful experience.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
Connect with me on social media:
You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.
Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.
Total nonsense, that a god controls everything. What about the unexplainable stuff? Is that supposed to be their god making bad things happen to us? I long ago concluded that prayer wouldn’t change anything even if, but especially if, there is an omniscient and omnipotent god. Because events are supposed to happen that way.
I kept this aphorism from Neil Carter who blogged at Patheos Non-religious, because I was like this. He wrote: “The mature christian eventually learns to wait and see where the arrow lands, then they draw a target around that spot, calling God faithful and his word true.” That was fundy-me exactly. Unanswered prayer was unthinkable, so I had to find ways to rationalise why a (non-existent) god was so hard to reach, to persuade to get up off his backside and actually do something that I was fervently requesting..
It does make me sad when Christians going through hard times atrllre not only struggling regarding the hard times but also struggle with their understanding of their deity and how/why it let the bad things happen. I am happy not to have to deal with that aspect anymore. While it can be comforting to think of an omnimax God in control of your life, it can be terrifying when you have to “let go and let god” when you aren’t privy to said plans.
Bruce–Some years ago, I read “Serpentine,” a book about the fraudster/thief/serial killer Charles Sobhraj.. Sometimes he would drug or poison his victims before “helping” them to recover. It sounds an awful lot like the “will” of the God you describe. Very often (I’m speaking now in Christian terms) he leads people into poverty, misery and despair to lead them out. And when things improve, Christians praise that God but don’t castigate him for putting them through hardships.
Some years ago, I read “Serpentine,” a book about the thief/fraudster/serial killer Charles Sobhraj. Sometimes he would drug or poison his victims. They would get sick without realizing how. Then Sobhraj would come and “help” them. They would be grateful and he could have his way with them.
That M.O. sounds an awful lot like the way “God is in control.” When people go through something terrible and come out the other side, they praise God for bringing them there but don’t castigate him for putting them through trials and tribulations.
I used to stand up in church and praise God for all the good things he orchestrated in my life. Things like my marriage, my kids, my jobs and so on. His timing was spot on and I was happy to give him credit.
Even some of the bad things, which turned out okay, were laid at God’s feet. I prayed for God to help me deal with a job I hated and I promptly was laid off. I quickly found another job I enjoyed, doing what I was good at, so hurray for God.
Coincidence could also account for all of these. I lived in proximity to the girl I dated and later married, we were young, we had the same friends, we worked together. Sex was pretty effective at producing our kids. Most of my jobs came through networking and/or lucky timing (want an IT job in the mid/late ’90s? Take your pick).
The bad things started to get worse though, and it got harder to praise God for them. Why did we have to loose so many babies to get the children that survived. It was very hard to see God’s perfect timing, his perfect plan while my wife was contorted in the agony of miscarriages. He wouldn’t explain it when I asked but I tried to believe that God was in control, even though that control manifested through the death of the children we were desperately trying to have.
It was harder still to praise God for his timing and his plan when my wife was afflicted with a degenerative, chronic illness at the same time our children were being born. He wouldn’t explain it when I asked. When my eldest child became deathly ill in high school, had to withdraw from in-person classes, go on a feeding tube and participate in dangerous experimental treatment, he never responded when I cried out.
But, but, but….. “God used you wife’s disability to draw you both together. God used the physician’s hands to heal your child, God will use these trials to grow you as a Christian and bring himself glory.”…. Baloney. My wife’s disability is a source of stress for both of us. It’s cost her precious time and experience with our kids. It pains me to helplessly watch her get progressively worse. It’s already stolen more than 15 years of the life we planned and replaced it with a life we didn’t want. My child, and their medical team, worked very hard, at risk, to overcome the illness. It took the better part of year. I expected “The Great Physician” to be able to do better (isn’t that called faith). If God glories in this suffering, he is a cruel god.
I’ve prayed a lot over the decades. I thanked God for the good stuff, though he never spoke back to me. I thanked God when the bad stuff wasn’t all that bad. I asked God for forgiveness when the bad stuff was clearly my fault. I asked God for help when the bad stuff didn’t make sense, or was hard to bear. I prayed constantly, and God was silent. After a while, I prayed that God not even bother to heal my family, just give us comfort and peace, and God was silent. I prayed that God would just let me know he was there, and God was silent. I finally stopped praying. If God has a perfect time, that time hasn’t come yet. Unfortunately, I’m just a short-lived human, I waited for him as long as I could. I can’t wait any longer.