SFGKW – Chapter 2: Impostors (Santa Takes a Leak)

In the second chapter of Searching for God Knows What Donald Miller builds upon this idea that people are looking for formulas and easy answers in their Christian walk, now exploring how people are prone to mutate God into someone they want Him to be (often to the detriment and financial suffering of others).

He begins broadly enough: people struggle with certain aspects of the Bible, or where never taught them properly, and so they have the tendency to move away from the reality of God’s character and into their own comfortable assumptions about Him. Unfortunately, often leading the way on this trail of wrong beliefs are pastors and churches. It’s one reason why there are so many different sects of Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism – all with their own smaller branches of belief groups).

And the scary part is everyone believes they have the right idea.

So is everyone right? Is no one right?

Understanding the character, motivation, and actions of God isn’t like bobbing for apples or playing the claw machine. So which group has it right?

To me it seems to be a double issue of arrogance and comfort. People typically think they know best and stay inside their comfort zones, meaning we can end up creating God in our own image instead of the other way around.

And honestly, it can be challenging not to do this to some degree. God doesn’t have a physical presence and generally doesn’t speak audibly to people. All we have to go off of is an ancient manuscript and what church leaders tell us. I don’t think you ever stop learning about God, like the disciples were constantly having to reevaluate who they thought Jesus to be, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It promotes curiosity instead of complacency.

The downside is that certain people create an image of God (by taking verses out of context or putting blinders on their perspective) that is really only one piece of the larger puzzle. Or it’s a piece from a different puzzle that is theologically incorrect.

In the chapter, Miller moves into more specific territory by bringing up the concept of God-impostors. The televangelists and pastors that promote wrong thinking to push their own beliefs and possibly even line their own pockets. He likens their theology to the myth of Santa Claus: a concept many children believe, though it’s obviously untrue, and that can have a profoundly negative impact on kids once the wool is removed (other kids’ parents were always mad at my parents because I was the typically the one removing said wool).

In much the same way, God-impostors are preaching a gospel (prosperity or otherwise) that just isn’t true, or is dangerously half-true. People are being misled by it, and for those who come to realize the falsehoods it can wreak irreparable damage on their faith. These God-impostors are exactly the type of people that Jesus would have had the least patience for, and unfortunately they can cause people outside of their spell (atheists or those of other religions) to dismiss God altogether. It’s tragic that these are the types of “Christians” who are most often featured in the media or whispering in the ears of politicians.

In fact, I found this section of the chapter to be so relevant to what I’m seeing in the news that I decided to quote a chunk of it below. I will now end this post with that quote:

“The real thing that makes me sad that day was that God, who I think is quite good, was being misrepresented so terribly in the media…If I weren’t a Christian, and I kept seeing Christian leaders on television more concerned with money, fame, and power than with grace, love, and social justice, I wouldn’t want to believe in God at all. I really wouldn’t.

The whole thing would make me want to walk away from religion altogether because, like I was saying about Santa Claus, their god must be an idiot to see the world in such a one-sided way.

The god who cares so much about getting rich must not have treasures stored up in heaven, and the god so concerned about getting even must not have very much patience, and the god who cares so much about the West must really hate the rest of the world, and that doesn’t sound like a very good god to me.

The televangelist can have him for all I care.”

(Miller 28-29)

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