Don't Believe It Either

Harry Emerson Fosdick was an American pastor. He was a central figure in the Modernist-Fundamentalist controversy of the 1920-30's. He was a very popular preacher on human issues, The Riverside Church in New York was built and endowed so that he might have a pulpit that was free from the power of the fundamental leaders of his denomination.

Fosdick dealt with a number of modern issues. The story is told that one afternoon a angry middle age man came into Dr. Fosdick's office declaring forcefully that he did not believe in God. Dr. Fosdick did not react very much and he calmly asked the man to describe the kind of God that he did not believe in. The man took a moment to think and then described the God he did not believe in. After the man finished Dr. Fosdick replied, well, that is a relief because I don't believe in that God either.

After forty years in ministry, forty years of reading the Scriptures, after 40 years of making my way through the Bible completely every year, after 40 years of preaching, and wrestling with the issues of faith and doubt, the current events in our society make me want to have a long discussion with the Christian evangelical, conservative preachers and ask them the same question differently. Tell me about the character and personality of the God you believe in.

Tell me about the God you worship whom you believe wants America to be greater than other nations. Tell me about the God you seem to worship that believes that military might and the necessity of gun ownership is important for disciples. Describe to me the aspects of the God you worship that encourages your members to want to exclude from this nation people from other countries. What have you found in your God that suggests that he has changed his mind when he told his people to be good to the stranger in their midst because his chosen people had been strangers and immigrants in Egypt.

What is there in the God you preach that permits you to treat half of his creation as second class citizens? When the early church began it found a way to attract people to it because of the way it loved and shared their lives. The plurality of gods and worship, the Roman gods and goddesses, the Greek gods and goddesses, the Emperor claiming to be god, and yet the early church did not try to outlaw or ban all those other religions. That only happened when the Church got into politics.

I would like to hear the description of the God they believe in, because from where I sit, I would have to say with Fosdick, I don't believe in that God at all. If that is the God whom they claim exists, then I would have to side with the agnostics or atheists. That is not a God that is very attractive, not very big and not very historical relevant if he focus is simple on America. There is strong evidence that the kind of God the conservative evangelical preachers and churches worship is the same kind of God the Lutheran churches in Germany preached during the rise of Hitler. That description of God makes living without a God look like a real blessing.

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