I can’t find it now, but someone tweeted recently that – in working with some church kids – they thought she was saying that we “horrify” God when she was saying we “glorify” God. Prophetic children are the best.
I pray we glorify God in our service, our gratitude, our sacrifices, our love. And yet, it’s likely we humans spend quite a bit of our lives horrifying God. I’m reading William Yoo’s excellent new book and it’s horrifying. And brilliant.
Dr. Yoo is Associate Professor of American Religious and Cultural History and Director of the Master of Divinity Program at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA. His most recent book is a must-read especially for my Presbyterian siblings. I serve congregations in North Carolina which have both benefitted from slavery and been traumatized by slavery. The oldest congregations (circa pre-Revolutionary War) were all established by slaveholders. There are church balconies in the sanctuaries of some of our church buildings that still have evidence of chaining enslaved people.
May God have mercy..
Among the most horrifying of insights from Dr. Yoo’s book is this:
In subtle yet perverse forms, white Presbyterians have expressed that the most tragic result from the age of Black enslavement is the division of their church.
They wept not for the abuse that enslaved women . . . endured. Rather, they shed tears of anguish over their worries about ecclesial schism.
The fact that human beings with more melanin in their pigmentation were being raped, whipped, starved, and chained was considered less an issue than the possibility that the Presbyterian Church might split is horrifying.
We horrify God.
As our siblings in faith – the United Methodist Church and others – grapple with theological notions like whether or not the Creator might call queer people to serve in ordainable roles, we might continue to horrify God if we consider denominational division to be a bigger problem than the casting out of people for whom Jesus died and God calls. I believe we horrify God when we tell trans people that God rejects them. I believe we glorify God when we love as Jesus loves.
What’s unspeakably amazing to me is that the Mysterious One who created us doesn’t zap us into oblivion for missing the point of life in such outrageous ways. I would say that our ways are unforgiveable except for the fact that God’s grace abounds even when we don’t deserve it – which is the definition of grace in the first place.
What a beautiful thing to glorify God in our singing, in our praying, in our financial spending, in our daily practices, in our eating, in our sleeping, in our working, in our playing, in our child-raising, in our love-making, in our decision-making, in our breathing. Thanks be to God.
Literally – for the love of God – might we consider what we do that actually horrifies our Creator and then stop it.
Please read William Yoo’s book and commit – like me – to at the very least try to do better.
I am halfway through this book. It is indeed challenging and humbling, yet greatly edifying.