Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Faith Works 5-12

Faith Works 5-12-12

Jeff Gill


God is not busy



While the universe is a strange and wonderful and complex place, filled with the possibilities of string theory and Higgs bosons and dark matter, those of us in the "theist" camp are fairly certain that the Creator, or Divine Providence, or God (the list continues, but you know of Whom I speak) has a place in the grand plan.


Post-World-War-II theologians, with the rise of nuclear physics and complex chemistry, atom bombs and nylon stockings, warned us not to believe in a "God of the gaps." Their point, briefly stated and doubtless mangled, was that if religious folk accepted science as-is, and kept nudging God into the places that science couldn't explain, they'd find themselves soon backed into a corner.




Actually, over the years I've gotten pretty comfortable with a generalized "God of the gaps" understanding, because the further out and deeper in science goes, the bigger the gaps get. Plenty of room for God and divine activity in the universe even as described by Scientific American.


It is true, and I'm thinking about this as we see Denison commencement this weekend, and plenty of high school graduation parties as far as the calendar can see, that science and faith continue to live in an uneasy relationship. Faith is based on assertions, and science on data, or so the standard model says.


That's not quite right in either direction, because science takes facts, assembles theories, and tests them, based on a firm belief in the reliability of the universe not to play tricks on them from one experiment to the next (did you see what I did there? shame, shame…). And faith carries forward assertions that have been screened and sifted through history, and the development of holy tradition in what's often called "the teachings of the church." There's a different time scale, and clear variations on admissibility and authority to validate outcomes, but I sniff some similarities here.


What we do want to share and show our students, as they mature in their faith, whatever your church tradition, is that faith has nothing to fear from careful consideration. Faith is challenged by life itself, every day, starting with the morning traffic report and pounded at by our chronic inhumanity to one another. Science makes certain claims and offers particular challenges to how faith interprets life, and we don't do our young adults any favors if the first time they really wrestle with those realities is when they get to college.


It can be equally harmful to a developing mind to have always heard of God as a vaguely distracted, generally loving, but very busy (busy busy) being who is "out there," somewhere not in particular but with a mail drop marked "Heaven."


If I had one thing to share with college or high school graduates, as they face whatever their own particular "next" is in life, it would be this: God is not busy. We think of God as having so much to do, and so involved, that we unconsciously channel our cultural foible of confusing busyness with significance. We say to important people "oh, I know you must be so busy." Saying "I'm so busy" is often a passive-aggressive way to say "I'm so darn important." It actually may say "have you tried using a planning calendar?"


But an essential quality of God, I believe (rooted in the teachings of the church), is that God is NOT busy. God is active, and involved, and present, but not busy. Busy means not really listening. Busy means something more important is about to happen elsewhere. Busy means "too bad about you."


God is not busy. God is here. Now. And if God is not busy, then maybe we don't have to be to get something done. Sometimes we need to hurry, finite creatures that we are (who don't always plan the way we should), but we don't need to be busy, either.


With God, we just need to be.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he's got this thing about "I am who I am" stuck in his head. Tell him whether you think that's God, or Popeye, at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.