I spent most of my weekend at Dragon Con, the huge comics and sci-fi convention in Atlanta that is held every Labor Day. 30,000 plus people converge on Atlanta. Many wear faerie wings or Star Trek or a thousand other types of costumes.
I tend toward the sci-fi and fantasy literature and writers’ sessions. Besides sci-fi, swords, and sex, probably the next largest topic is skepticism. There is a skeptics’ track (and they talk about skeptical outreach — a very religious group!).
I didn’t go to any skeptics sessions this year. But when you are in forums with so many self-professed geeks and lovers of science, you meet many skeptics and overhear many conversations. I also attended a few “God and sci-fi” type panels.
It’s frustrating being a theologian at events where unqualified people are talking about theology and philosophy. I don’t look for arguments, knowing how futile they are. Occasionally I find a way to pipe something in that is non-combative and perhaps educational for those listening.
In one of the sessions, as people rattled on exposing their lack of knowledge and experience in dealing with matters divine, I thought about the relative value of our message: the Jewish message of God who is judge and redeemer, the Christian message of God who came among us and raised humanity toward himself for al who are willing to see it.
How is our message relevant? Why do people need it? Are they all fine with their video games, movies, urban fantasy novels, and friendships?
Their lives are broken and signs of it are everywhere. Religious peoples’ lives are also broken and signs of it are everywhere.
There was a time when I bought into a human-centered idea of the relevance of our message. I don’t deny that the human element of our message is strong. We can say, “You need God/peace/hope/purpose.”
But there are a few problems with the human-centered message. It is not biblical. I don’t mean the Bible does not say things like, “Seek me and live; buy bread and wine without money; taste and see that God is good; find rest for your souls; choose life” and all that. But the human need is not the center of the message in the Bible.
The human-centered message is easily defeated. Skeptics simply look at the pathetic lives of religious people and scoff. Yeah, I do think that devout practitioners of Judaism and Christianity could make fools out of such scoffers, but our religions are filled with many levels of failed people too (including really all of us at some level). Improved quality of life and a higher ethical plane are hard things to demonstrate in religious circles.
The human-centered message is also transparently selfish. So, I should practice Judaism or Christianity because I want something from God?
No, as I thought about why the message we bear is important, something else occurred to me. God is not primarily a meeter of needs.
He is. Just as air is or gravity or electromagnetic forces are, God is.
We don’t question gravity. We don’t consider the benefits or non-benefits of air. We gulp it hungrily and automatically. It is necessary and sustaining.
God is. Some know it and some don’t.
And at a convention where people are passionate about knowing the laws of the universe, who even needs to argue the benefit of knowing the Ground and Source of our being? You might as well disbelieve in the existence or goodness of air.