Grant Jenks Logo

What is our God?

Last weekend I went to a retreat that joined several service corps groups together: Jesuit Volunteers, Christian Appalachian Project Volunteers, Mission Year Volunteers, etc. One of the topics that came up was hunger and I saw a quote  attributed to Ghandi that went like this: To a man who is hungry, food is God. Now, a couple Google searches later, I understand that Ghandi meant this in terms of a hierarchy of needs. When bringing a message about God (e.g. preaching the gospel) the matter is moot to a man who is hungry. Unless you provide for his most basic needs, teaching about God is missing the point (I find this particularly relevant to my faith with frequent claims that “God is Love.” If that is so, we may need to show our love with food and water before we ever share our motivation by God.)

I understand the priority of needs (like food) over theology. Jesus may have disagreed but for all practical purposes, I don’t mind meeting needs before sharing faith. And if faith sharing doesn’t happen because those whose needs are met walk away, then so be it ( also something that happened to Jesus ).

Rather than read it as Ghandi meant, I first thought of his statement as a generality meaning: our God is the thing we lack. I think there are many examples of this practice. We tend to spiritualize those things over which we have the least control or for which we are the most desperate. Ever seen someone whisper to dice at a craps table? Ever heard of a rain dance? For some, including myself, it’s easy to think we don’t have what we want for a mystical reason.

In some of the churches in our neighborhood, we hear of a “blessings” theology. In general, the blessings may be anything that benefits you but commonly they are financial blessings. Find some money? A financial blessing! Praise God for his faithfulness. I don’t think God works this way but then again, I’m not poor. I don’t feel the desperation that my neighbors do to have some stability from wealth.

So then I think, if God is the thing we lack, what then is my God? What message do I hear always trying to represent God? I think the mainstream message has been: God is relational. He hasn’t got a Facebook but he reads every wall post and Likes every one (even when no one else does). God is represented to me as a communal, social, relational entity. And probably this appeals to me because I’m independent and also sometimes lonely.

Before any one thinks that one of these views is accurate and the rest aren’t, I want you to know that I think each is accurate in part. God feeds the hungry (with both whole grains and the Bread of Life), causes the rain (blessings) to fall on both the good and the bad, and is understood well in terms of a relationship. Each understanding of God in terms of our desperation reveals an accuracy about Him.

What is your God?