I suspect I’ll regret posting this, but i’ll throw it up anyway. It’s time for a confession. I have this unhealthy obsession with uber-fundamentalist christian blogs. It began a few years ago when i realised that i didn’t get what people in the emerging church were emerging from, and where the fights about theology were coming from [why were Brian McLaren’s books so controversial?] so i started reading some evangelical christian websites, and it only took a few clicks from there until the really scary stuff caught my eye. It really is a whole other world out there – and it’s really not pretty – and I think i’m finally beginning to understand why the USA context is so completely different to Australia, NZ and the UK, in terms of worship, spirituality and community.

Anyway, long story short, and all that. After reading some stuff last night – in the Guardian*, not the Vision Forum website – I realised that it’s time to start using another word instead of ‘God’. It was this comment that tipped me over the edge:

As David Attenborough says, there is a species of parasite in Africa which lives by burrowing into the eyeballs of children and blinding them. If God exists, God made that parasite.

I can re-theologise and explain that away: I don’t believe in an omnipotent being who created the world; I try to have faith in the fragile event. But interrupting a liturgy to include that disclaimer disrupts the all-important poetry. The unpacking and re-interpreting of theological language – of which ‘God’ is the ultimate example, really – is not what i want to spend my time doing. While i’m sure there’s virtue in reclaiming the name, just like there’s virtue in reclaiming the church, I’m happy to leave that to others to do. And I’m really happy to leave behind language that might ever put me in the same camp as the uber-fundamentalists. So I want to find ways to speak of the event of God without ever speaking of God.

The only time i use the language of God is when i’m writing for a Christian audience. And while i’ve been happy to be ambiguous or multivalent with language, i’m increasingly uncomfortable with people thinking i mean something i really don’t. Wish I knew where to start though.

*the whole Guardian article is another blog post in waiting – thanks to Blythe for sending it my way.


  1. Doug Gay

    I normally find your writing very illuminating Cheryl – but this one made me sad. In my experience God is the worst word to use for ‘God’ apart from every other word we try to put in its place. I am very pessimistic about attempts to substitute ‘the fragile event’ as a focus for faith – in a way the ineluctable burrowing of the parasite is also another fragile event. Deconstruction undoes all of our formulations – there are no innocent terms to take refuge in. Maybe all of our words have to be performed within a tradition of practice and dialogue. You have been someone whose insights have helped me to understand what it means to believe in, trust and love the Triune God – the God of Jesus Christ. I hope the rest of us who cling to these terms can give you reason in our life and practice and art and speech to believe that they have not been wholly colonised or captured by uber-fundamentalists.

  2. I went for an “exit interview” today and was talking about the diverse community of a university campus – the diversity of Christians on campus being just one slither of that. And the best that I can hope to do is offer a hospitable, graced and multivalent space that people can bring their own meaning-making narratives to. I’m not claiming any kind of success with that but it’s the best I hope to offer… My experience of your writing and of a space you curated is that the absence of “God” language is not the same as the absence of the sacred/holy.

    Surely the space we leave when we refrain from uttering the name of God is as holy as the space that is marked with the name… I think Simone Weil wrote something about that… will ponder more and come back

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