I’ve seen the pattern over and over again so many times that I’m thinking I could knit a sweater of atheism if only I had enough yarn.
It usually starts with a personal crisis of some sort or another.
The death of a child. The loss of a home. Financial disaster. The disappointment that comes from a marriage gone bad. A prodigal child. It could be anything big or seemingly small.
Whatever the initial spark, the course of events that follows seems fairly consistent from person to person.
First up: The Arrival of Job’s Friends.
Because the American Church is so enamored with this stupid theology about Jesus having a wonderful plan for our lives, many Christians do not know how to cope when misfortune strikes their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
For Americans, Jesus having a wonderful plan for our lives means health, wealth and prosperity. For us Americans, that is. Us extra-blessed Americans who Jesus loves best, of course.
Whether we personally belong to a church that openly espouses Prosperity Theology or not, this terrible heresy has infected American Christianity like a plague that just will not go away.
Worse, far worse, it is driving people to atheism in droves.
Here is how it works; here is how this theology creates an army of Job’s Friends.
If I’m invested in believing that Jesus has a wonderful plan for my life, and that the level of my stridency in my faith in Him is what is keeping the Boogeyman away, what conclusions can I draw when the Boogeyman visits you?
Obviously there is something wrong with you and your faith.
Because we know that Jesus has a wonderful plan for our lives, if bad things are happening to you, well then, it must be your own damn fault.
This sort of belief in Jesus–that belief in Him is what is both keeping bad things from happening and causing good to rain down on us–is really nothing more or less than idolatry.
Am I saying that belief in Jesus could be an idol?
Is that even possible?
Yeah. It is.
It is no different than any other sort of magical thinking. This thinking reduces Jesus to nothing more than a rabbit’s foot.
A belief in Jesus is not a talisman against misfortune and disaster. This magical thinking is, in fact, the exact opposite of what Jesus said about following him.
Jesus never said, “I’ve got a wonderful plan for you life.”
He said that, before choosing to follow him, a person should, “Count the cost.”
When disaster befalls our brother or sister in Christ*, this creates anxiety in us. And out of our own anxiety, we become shitheads to our suffering friends.
Because we need to believe that we have the talisman against evil, i.e., our belief in Jesus, we decide that their calamity must indicate some spiritual weakness or sin in them.
We need to believe that the bad that happened to them can’t happen to us because our faith is strong, right? We’ve ferreted out the sin from our lives, unlike them, right?
And even if we don’t openly say these things, or even realize that we think this way, we communicate this loud and clear.
That’s why, without fail, the very next mile-marker on the road to atheism, after the precipitating disaster, is the arrival of Job’s Friends. And those friends are us.
*Don’t even get me started on how we treat non-believers when disaster strikes them.