Six months ago, my wife and some friends tried out a local church. They went once, it wasn’t for them, and they decided not to go again. Last week we got a letter from them asking to donate money toward their building project.
I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that when my wife filled out one of their communication cards, her info somehow got slurped into a database somewhere, and they had no idea they were sending this letter to someone who had only visited once.
I’m going to go even further and say that it must be really hard to be a church (or, for that matter, any kind of non-profit/charitable organization). You HAVE to ask people for money in order to survive. There’s no way around it. That has to be difficult. People don’t like being asked for money.
In fact, I’m not really writing this post to complain about churches that ask for money. It was the phrasing of the letter that got me.
I’m not going to reproduce it here, because it was pretty long, and if you’ve hung around evangelical churches long enough, you probably know why I’m annoyed.
They played the God card.
The letter says that God wants them to build this building. The leadership of the church is absolutely positive on this. And they want the members of the church to “seek God” and see how he wants them to help. Also, it says that if you’re not already tithing to your local church, you really should, because that’s the minimum that God expects.
I wonder what would happen if one of their members approached the leadership of this church and said, “Hey, I sought God on this, and he’s totally cool with me not giving anything to your building project. Also, he says that tithing is more of an Old Testament thing, so I’m not doing that either”.
I’ve played the God card too. In my experience, that’s a common thing in evangelical/Baptist circles. People generally don’t do it to be manipulative (at least I didn’t), and I’m not saying this church is trying to be manipulative either. When you really think God is speaking to you, what other card would you play? The “I’ve got a hunch” card is notoriously ineffective and can easily be countered by the “Whatever.” card.
But it is manipulative. If you play the God card, you are stifling discussion. If you disagree with someone who is playing the God card, you are calling their spirituality into question. This is a serious charge.
Why can’t evangelicals every just say, “Hey, I think this is a good idea.”? I mean it’s not as if God appears to people in a puff of smoke and says “DO THIS”. Most people who claim to “hear God’s voice” wouldn’t say that he’s using actual words. And even if God actually is telling you to do something, what proof do we have that you’re not just a filthy liar? The only person who can hear what God is supposedly telling you is...you.
That should not be read as an accusation against the church who sent us the letter. I don’t know the pastors of that church, so I won’t comment on their sincerity.
Now, I’m not usually one to use the Bible to support my arguments. But since this church claims to use the Bible as their guide, how about we take a page from the story of Gideon? In Judges 6, Gideon is approached by an angel - an ACTUAL ANGEL - who tells him, “Yo Gideon, go kill a bunch of my enemies”.
Gideon doesn’t do as he is instructed until he sees not one, not two, but THREE miracles. First the angel uses his staff to set fire to some meat. Then Gideon puts out a fleece and asks God for there to be dew on the fleece but none on the ground the next morning. Then he asks for the opposite the next day (dew on the ground, not on the fleect).
Ok, as miracles go, they’re not great. I would have asked for a bionic arm or super strength or something. And some might say that Gideon needed three miracles because his faith was weak.
I think Gideon needed three miracles because he was a smart, smart guy. Not that I’m saying this story actually happened, but evangelicals do (in general), so I’m taking a page from their book (literally).
So here’s my challenge to everyone who says that God has spoken to you: show me a miracle. I’m not even asking for three. Show me one. And don’t tell me that God has “removed obstacles”, evangelical code for “Hey, we were having a problem getting this project done, but then it went away. God must be on our side!”
The letter included this as well. They were able to buy a building for less than it’s appraised value, so clearly this was a sign from God. Right, because no atheist has ever been able to do that.
I’m talking about a real miracle, witnessed by yours truly, that can’t be explained any other way. And don’t hand me a wet fleece and expect me to be impressed either. I’m a twenty first century guy, I expect a bit more.
God did it for Gideon. He did it for Thomas. Can he do it for me?
Personally I doubt it. But we’ll see.