NOTABLE & QUOTABLE

Is your God dead?

Posted

George Yancy, a professor of philosophy at Emory University, asks, "Is Your God Dead?" His commentary appeared in The New York Times.

I don't mean the God of the philosophers or the scholars, but, as Blaise Pascal said, the "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob." With no disrespect, I hope the question comes as a jolt. And without being outraged or quick to accuse me of "blasphemy," know, too, that I am a hopeful monotheist. I might even be called a Christian, only I continue, every day of my life, to fail. Friedrich Nietzsche's observation weighs heavily on me: "There was only one Christian and he died on the cross." Call me a failed and broken Christian, but a Christian nevertheless.

So, is your God dead? Have you buried God in the majestic, ornamental tombs of your churches, synagogues and mosques? Perhaps prosperity theology, boisterous, formalistic and mechanical prayer rituals, and skillful oratory have hastened the need for a eulogy.

Perhaps by remaining in your "holy" places, you have sacrificed looking in the face of your neighbor on the street. You know the one: the one who smells "bad" because she hasn't bathed in days; the one who carries her home on her body; the one who begs. Surely you've seen that "unholy" face. I've seen you suddenly look away, making sure not to make eye contact with the "unclean." Perhaps you're preoccupied with texting, consumed by a work or family matter. Your refusal to stop, to linger, to look into her eyes, has already done its damage. Your body has already left a mark in its absence, in its fleeing the scene.

My hands are also dirty; I'm guilty of missing the opportunity to recognize something of the divine in the face of the Other on the street. I'm pretty sure I looked away when I caught a glimpse of a homeless man approaching the other day. How different is this from those who walked by the beaten and abandoned man in the parable of the good Samaritan? I failed to see the homeless man as a neighbor.

Notable & Quotable is compiled by Graham Osteen. Contact him at graham@theitem.com.