McCain, cancer and the living God of the oppressed

Crazy Faith Ministries

A common complaint these days is that young people will not go to church. Many former church-goers have left, saying they grew disenchanted with the hypocrisy and judgement they experienced while being part of “the faithful.” The Church, which is supposed to represent the living God, a God who is said to be love, has fallen short, it seems, and has fallen short from its inception. Forgetting the fact that God is sovereign and makes not only all that is and has been created, but the rules as well, church people have maligned God throughout history, causing people to either turn away from the Church and God, or perhaps holding onto God with fear, trembling and some confusion and anger as well.

The news this past week that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor brought the worst of religion to the fore yet again. According to several news accounts, some religious organizations have decided that Mr. McCain’s illness is “godly justice” for challenging the current president.

The pronouncement was and is as astounding as it is maddening. What kind of god (lower case “g” intended) do these people serve? I have been studying the phenomenon of the myth of this being a monotheistic culture, and this statement feeds right into my suggestion that we have and live in a polytheistic culture, one where there are at least two gods, if not more.

We have created gods to fit our needs, it seems. The majority culture has its god, a god which shows love to only certain groups of people, a god who sanctions racism and sexism and homophobia and capitalism, a god who has no compassion for the poor or the elderly, but who supports capitalism and its capacity to exclude many. This god stands with the oppressors; this god is the god of Empire, which believes in the power of pharaoh over the power of God. People who honor this god in history saw no problem with lynching someone on a Saturday night and going to church on a Sunday morning, wearing a nice suit and either taking or distributing Holy Communion.

The god of the oppressor is judgmental; that god sees nothing wrong with discriminating against anyone who is not seen to be “fit” or “as fit” as the oppressor deems necessary. This god sanctioned the eugenics movement in the United States and apparently saw little to nothing wrong with the way Europeans have treated people of different hues down through history.

The God of the oppressed is different. This God is the God about whom Jesus the Christ taught. This God is the God of unconditional love, the God who demands that we love and forgive one another, over and over (70 times seven, the Bible says). This god has “good news” for everyone, because this god sees the worth of everyone.

And this God would not inflict someone who challenged a president with a malignant brain tumor.

A young person talking with me recently said she would never go back into a church because church people were phony and mean. Interestingly, an older person said the same thing not long afterward. But the sad thing is that God – the One God – has been given a name by members of a society which creates gods to fits its whims. If I for a moment thought God was One whom would cause a horrendous illness to come upon a person because he or she differed with a political figure, I would denounce and reject that god immediately.

If God was the type that inflicts people because of their political beliefs, then it seems that this society would have been purged of nearly everyone centuries ago, because no matter who a political leader is, someone opposes him or her. The audacity of the alt-right to make such a spurious accusation and statement about God’s involvement in McCain’s illness goes beyond the pale.

When things like that are said, God – the One God – remains maddeningly silent, which, to those who suppose they know about “godly justice” must seem like affirmation. They continue their arrogant statements and pronouncements, damaging, for many, the entire religious community and casting doubt on the stated “goodness” of God for those who are wavering.

One does not have to agree with a political figure to have compassion, but those who presume to know God and spread their hatred of a person onto God as a way of justifying that same hatred ought to tremble in their boots, it seems. The god of the oppressor has taken up too much oxygen in our lives forever. Would that those who understand and adhere to the principles of the God of the oppressed would step up and make the world know that the god of the oppressor is an imposter which needs to be silenced.

Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is available for speaking. She can be contacted through


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