Obama was elected by God. Or so says one Christian blogger in his article titled "In God We Trust."
It may be true that this blogger trusts in God. Perhaps many of his Christians friends trust in God. But it is too big a step to say, as does the motto on our money, "In God We Trust." We, the people of this imperfect union, trust a lot of things, but we do not trust in God. We trust in money, in ourselves and sometimes our families, our doctors, our clergy, our teachers, and not infrequently our friends; we don't have much trust in politicians, though. But we know enough to be careful.
We learn quickly that we can't trust everyone or everything. Some of us have learned we can't trust God, either.
The word, God, has a multitude of meanings. If you took an average congregation of any religious group in this country and asked each member to describe the god in which they believed, you would have as many different descriptions as there were members. Neither the clergy nor the theologians can agree on what the word "God" means.
Some people think of God as a magical human being; a human writ large; a Santa Claus figure - fatherly, kind, one who loves his children and wants them to be happy. This god often is thought to reside "up" in the sky somewhere or "out" in space.
Usually it is considered possible to have a personal relationship with such a god. You can be friends with this god. You can pray to him or her and expect to be heard and that your prayers will be answered in one way of another.
This god is thought to desire worship and adoration. Thus, we have churches with set rituals to allow worship and adoration to happen. In some cases, the ritual includes magical words which are believed to change reality. The Roman Catholic Church espouses a doctrine called transubstantiation which means that when a priest says certain words over crackers and wine, those earthly elements actually change into the physical body and blood of the Jesus of the Gospels.
It is also true that Christians generally believe in just one god, but they say he has three different aspects or essences or persons. It's all very confusing and makes very little sense to people living in the 21st century. We're talking about the doctrine of the Trinity - God, the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. There are three persons but only one god.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Or maybe smoke your pipe first and then you'll better be able to understand it.
A quick summary: People all over the world believe in a god or gods. But what they believe is vastly different, and often contradictory. Even within one particular religion, you will find a wide variety of ideas as to what the god is like.
It is true that most Christians believe that their trinitarian God is active in the world and is able to influence people and events either directly or indirectly. That is the whole point of most prayers - to get God's attention and to ask him/her to intervene in one way or another.
Which brings me back to the article I first mentioned, "In God We Trust." The author, Shayes, said he did not want either Obama or Romney as president. "I don't think President Obama did a good job ... and therefore, I don't believe he deserves a chance at a second term." He didn't mention any specifics as to what Obama did or did not do, however.
He continued: "To be completely honest, I don't think either candidate really deserves to be in office, but I would rather try someone new than continue with a candidate who has lived up to very little that he promised us four years ago."
Many of us would and could argue quite effectively against such reasoning, but that's not what this essay is about. The essence of what he has to say comes next:
"The thing I've had to continually remind myself over the last couple of weeks and since casting my vote yesterday is that God is in control." It may be true, he says, that the people voted Mr. Obama into office, but "the One who really has complete control over who is leading the United States or any other country is not us, but God. You can call it cheesy, you can call it ridiculous, but it's Biblical truth."
Shayes quotes several Bible passages which he thinks bolsters his theological position. "The fact of the matter is," says Shayes, "God is sovereign. He knows what He's doing. He places specific rulers in charge of countries at specific times in history for purposes that sometimes only He knows."
Oh boy. So President Obama was really gifted a second term because God wanted him to serve another four years as president of the United States. That is Biblical truth! God manipulated the election and allowed Romney, his entourage and the entire Republican party to go through all kinds of trials and tribulations the last couple of years just for the hell of it. Obama was his favorite all along.
And that must mean he doesn't care much for Mormons. It must mean he's not pleased with the extremist Christian fundys in our midst. And God must love Obamacare.
Is that a good deal or what?
But there's a slight problem with this notion that God is manipulating countries and politicians all over the world. According to Shayes, God put Stalin in office, and Hitler in charge of Germany and set up Franco as dictator of Spain, and the goofball in Iran, and the dictator Salazar in Portugal, etc.
That means God's responsible for the Holocaust; for the millions slaughtered under Stalin in the former Soviet Union, for all those killed under Mao and his regime in China.
Shayes goes further and quotes Paul in the epistle of Romans (Chapter 13:1-5) to prove his point that we (Christians) are obliged to respect and obey those put in authority over us for they have been placed there by God.
"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."
This is a good lesson as to why we should be very careful if we seek guidance from the Bible. There is a lot of nonsense in the Bible. That's where fundamentalists get all hung up. If you believe every word is of God and true, you must do a variety of mental gymnastics to make any sense at all.
But this one you can't get around. For if you believe God establishes dictators and presidents and other rulers in countries, you must somehow account for all the evil rulers and dictators and presidents we've seen down through the centuries.
And that would make God complicit in all the evil that has been wrought on the human race by "authorities" from the beginning of time! And you can't say "his ways are not our ways" or he does this "for reasons only he understands." Most human beings are quite capable of identifying evil when they see it. And if this passage from Paul's letter to the Romans is true, who would ever want to believe in a god who was more of a devil than the devil herself?
Romans is one of the earliest "books" in the New Testament, and was probably written in the 50s or early 60s. The situation had grown very tense. Rebellion was in the air. Rome was edgy and had no compunction about ruthlessly stiffling any opposition in its outlying territories. In this passage, Paul is writing for the Roman authorities as much as to the Christians in Rome. He's letting the authorities know the Christians are not a threat and telling the Christians to cool it, to avoid giving the authorities any reason to send in the troops.
In other words, Paul (in a letter!) wrote a particular group of words for a particular group at a particular time. What he said was never intended as timeless truth or the "word" of God for all people of all times.
In his final section, Shayes argues that because God has placed Obama in a position of authority, Christians should respect him. If "we rebel against our president, or disrespect him ... we are rebelling against and disrespecting God because, whether we understand the reasoning or not, God has put President Obama into office for another term..."
Such a God as Shayes believes in is a fantasy. It's not enough to say "this is Biblical truth." As we've seen if what Paul writes in Romans is true, God is a monster unworthy of our attention or worship or trust or anything else.