I sit down with a sigh of relief. Kids asleep. Kitchen clean. Now for a few minutes of relaxing, then I will focus on writing and catching up on various unfinished projects.
As I scroll quickly through my Facebook feed to see if there is anything new from the day, I notice a video from the latest prophet or preacher or something of the sort being shared by a few of my more fundamentalist friends. Out of curiosity, I click on the link, knowing that these sorts of things nearly always provide me with further fodder for my skepticism.
This one is no exception. I find a botox injected face with a frozen smile, promising some sort of great reward for the faithful who believe his prophecy about a dramatic world event happening by the end of the year. Of course, for those of us who do not actively share on Facebook and speak out, our demise is assured.
An all too familiar sense of disgust and doubt rises in me, having often witnessed the ugly consequences of these “prophets,” especially in how they influence Western Christians to affect the conflict here. They promise blessings on a privileged few, easily dismissing all others with impending doom, all while keeping up appearances with their botoxed faces, snazzy suits and brightly lit stages. They exacerbate conflicts by convincing people to support the powers of the day, offering Biblical or prophetic justifications for oppression and war.
What happened to the prophets who suffered in the desert, calling on their own people to commit to justice, challenging their leaders to stop flirting with power and favor?
Many in my generation and the younger generations are sick of this and, as a result, are leaving congregations in droves. We want to see something real.
To quote U2, (yes, I still listen to them despite the recent fiasco with the CD being forced on fans and enemies alike):
“You speak of signs and wonders, I need something other, I would believe if I was able. But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table” (Crumbs From Your Table).
and in another song of theirs, “I pray you depart with a wrinkled face and a brand new heart” (Love and Peace or Else).
I can’t speak for everyone, but I am tired of people speaking of signs and wonders while being devoid of substance. I would rather be led by people who, rather than taking excruciating steps to not offend donors or to entertain the masses, are willing to admit weakness and take heat for standing for the weak or oppressed. A leader who admits that he or she does not understand an issue or even has doubts, exemplifying how to walk through these questions and remain steadfast, would speak volumes more than all the words and rhetoric that whitewash away any mention of problems.
My generation is longing for religion that changes hearts, that takes the lead in the important issues of the day- social justice and peace, gender and sexuality, among others-and that challenges power structures and conventions. This is not a faith that sits on the sidelines waiting for some end times scenario, simply busying itself with navel gazing, while having nothing to offer the world around it.
I would rather see someone with a wrinkled face-free of botox, pretense and materialism-who has weathered the tough questions and the dark places of life, and come out with a new heart. To really see that would be golden. I am confident that such faith exists, having had beautiful experiences with it, but the loudest voices are often the ones that so misrepresent this reality that it is tempting to run the other way.
But I won’t, instead choosing to give voice to those who represent a God who changes hearts and heals our world, bringing transformed people together to make peace, pursue justice and care for the society and individuals around them.