Crisis of Faith, Part II: There Is A Jesus For That
by Paul Delaney
I recall a series of advertisements for the Apple iPhone a few years ago. The damn things were ubiquitous. They were even harder for me to escape since I worked in the wireless industry at the time. The ads were about how there was an application or ‘app’ for nearly everything to be found in Apple’s App Store. Need directions? There’s an app for that. Need vegan recipes? There’s an app for that. I consider the divine and it seems to me there is a god or a Jesus for every single person. This gives me pause. This keeps me up at night. This fuels my doubt.
Once again it all comes back to Jesus Christ. I see two Jesus Christs out there. There are probably more and I’m probably looking at this in a very America-centric sort of way but my perspective is necessarily limited and I acknowledge this. I see a Jesus that is very much like Dr. James Dobson or Mark Driscoll or John Piper or John Hagee. He sees the Bible as a literal guidebook for life on earth. He’s concerned with issues like abortion, gay marriage, personal responsibility, which political party to support, gender roles and he takes absolutist positions on these issues. He’s all about personal morality. Things are black and white. The other Jesus is all about economic justice, emancipation of women and homosexuals, racial justice, being against war. He isn’t absolutist. He isn’t a literalist. He’s very much concerned with acting in this world and isn’t overly focused on the life of the world to come. I know which one I prefer these days. I prefer a Jesus that is concerned with justice in this world and isn’t so concerned with issues of personal morality and theological orthodoxy. That may be my preference. That doesn’t make it true. It would make many people pity me but I must say I do not know who Jesus is. How could I? This was a man who existed in a culture that is alien to our own. How could I know him in a way that isn’t clouded or muddied by the peculiarities of the culture that I exist in? Maybe that’s why he’s great. Maybe that’s why he’s God. He can speak to us through time. He can transcend culture. Maybe that’s what I tell myself. Maybe that’s just a shallow intellectual justification for belief. Maybe I am truly an atheist and just don’t have the guts to admit it.
What do I make of the fact that there seems to be a God or Jesus for every single person? I suppose I can say that God is so big that he cannot be pigeonholed by ideology or theological orthodoxy. There are so many different kinds of people that God must necessarily manifest himself in a nearly infinite number of ways. This is what the hopeful mystic in me says. The part time atheist says that people simply are making it up. It comes down to the fact that man never truly worshiped anything but himself. It’s simply man creating God in his or her own image. It is man appealing to the ultimate authority for validation of himself and his opinions. I straddle the border between these spiritual regions. I sneak across the border several times a day with forged papers. Maybe the fact that I don’t just stay on one side is cowardice. Maybe it’s wisdom. I suspect at this point in my 30 years with little idea of how many years I have left that I prefer it that way. I suppose that wonder has it’s own splendor and beauty. I don’t want to get too certain about it because then I become what I deplore. Once again I have no answers. Don’t come to me for answers. I doubt that’s why you’ve come. I cannot bear witness to my faith. I can only bear witness to my doubts, to my questions.