The Peril of Politics and Particular Providence

Glenn Beck seems to think that God is so concerned about the United States that He decided to break one of his own “Big Ten” and killed Antonin Scalia, so that Americans would realize “how important their freedom is so that they vote for Ted Cruz to pick Scalia’s replacement.” (Huffington Post, 2/18/16)

This isn’t the first time that a person with a big voice, and a tie to the Christian community, has suggested that God has done something in order to support a traditionally conservative agenda. One doesn’t even need to dig too deep to recall similar claims, regarding God’s use of hurricanes, disease, and so forth, in an attempt to guide people to what “He” wants, which just happens also to be part of the agenda of the one who’s speaking.

It’s interesting to me that none of these big voices, these prophets of doom upon others, seems at all interested in reflecting on the notion that perhaps God is trying to get their attention. Has Glenn Beck considered the possibility that God chose to end Antonin Scalia’s life at this moment because God was concerned about how Scalia was going to vote in the upcoming Supreme Court abortion case, that perhaps God is interested in preserving a woman’s right to choice? Or, that God chose this moment so that President Obama could choose his replacement before he leaves office?

I should probably state clearly and unequivocally here that I am not a “particular providence” kind of person or theologian. I don’t believe that God visits particular disasters, or blessings, upon particular people for particular purposes. I don’t believe that God assists certain people in winning the lottery nor does God cause disease or tragedy to occur for others. And, I certainly don’t think that God wreaks havoc intentionally to get the attention of Americans so that they will vote for conservative politicians.

Although it’s not my theological cup of tea, I can understand the desire to see God working in this very “hands on” sort of way. The Bible, after all, does seem to suggest that God, at least on occasion, has been involved in the affairs of humans through the use of those things that are, presumably, at God’s disposal—the natural world as well as the imperfections of the human body. It must be of some comfort to see the Divine at work in such detail.

Those who are eager to see God at work in this way, however, ought to understand that God’s interventions cannot possibly only work to benefit their own prejudices, values, and politics. Shouldn’t God’s omniscience and omnipotence be understood in ways that suggest that one’s own leanings are not always in tune with God’s?

Bible stories that point to the possibility of God’s particular providence also suggest that even the most faithful are sometimes surprised by the lessons that our Creator offers, especially through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Paul, for example, experienced a rather dramatic realignment to what he had previously understood as God’s work in his life.

Glenn Beck, and others of his ilk, should be more reflective, prayerful and humble about what God might be up to, as well as their own ability to understand the Divine. It can’t always be that God is working on Glenn Beck’s behalf, or that Glenn Beck seems mysteriously to understand so completely the mind of the Creator.

Heaven help us.

About smaxreisert

I'm a United Church of Christ pastor serving the small, faithful Old South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Hallowell, Maine. I was ordained in Massachusetts in 1995, moved to Maine in 1997 and have served the Hallowell church since 2005.
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One Response to The Peril of Politics and Particular Providence

  1. Jack Quigg says:

    I always read your weekly blogs and appreciate them. This one, however, was especially helpful. I often have difficulty trying to articulate within myself and with others what you so well articulated in this piece. Thanks so much!

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