Trayvon Martin, Creation Ex Nihilo, Rachel Held Evans, & a Violent God: Why the Short Story is a Violent One

It has been quite a contentious week for God on the internet! Here is a quick snapshot:

  • This week the parents of Trayvon Martin rejected the apology from George Zimmerman. According to CBS News:

The parents of Trayvon Martin say they have a hard time accepting George Zimmerman’s nationally televised apology.
Last night, in his first interview since killing the unarmed 17-year-old, the former neighborhood watch volunteer said the shooting death must have been part of “God’s plan” and that he prays for the Martin family daily.
“I simply really don’t know what God George Zimmerman is worshipping because there’s no way that the God that I serve had in his plans for George Zimmerman to murder my son,” Tracy Martin, the teen’s dad told CBS News.

What God is George Zimmerman talking about? It is a fair question.

  • This week Rachel Held Evans duked it out with the Gospel Coalition.

Two guys, Jared Wilson and Doug Wilson, said some nearly unbelievable things about sex within the complementarian theology that women complement men (or is it compliment?)  vs. the view that they are equal to men. Rachel takes them on:

The two have insisted that they advocate mutuality in the bedroom, and yet, according to Doug, “the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party,” but instead “a man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants” while a woman “receives, surrenders, accepts.”  What does he mean by that? What’s wrong with an “egalitarian pleasure party”? (Sounds like fun to me!)
In other words:  How is complementarian sex supposed to be different than egalitarian sex? Does preserving male authority mean that a man must always initiate sex? Does it mean that the missionary position is the only acceptable one for Christians? Is it too “egalitarian” for both a man and woman to be pleasured? Does “submission” mean that a woman must perform sex acts she doesn’t like in order to please her husband?

What is an eggalitarian pleasure party? Why can’t that be honoring to God?

There seems to be a recurring problem that is inherent to the traditional view – it is tough to get around the fact that the short story is a violent one.
What I call the “Short Story” goes like this: A short time ago (say 10,000 years) God created the world in a short period of time (6 days) and He (always ‘he’) will come back shortly (any day now) and set things right.

The short story comes from an elementary reading of both the first book and last book of the Bible that is unaware of the two different genres they were written in. It is a violent reading because (in English) it makes it look like God does what ever God wants – or shall we say – whatever God wills. God acts both unilaterally and coercively to bring about what God desires.
As one of my favorite thinkers explains

“We now know that our world, rather than being created in six days, was created in something like 16 billion years.  This quantitative difference is so great that is suggests a qualitative difference in the nature of God’s creative activity.  The idea that God spent some 16 billion years creating our world suggests that God’s creative power must be persuasive, not coercive, power.  This is the natural inference, that is, if we continue to think of the world as God’s creation.  …

Rather than a return to a premodern or early modern view: We can understand God’s activity at the beginning of our universe as of the same type as God’s activity in history. No supernatural origin must be assumed. We still have, however, the question of God’s activity at the end.  Can God as consummator be understood in the same terms?  Classical theologians certainly did not think so. For example, a book entitled Armageddon says: The second coming of Jesus Christ to earth will be no quiet manger scene. . . . Cities will literally collapse, islands sink, and mountains disappear.  Huge hailstones, each weighing a hundred pounds, will fall from heaven, the rulers and their armies who resist Christ’s return will be killed in a mass carnage. No more Mister Nice Guy!

According to this theology, in other words, God’s past mode of activity in Jesus would not suffice to bring about the eventual victory of divine over demonic power.  God would have to resort to a degree of violence that would outdo the violence of the forces of evil.  The revelation of God’s love in Jesus was not, accordingly, a revelation of the divine modus operandi: The true nature of divine power, which is supernatural, has been, for the most part, held in reserve, and will be fully manifested only at the end.”

This is not a consistent God. God acts unilaterally in the beginning, has violent periods in the Old Testament – even while being loving, is mostly super nice in Jesus, and then turns mean again at the end- which allows it to end abruptly and violently. The God of the short story is a violent and inconsistently inconsistent god.
This what we were going after on the most recent TNT. That god is a false god and an idol. It must be repented of and renounced.
I will add something here that I did not say there: people who hold that view of God are most nice people who always hold in reserve the possibility and potential right to be violent in order to bring about the will of God. It is how their God acts and they might need to imitate ‘him’ in order to bring about ‘his’ will.

  • It explains how George Zimmerman’s actions could have been a part of ‘God’s plan’.
  • It explains how the guys at the Gospel Coalition could say that “a man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants” while a woman “receives, surrenders, accepts.”
  • It explains how people can say that while what happened to the American Indians was ‘unfortunate’ it may have been ‘for the best’ or ‘necessary’.
  • It explains how Jesus flipping over tables at church translates into carrying concealed firearms and using drones to drop bombs.

People who object always use the same 3 defenses:

  1. (S)words – Jesus told his disciples to buy swords and said that he came to bring a sword – but those are all misunderstandings we dealt with here. 
  2. Tables & Whips - snapping a whip and turning over tables isn’t the same as packing heat or using drones to bomb enemy combatants. We dealt with that here. 
  3. Spiritual Warfare - it is of no value if we deal with personal piety and the spiritual realm but skip the systems, structures  and institutions that comprise the ‘Powers the Be’ as Walter Wink called them.

Here is the simple fact: Neither Jesus’ sayings about swords, his flipping over tables or Paul’s allusions to the spiritual realm justify this permission toward violence. It is not OK to justify aggression toward minorities, women, or other religions. Our God is not behind it and does not support it. Quote all the Bible verses you want but this is not the real and living God. It is an idol and a graven image.
We need to repent of this line of reasoning and own up to the fact that we have created a God in our own image who loves all the things we love and supports all the things that benefit us.

 – Bo Sanders 

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