“Whatever God you believe in, we all come from the same one.”
I happened upon that quote in The End of White Christian America (a fascinating and disturbing book I’ll blog about soon). The quote came from Queen Latifah (American rapper, songwriter, model), introducing Macklemore and Lewis at the 56th Grammy Awards, January 26, 2014.
“When we say music has the power to bring people together at the Grammys, we mean it . . . This song is a love song not just from some of us,” she explained, “but for all of us. And tonight we celebrate the commitment to love by some very beautiful couples . . . with an uplifting song that says whatever God you believe in, we all come from the same one. Strip away the fear, underneath it’s all the same love.”
“The Queen” is no theologian. I comment because she reflects (or helps further) a misinformed pop theology with her “whatever God” statement. First, the setting for it . . .
As Macklemore and Lewis performed, “lights rose on a swaying multicultural chorus dressed in the satiny black robes and white stoles of a gospel choir accompanied by a full band . . . At the top of the stage . . . Queen Latifah strode through a pair of tall double doors while thirty-three diverse couples—straight and gay, multiracial and interracial—filed into the theater’s aisles and faced each other. Queen Latifah, who had earlier registered with the state of California as a wedding officiant, asked the couples to exchange rings . . . she pronounced them legally married . . .
“The performance ended on an emotional high note with a musical call and response. The choir sang the opening words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (“Love is patient, love is kind . . . “) . . . while Madonna and Lambert (?) echoed their own line, ‘I’m not crying on Sundays'” (The End of White Christian America).
The book’s author, Robert P. Jones, opines: “The performance . . . was . . . a direct challenge to religious opposition to gay rights . . . not so much an antireligion invective as it was an indictment of religion using its own principles and symbols.” Repeatedly it proclaimed, “God loves all his children” and declared that those who “preach hate . . . cannot be holy or anointed, because they contradict the basic spirit of the gospel.” This performance was broadcast by CBS in prime time across the country.
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Admittedly, some anti-homosexual Christian rhetoric is vitriolic. For that, we should ask forgiveness. Paul admonishes us to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). So, in love and humility we confess sin dominates us all. For us to self -righteously condemn those who practice homosexuality does nothing to point sinners to the Savior.
However, it’s not hate speech to preach that God’s kingdom is closed to those engaged in homosexual acts (1 Corinthians 6:9). It’s rather to speak God’s words.
At the same time, Queen Latifah can’t select Scriptures she favors (“God is love”) and ignore those she doesn’t (“those who practice homosexuality will not inherit God’s kingdom”). Nor can we pick and choose.
This Grammy performance seems to have been an in-your-face attack. Not the first time. Performers entertained the audience with an unintentional fulfillment of the apostle Paul’s words: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32). By the way, that’s in the same Bible as 1 Corinthians 13.
With that setting shown and my comments about it made, what about that quote? “Whatever God you believe in, we all come from the same one.” To be fair to “the Queen”, she’s not the only one spouting such “theology”. It’s in the air! Listen. You’ll hear it.
Critiquing, start with what appears obvious: her statement contradicts itself. “Whatever God you believe in” implies as many varieties of God exist as Heinz has soups (57). ” . . . we all come from the same one” implies there’s only one God. Self-contradictory.
But, let’s not demand too much theology from Queen Latifah. Maybe she means just that our “faith-language” differs. Like, Muslims call the one God “Allah” while Christians call him “God” or “Father”. But, read the Koran. Allah who commands “death to the infidel” isn’t the God of Jesus.
I infer that at best “the Queen” proclaims one God, but our conception of him differs. And that really doesn’t matter, because who knows what God is truly like, except that he is love and father of us all? Does she (and those in her camp) see that she makes God, then, merely the product of our imagination?
Confession: after 54 years of marriage, I still fantasize about my wife. But she’s not the product of my imagination. She exists apart from my imagination. So does God. We may imagine what he’s like. We may identify him according to favorite Scriptures (“God is love”). But he isn’t the product of our mental conception. He exists in his own image outside our mind and apart from us. Rather than seeking to know him as he is, we create him in our own image.
The biblical writer to the Hebrews says, ” . . . he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, NKJV). God “is” implies that he exists as a living being independent of us. Nothing we do or think make him who or what he is.
Furthermore, instead of shaping God in our own image, we are to “diligently seek him” (keeping in mind that in Christ Jesus he came to seek us!). We’re not to use our sin-darkened, culturally-conformed minds to imagine God; we’re to diligently seek to discover what he is really like as revealed in his Son and Word. (It’s the most challenging, exhilarating study in the world!)
Education, I’ve read, was once a search for truth, for reality. Sadly, our sinful society decided no overarching truth (reality) exists. Thus even God (if he exists at all) is nothing more than what we believe him to be. Thus humans in general don’t seek God, spurred on by a promised reward from him. Instead, our reward is the satisfaction of our own corrupt lusts and maybe, in the process, a name for ourselves.
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A prophecy: increasingly the reasonableness of same-sex love and marriage, the emphasis of “God is love” to the exclusion of “God his holy”, and the reasonableness of “we’re all God’s children” will be hammered (or whispered or preached) at us. More and more we will be marginalized and, in some cases castigated, for insisting marriage is for one man and one woman, for declaring God is holy as well as love, and for proclaiming that only those who come through faith in Jesus Christ are God’s children. We will be mocked and marked as prejudiced because we believe God is not whatever anyone believes him to be.
A question: will we remain faithful under such pressure and still love those who persecute us?
A final question . . .
losing the approval of the majority,
will we be satisfied with the reward God gives
to those who diligently seek him?