Friday, June 22, 2007

The God of tipping footballs

Perhaps it can't hurt to ask:
DESTIN — More than 300 people with a keen interest in the Emerald Coast’s real estate market gathered Wednesday at Destiny Worship Center to ask for God’s blessing.

The Real Estate Prayer Luncheon was organized in hopes of breathing life and positive thinking into the area’s slumping housing market...

“We need to think positively and get everyone on the same page,” Duke said. “Positive things that come out of your mouth will end with positive results. If we lose hope, we lose everything.”
I guess I can't ever complain too much when people come together to ask for God's blessing. After all, the worst he can say is "No." But it does smack a bit to me - looking from the outside, of course - like the equivalent of asking God to tip footballs for your favorite team. Really big footballs perhaps, but footballs nonetheless.

We've all seen the football-tipping prayers, "Please, God, let the Vikings* win this one." And the logical result was illustrated recently on an edition of MXC where the Christians were taking on someone (ad execs, maybe?) and one of the Christians told the announcer that she was sure to win because she had asked God for help. After a nearly miraculous run, she was eliminated right at the end. When asked about it, she sheepishly responded, "Well, I guess maybe He had to go help someone else just then." And it's funny because believers should** understand that God is not going to tip footballs just because you'd like to win something that is ultimately meaningless. Besides, what would he say to those on the other side making a similar request, "Sorry, your opponent asked first"?

But aside from the fact that asking God to move a market you happen to be selling in is merely asking Him to convince those who otherwise would not buy to buy at a price convenient to you, as with a lot of impromptu gatherings of this nature, it seemed to quickly devolve into an attempted application of mental magic. "We can turn this thing around if we all think positively," as if our focused mental power forces God's reluctant hand, as if faith is some kind of a spiritual weapon we can point at God to get him to do our bidding. It's not***. Ultimately faith is a spiritual weapon that allows us to do God's bidding when it otherwise seems humanly impossible. Faith is, as it is written in Hebrews, the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, and without context it sounds like we get to be the definers of what is hoped for. But I think in application (as in the examples that follow that statement) faith only "works" when our hopes are aligned with God's promises and desires.

So all that being said, will have any effect at all? I think in some cases it might - which is why I'm tiptoeing around here a bit - assuming (and this is a big assumption) there are people whom God wants selling homes and their faith gets them off dead center to do what God wants. But I suspect that God would and must have a larger purpose in mind for that individual that just earning another commission, and I suspect it would come about because of an individual change in heart, not a collective ritual - in other words, if it's done it will be done to change a life rather than a bank balance.

But is God going to move a market just so people who make a living selling houses are not inconvenienced by having to go do something else? Is he going to set aside the perfectly reasonable and predictable consequences of the human action that has caused the current slump, meaning that Americans can avoid the consequences of our foolish monetary policies and a culture of all trying to get rich by selling our houses to each other? I guess you could call me a bit skeptical**** on that count.

* Maybe it works for other teams, but not them obviously.

** and unbelievers unfailingly do

*** Why does "He's not a tame lion" spring to mind here?

*** It seems to me that God is often far more interested in teaching wisdom than in providing material comfort, and the aftermath of foolish bubbles can be a heck of a teaching tool, provided we learn the correct lessons. It is another issue altogether that we so seldom do.