I mentioned in my last blog that while being available to impose ashes at the train station, some folks didn’t want ashes; they just wanted to chat. One such man asked me what the church was doing to get Millenials to attend church and if I understood all that social media stuff.
When I was on social media (Facebook) later that day, I saw a meme and I stopped and studied it for a while and pondered the question I was asked earlier. Memes, in general, are not great sources of theology and many of us post them just because they are cute or maybe witty. But I wonder if we are doing a disservice, not only to ourselves, but to those who might be on Facebook and interested in Christianity. What if your only introduction to the Christian faith was through Facebook memes?!?!
I am sharing a meme for us to consider. On the surface, it might seem fairly innocuous but I want you to really read what it says and think about it.
(Go ahead, read it and think about it.)
If you were a non-Christian considering Christianity as a way of life, what would you say if you saw such a meme? What does it say about God? And maybe even more importantly, what does it say about the Christian faith?
Here is what I thought about when I read the meme. The first line says I asked God, “Why are you taking me through troubled water?” The question is not, ‘God, are you with me when I am in trouble waters?’ Instead, it is questioning God as to why God is taking us through a difficult time.
I wonder why we blame God. Why do we need to believe that God would require us to go through troubled waters? Who wants to believe in a God that constantly tries to trick us or tempt us or test us? And frankly, if you are trying to learn about Christianity, how interested are you going to be in believing in such a petty God?
I have no interest in a God who “takes me” through troubled waters. I have no interest in a God who wants to trick me somehow. I have no interest in a God who must test my faith. My hunch is that when we find ourselves in trouble, we are looking for someone to blame for our predicament and because we don’t want to blame ourselves, we choose God and wrap our choice in poor theology. Thus I am in troubled waters NOT because of my own poor choices BUT because God decided to test me.
The second line: He replied, “Because your enemies can’t swim.” My response: in Matthew 5:43-44 NRSV, Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
I get it, the meme is trying to be funny; but what does it say about the Christian faith to a non-Christian? If you are someone who wants to learn more about Christianity, why would you want to be part of a religion that has a God who will kill other human beings? Yeah, I know the meme is referencing God’s drowning the Egyptians in the Red Sea which is essentially God killing the Israelite's enemies, but didn’t Jesus come to give us a new law, a new way of interacting with others? Isn't the point of Christianity to follow in the way of Jesus? To strive to live these words from Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
You might think that I am making too much out of a meme. I argue that if Christians had paid more attention to what we said and how we treated others in the past, the Churches in our country would be growing. Instead, people have either left or have no interest in attending/joining a church. And why would they if the best we can offer are memes with poor theology?
I attended seminary at Louisville (KY) Presbyterian Theological Seminary and have served churches in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. I have also worked for the national offices of the denomination in Louisville.