Monday, September 17, 2012

God Revealed?

So... this showed up on my Facebook feed:
...And I, just, say what now? Are they seriously suggesting that God needs their help to make Himself heard? Isn't that blasphemy, or at the very least lèse-majesté?

I mean, I realize that it's a little hard for churches and clergies to justify their livelihoods if the Almighty talks freely to everybody, but it's still a bit startling how often I see Christians assume that their God can't (or maybe just won't?) speak to people, except through them. It's almost as if, deep down, they really don't trust Him.

Following up on those thoughts, I clicked over to the actual site - which I probably shouldn't have done. Because, yeah, that's pretty much what it is: "I'm not a typical religious figure... I was the president of a Fortune 100 company who realized that God was speaking to me through my experiences, guiding my journey and my success. I believe what I've learned will inspire you. ~Fred Sievert, former president, New York Life."

...Uh huh.

On plus side, despite the slick packaging, the site is preaching, not marketing. At least, I think so - when it comes to motivational speaking, the line between preaching and marketing tends to blur into invisibility. And I think that's what this is: a retired businessman who wants to set himself up as a motivational speaker. The site is not designed to sell books and tapes - yet - because first it has to sell the rest of us on the idea that Fred is a deeply spiritual person whom we should listen to so that we can better understand what God has to say to us.

I have a problem with that. Actually, I have at least two problems with that.

First of all, it's arrogant and hideously - though slickly - self-aggrandizing. For all that the site claims to be talking about God's Message(s), what it actually talks about is Fred Sievert - Fred Sievert as God's Messenger. Because, you know, clearly God wants a retired business leader to help people by being a big man with a message, not just another body helping out anonymously in a soup kitchen.[1] "Read about Fred's Career." "Read about Fred's Journey." "Learn how God influenced my career through a colleague’s words and the impact they would have on me, both then and throughout my career." It's all about Fred.

It's also problematic from a theological standpoint. The message is, basically, "I can help you understand the messages that God is sending you." This immediately makes me wonder if maybe God just needs to, you know, speak up a little. Or maybe God is like some of my elderly southern relatives, who never seem to be able to address anything directly? Maybe God keeps dropping hints and sending messages through other people because He thinks it would be rude - or maybe just unpleasant - to come out and say whatever's on His mind? Seriously, does this not make the Almighty seem weirdly passive-aggressive?

I would assume that an all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of the Universe could make itself heard if it wanted to. That would seem to follow directly from being all-knowing and all-powerful. So what, exactly, does that leave Fred Sievert doing?

More or less what does, too.

Color me unimpressed.

[1] Granted, if Fred Sievert has the sorts of resources I presume he has, then condescending to help out in a soup kitchen may not be the most efficient way for him to help. That's not really my point, though; my point is that the presumption of self-importance on display here is troubling. To paraphrase Elbert Hubbard, the graveyards are full of indispensable men.

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