Wednesday, July 11, 2007

For Sinead

I couldn't thank U in ten thousand years/If I had cried ten thousand rivers of tears/Ah, but U know the soul and U know what makes it gold/U who give life through blood—from "Something Beautiful" by Sinead O'Connor

Sinead O’Connor. I bet just reading that name sets off a firestorm of emotional responses in various readers. Many of you probably thought, or hoped, she’d disappeared. Nope, she’s still around. And she’s just released a new CD. I’ve heard bits and pieces of it, and it’s pretty good. It’s called Theology, and it’s a collection of songs that she’s written containing mostly Scripture, predominantly from the Psalms and the Prophets of the Old Testament. Christianity Today did an album review and an interview with Sinead. I was very impressed with and proud of CT for doing the interview and getting her to open up about her beliefs. Well, apparently, I am one of 5 Christians who feels this way. She has some unconventional beliefs that have offended many readers over at CT. I’ve read both the review, the interview, and some of the comments, and I have some thoughts I'd like to share.

First of all, I’m not necessarily the biggest Sinead fan in the world, but I have a couple of friends that would probably contend for that title! I do, however, think she’s incredibly talented and I have enjoyed many of her songs and CDs. I welcome Sinead’s thoughts on God and could maybe learn a thing or two from her. I don’t agree with all her ideas, but they certainly don’t scare me either. We often react in fear to ideas that are different than our own. Here’s why I think that is: We are deathly afraid of being wrong. Seriously. What would happen if you woke up one day and everything you built your life on proved to be a lie? That’s what happens when you place your trust in a belief system over the person of God. Oswald Chambers said, “When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God — it is only believing our belief about Him.” I love that. Let God be true, and every man a liar. We love that verse when we’re talking about other people. But that even applies to me. And even to you. Let my convictions be damned. If they’re not from God, then I don’t want them anyway. Chambers also says, “My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace nor even blessing, but Himself, my God.” That is all I endeavor to know in this life. And with that involves continually laying down the dearly beloved white-washed belief systems that have made me feel so safe in the past, when they block my view from seeing Him more clearly, knowing Him more intimately, and touching His heart.

I disagree with Sinead on several counts. I do believe God is perfect. And I do believe that He is perfect love and perfect justice, and therefore pronounces judgment, at the same time. He is God, after all! Her “theology” has always been a little bit muddy for me, but that’s okay. Mine maybe for her and even for some of you. I would even challenge her and encourage her to explore the greater depths of His personality and character, even those parts that might make her uncomfortable, as I do the same. It's usually in the wrestling and in the pushing through to God that we catch our greatest glimpses of Him. At the same time, I truly believe that she knows Jesus, and has for a long time. This isn’t the first album she’s ever made about Him. When she talks about Him, and sings about Him, she’s singing about the God that I know and love. No, she doesn’t go to church, so she doesn’t use the same church-y language that we do. When she talks about Jesus being “like an energy” it reminds me of Jesus as a Spirit. That’s how I think of Him and relate to Him. That’s what the Bible says that He is. It’s not THAT different of a concept really. People have never been comfortable with that whole idea anyway. Following a bunch of written-down rules is a whole lot easier, and safer, than a Spirit. But a whole lot more boring and binding.

Our God is a crazy God. At what point in the Bible does He ever do anything that’s safe, conventional, or predictable? He commands His most devoted follower to slay his own son. He tells a prophet to marry a whore. He impregnates a virgin. He’s certainly a lot more exciting, creative, passionate, and unpredictable than we ever give Him credit for. We all have heard the saying, “You can’t put God in a box.” Well, it’s true. And that unfortunately, like Sinead, makes us uncomfortable.

Here’s my point: Let the poor woman speak. Welcome her into the God conversation. She’s been ostracized enough. Let’s not shun her simply because her ideas don’t line up with our own. And let’s remember to have some grace.