...Part 2 of Calling All Punks!
God is a rebel God. He’s not a rebel god like Bob Dylan, but a big-“G” God who reveals himself in rebellion against the constraints and puffed chests of would-be worldly authorities. Of all the characteristics we grasp for to try and define God, rebellion stands front and center (well, probably off-center). And, rebellion being what it is, it is the very inability to define God that makes rebellion so characteristic. It is also the aspect of God that has me insisting on my god-in-a-box over against yours, and vice versa.
It’s nothing to say Jesus was a rebel. Even total squares began thinking they were cool by saying such things in the 1980s. They were trying desperately to show “the world” how cool Jesus is, with T-shirts and bumper stickers and church production value and worship music that was a nice brand of rock n’ roll lite.
But what they were doing was corporatizing Jesus, casting his image as something sellable. What they were doing was taking the Lord’s name in vain. (Anyone can use “God” or “Jesus” as a curse word. It takes deep depravity to use him to build a self-aggrandizing empire.) So, in the very act of dragging Jesus into a faux-rebellion, they were really just cleaning him up and getting him camera-ready.
Who do we think we are, trying to tame him?
This rebel God is crazy!
The thing is—now lean in close for this one—we don’t have a freaking clue what we’re dealing with. This is the God who brought forth a watery chaos, took it in hand, and fashioned a cosmos. Look at some of the ways God reveals himself prior to the Incarnation—wind, cloud, fire—this is a God that cannot be gotten hold of.
And throughout accounts of his dealings with humanity, his is a voice that is inciting rebellion and revolution: declaring Creation’s curse, confusing languages and scattering nations, calling Abraham away from his homeland to somewhere unknown and eventually sending him to a mountain to sacrifice his miraculous son, sending Moses into the thick of hostility to lead the people through a sea and into an exilic wasteland, and then on and on through judges and kings and prophets. Who do we think we are, trying to tame him? This rebel God is crazy!
But most amazing of all, he again takes these seemingly chaotic elements in hand and fashions his own glorifying ends. We can’t do that. All of our empires and governments and laws, our harnessing the forces of nature and articulating the mysteries of science, our capacities for beauty and horror and organization and destruction, nothing we can do or be can approach either the chaos or the order of God.
This doesn’t stop us from trying, which is mostly good because it’s the trying that brings out the best in us. But it’s also the trying that brings out our worst, exposing our seemingly limitless capacity to make war and to exalt ourselves and to step on the throat of the earth until it has coughed out its last breath. And on God goes, throwing an elbow in our general direction and pressing onward with his plans for creating a universe. That’s rebellion.