Recently, a politician was giving a speech at a kind of Christian revival rally, an evangelical religious gathering that was ostensibly called together to pray for our country. Most participants in that gathering seemed to hail from a theological perspective that sees the challenges that our country faces, and some of the social changes that have happened or our currently under way, as signs that somehow we Americans have offended God, and are being punished. It is not a theological perspective I endorse in any way, but it is rather prevalent among certain types of Christians.
The politician in question, addressing this particular assembly, seemed to share their theological perspective, and apparently sought to give them hope amidst their angst about developments they dislike. Part of attempting to give that hope was, reportedly, an assurance that “our God wins.”
It’s an interesting turn of phrase. In the first place, it seeks to define an “in” group who has some special relationship with God that other people lack. The God this politician and others in this gathering believe has been offended is “our” God. That is, their God, who is known only to them, and from their point of view, given the state of the country, not known to those outside the group. It is an odd notion to me to think of God as “ours” or “mine”, given that the whole of the universe — everything that exists — is dependent upon this God. God is only “our God” in the sense that God is the God of everyone and everything that is. While some traditions experience God as having initiated a particular sort of relationship with the group that originated that tradition, the idea of that group having some particular ownership of God is not a theology that is easily sustained. Indeed, as the Jewish people experienced themselves as “chosen”, in the sense of being on the receiving end of a particularly shaped divine initiative, the Jewish community could ultimately not support the notion that this God was theirs, but rather was the God of all — as the Hebrew Bible makes abundantly clear.
The other interesting aspect of this phrase is the notion of winning. To say that “our God wins” implies that there is a loser. It implies that God is fighting against something — presumably those who don’t belong to the in group, those who are not included in this politician’s use of the term, “our God.” It is a typically dualistic way of thinking, that imagines a world in which their are always winners and losers, and is rooted in an ego that needs to be on the winning side. Such thinking ignores the upside down dynamic revealed in the mystery of Christ, who precisely “wins” by “losing”. When the New Testament speaks of the “victory” of Christ, it is quite consciously speaking of a victory that looks to the world like a defeat. And by turning defeat into victory and victory into defeat, Jesus acts out in his own life, death, and resurrection the truth that his teaching and parables point to: that in the kingdom of God, winning and losing are no longer categories of being. They become irrelevant in “the last shall be first, and the first, last” logic of the gospels — logic that is exemplified in the parable of the laborers, among others, in which everyone receives the same no matter how long they have worked. The outrageous generosity of God gives everyone the same gift, and in that way, eliminates the win/loss dynamic.
This coming week celebrates World Interfaith Harmony Week. It is a week that invites us to consider the value of each of the world’s religious traditions, and asks us to look not for the ways in which those traditions are different, but for the ways in which they are pointing to the same truth. One of those truths, to be sure, is the idea, variously expressed, that we are all children of the same God, all equally human, all outpourings of the same universe. There is no my God and your God, there is no group that is loved more than another. There is just humanity in its abundant variety, seeking to know ourselves as loved, that we might be enabled to love in a way that overcomes division and allows all of us to live in peace.