Why Would God?
Why Would God? by Ryan Pryor
“Why would God take away my husband?” a woman courageously asked a small group gathered on some couches in the back meeting area of a grocery store-turned-church. It had been several years since the accident, but she was still angry at God…if there was a God. She, like many Christians raised in U.S. churches, was taught a version of God who makes a hell of a lot of promises. If you don’t smoke or drink, then… If you serve your church, then… If you marry “the one,” then… You get the idea.
I didn’t realize how deeply rooted these theological expectations were embedded until I was recently flipping through a magazine that my Baptist grandmother dug out a box in her bedroom closet. It was a 1952 issue of The Baptist Student, which contained some cringe-worthy articles about dating, the pros of capitalism, and maybe most revealing, the dangers of liberal arts education turning good Baptists into Atheists. Is it any surprise now that a Pew Research poll showed nearly 60% of Republican and conservative-leaning independents view colleges as having a negative influence on America? Similarly, another 2017 Pew Research poll determined that 27% of U.S. adults consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.” There are many factors that have contributed to these events, but since U.S. churches don't ordinarily create space for dissension or doubt, we don't dare venture in the church doors with our honest questions.
As a pastor, I regularly hear stories that are filtered through a person’s expectations about God’s action/inaction in his or her life. Often times, there’s a parallel story of a former pastor or Christian leader attempting their best friend-of-Job impression. "God has a pla..." There’s been untold damage done in churches and Christian communities and it would be impossible and unhelpful to recount. But, the fact remains that question I’m asked most often is a version of “Why would God…?” This question is not going away, but people are when churches offer only cheap comfort or ghosting to our most vital concerns.
So why have our churches not allowed space for these questions to haunt us or even guide us? Why can church often feel like a funeral where everyone is refusing to be sad? We don't like to admit it because we all have to get up and go to work in the morning, but I'm just going to say it: Life is painful and we’re all experiencing losses. Yet, many churches continue to promise hope, joy, and love on the other side of the rainbow, or even worse, attempt to justify death, abuse, and violence from a crane machine God. For too long this version of Christianity has given awful answers to the "Why would God?" question. What these churches have failed to realize is that our doubts, questions, and sufferings contain the greatest potential for healing. I have experienced the grace that exists when an authentic community isn’t afraid to not give an answer but rather is committed to simply love. I am passionate about creating spaces for our doubts and questions to be embraced in the arms of community. As we all deconstruct previous versions of our faiths and journey through the struggles of our humanity, we can experience the gift of acceptance by realizing that the deconstructing journey is a beautiful thing in a community of grace.
“Why would God take away my husband?” The woman’s question lingered in the room with the hum of the air conditioner. Finally, another woman across from her looked up. “I don’t know. It’s awful. I’m so sorry.” she said. She then stood up, approached her, and knelt with an embrace. May our community discover to accept our doubts, questions, and concerns as the very moment of God's grace.