Sunday, August 16, 2009

An Alternative Deity

We all need confidence. Without this intangible ingredient, we wouldn’t pursue any new goals or perhaps even have the courage to pick up the telephone. But where we do we find this confidence? In a Psychology Today article, “Get Lucky,” Matthew Hutson writes:

“People who believe luck works in their favor are motivated to try challenging tasks and persist at them. Feeling in control breeds confidence” (August 9, 2009, p.18).

This is an ambiguous statement. When we feel that we’re in control, we usually don’t resort to a confidence in “luck.” Luck represents an agency external to ourselves, a providential force or guidance that we can trust in when we believe that we can’t fully trust in ourselves. Resorting to luck suggests that it’s difficult to trust in self, and it is! It requires the denial of our life experiences and psychic manipulations to convince ourselves that we’re worthy of trust, especially in view of the fact that we’ve often failed ourselves. Besides, trying to trust in self, when the evidence says “baloney,” breeds internal conflict.

While “luck” removes this weight from our shoulders, it introduces a similar problem—believing in the unbelievable. This takes many forms. In the same issue, Joshua Gowin notes our tendency to trust in super-heroes:

“We want to believe in heroes, especially when the world feels unsafe. [Robin] Rosenberg [the author of Psychology of Superheroes] notes that Spiderman, Smallville, and 24 all came out after 9/11. ‘As a country, we were just sucking up the concept of someone coming and rescuing us’” (“The Pedestal Awaits,” p.15).

Indeed, we yearn for a rescuer, even if it is merely a good-luck charm, but what’s the matter with God? Spiderman and Superman might rejoice our hearts, but they are no more believable or substantial than “luck.” Why have they won our hearts while the idea of a divine Savior is scorned?

Jesus explained this paradox to his physical brothers: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil” (John 7:7). We intuitively know that any God would have an intimate interest in justice and morality, especially our own moral blemishes! Therefore, our relationship with God represents the ultimate generation-gap. We’re the teenagers and God the super-Parent. However, while the teenager can often get-over on his parent, we are left without such hope in regards to an all-knowing God. It therefore becomes easier to change God into a benign, smiling Santa Claus or simply to deny His existence. However, in doing this, we condemn ourselves to finding an alternate super-hero, one who will inevitably fail us.

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