“Sometimes I Wonder Which Side God is On.”

The title of this post is from “The Longest Day,” a 1962 movie about D-Day from the points of view of the American army and the German army. During the movie each commander on each side says, “Sometimes I wonder whose side God is on.” Back in 1962, this was a lightbulb-flash moment for me. Everyone thinks God is on their side, even the “bad guys.” I was thirteen.

The lectionary readings for the UCC on July 28 brought this up, once again, in 2019. The first reading was from Hosea, and is one that many of us would rather skip over because God is vengeful, cruel, and misogynist. The second reading is from Luke and Jesus describes God as a father who would care for you no matter what. Reading them together is spiritual whiplash.

Our nation, and Christianity is experiencing a fissure. The U.S. has had fissures since the beginning. Now the fissure is wider because it is now so simplistic. Evil is defined by which political party you belong to, which church you go to. In skimming Biblical commentaries I found a “RedState.something” site. Its headline: Jesus was NOT a Refugee or an Immigrant.  A Huff Post column was headed: Guess What: Jesus was a Refugee. Do these people all read the same New Testament?

Which of God’s sides am I on?

Thanksgiving dinners are no longer long heated debates about issues; they are very short: Who did you vote for? Trump or Hillary? Who is a true Christian? Jerry Falwell or Desmond Tutu. Everything after that is a shouting match.

The motto of the United Church of Christ is “God is still talking.” In which case, the Bible is still being written. What will we write? What stories will we hand down? Which images of God will we bring forth?

How will our nation, our Christianity, ever reconcile and heal? Which teachings of our faith will aid in the healing? [By that I do not mean everyone agrees on everything.] Or do we want our side to “win?” 

Miroslav Volf in his book “Exclusion and Embrace” says he was asked about cetniks, the Serbian guerrilla force who was responsible for atrocities in his native country. Someone asked if he could embrace one of these fighters.

He answered, “Can I embrace a četnik—the ultimate other, so to speak, the evil other? What would justify the embrace? Where would I draw the strength for it? What would it do to my identity as a human being and as a Croat? It took me a while to answer, though I immediately knew what I wanted to say. “No, I cannot—but as a follower of Christ I think I should be able to.” 

Him and me both.

God’s Opinion on Everything (for Dummies)


God has proved himself (herself) very clumsy and a bit vague on what his (her) opinions are, including whether he or she is he or she. On topics as varied as abortion, capitalism, the environment, child-rearing, Occupy Wall Street, women, yoga, apocalypse, same-sex anything, God sends confusing and contradictory rules and regulations.  What kind of God is that?

God (let’s go with “He”) tried to narrow things down with Ten Commandments, but that doesn’t seem to help much. What exactly does “covet” mean anyway? He probably thought “Thou shalt not kill” fairly straightforward. But translations (“kill”? or “murder”?) and a wealth of interpretations (i.e. “Just War Theories”) muddied the issue. I imagine Him banging His head on His desk.

Maybe the problem is the language He chose. What Christians call the Old Testament was written in Hebrew with a little Aramaic thrown in. Other than a few Yiddish phrases, I’m at the mercy of translators. “Oy vey” doesn’t appear often in Scripture.

Leviticus offers a wealth of mysterious commandments. “You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed.” So much for companion planting. Carrots are forbidden to lie with tomatoes. But Leviticus is too easy a target. Any book with instructions on exactly how a man should sell his daughter just isn’t going to hold any father’s respect. Except perhaps when she’s in her teens.

After God’s done banging His head on His desk, I imagine Him calling in His Leviticus scribe, “What the hell were you thinking? Who cares if a coat has two fabrics?” By then it was too late. Humans had already taken it as the word of the God – the God of mysterious ways.

I love that the slogan describing the UCC` faith comes from Gracie Allen: “Don’t put a period where God has put a comma.” Those of us struggling to hear God’s voice can take another cue from Gracie when she was channeling God:  “Try to understand me. Nothing is impossible.”

What I Learned about God after Being Hit by a Car

This week I attempted to write down what I’d learned about Life and God and Stuff from my brushes with death this past year. I wrote meaningful, deep thoughts. Reviewing them I realized I could make a killing as a writer for Hallmark cards.
As I was writing, I watched a a gull trying to fly into the wind, flapping forward, gliding back. That’s what it feels like trying to describe what I learned about God. So I guess the answer to the question is, “Not too much.”

However, during my attempt to write about God, I realized why writers writing about God often end up writing about their gardens and plants and nature. And mountains, seashores, sunsets, aging, forest trails, their dogs, and sunrises. Deep thoughts are chimeric, God is not.

Now religion, religion I love writing about. I relate to those clusters of people who see Mary’s image or Jesus’ face in unexpected places. Conventions of born-again christians and churches of atheists are fascinating. As are the people we make into messiahs: Ayn Rand, Jim Jones, Steve Jobs, pre-election Barak Obama…people whose ideas excite us and we follow them happily into the future. Religion is our Play-dough of Meaning.

But God? Sitting here on Back Cove in Maine, I find I cannot distinguish the sound of wind in the trees from the sound of the tide coming in. The squat arborvitae next to the porch is doing a bizarre dance, but is not quite keeping time with the wind’s pulsations. Does arborvitae have its own internal rhythms? Yesterday, Jeannine did a charcoal sketch of me, but must have changed her mind; she sketched an old lady. I wonder why. This morning I read about 65 things I didn’t know before about growing potatoes. I often wonder why Ace can race through our forest leaping over fallen trees, winding through underbrush, but cannot figure out how to unwind his leash from a lamppost. Is it true puzzlement or passive-aggressive protest against leashes? And right now, across the water, little dots of people are quahoging. Which, I am told, is different from clamming.

See how much I still have to learn about God?