Last night, I had a difficult time getting to sleep because a phrase kept ringing in my head:
Follow the God you can see.
I spent too long scrolling on social media before bed, reading all the disturbing uses of power coming from the GOP. In one state, it is now legal for teachers to physically check a child's private parts before they join a sports team. In another state, lawmakers are working to make offering gender-affirming care to anyone younger than 26 illegal. In yet another state, the governor literally announced plans to create their own "civilian armed forces", separate and apart from the national military and it's oversight.
I can't lie, I was feeling incredibly defeated and confused. How did we get here? How does a nation that claims to be Under God continue to seek to destroy HIs handiwork?
I remember their being a distinction in Bible college around Christ as "the Risen Savior." While we learned of and respected the life of Christ, and we were told to "live like Jesus," we concentrated our attention, not on the Jesus of the Gospels, but on the Jesus of the Church Letters — the Risen Christ. The Risen Christ is, in many ways, invisible. Of course, the Risen Christ was witnessed several times before His Ascension, yet His interactions were few, and the recordings of those interactions are fewer, still. In Romans, Acts, and the Church Letters, the New Testament changes from an eyewitness account including Christ's own words, to a philosophy about Christ and what it means to follow Him in his invisible form. I remember an instructor in Bible college telling his class to tear out the New Testament's title page that sits before the Book of Matthew and place it after the Book of John, claiming that the doctrine taught by the Apostle Paul describes the true life of a Christian, instead of Christ's own words and actions.
When the phrase, "Follow the God you can see," played on repeat in my soul last night, I understood why. I also understood why it sounded so odd. Treating anything I can experience with my five physical senses as beneficial to my faith or holding divine truth is something I was trained the Evangelical Church to reject. One of the most important verses in the Evangelical doctrine is 2 Corinthians 5:7, "We walk by faith and not by sight," coupled by the verse that defines faith itself, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," (Hebrew 11:1). The supremacy of an "unseeing faith" was never taught by Jesus. Many treat John 20:29 (the Doubting Thomas story) as Christ rebuking Thomas for wanting to witness the Risen Savior before he believed Jesus was, indeed, alive. Jesus never rebuked Thomas. Jesus spoke a blessing on those who would never have his privilege, which we certainly need even today. Christ was a prophet, after all. Christ did all He could to prepare His followers for life without His physical presence. He was probably well aware of what would happen to His followers and teachings once He left the earth.
Whether or not you believe in the physical Resurrection is irrelevant to the truth that the narrative of Christ's life surviving thousands of years means that he does, in fact, "live." The narrative of a life lived authentically for the purpose of collective liberation cannot die, it is eternal. While the Church Letters have their place, that place will never define my faith. My faith is in the God I can see, the narrative of Christ's live and impact as told in the Gospels. I am grounded in the proportionality of Christ's words to Christ's actions. I don't have to depend on anyone or anything to explain Christ to me. I don't have to, paraphrasing Apostle Paul's words, follow him or anyone else as they follow Christ (remember, the Church Letters were written to specific groups of Christians living a unique experience during a precise time in history). I can "see" Christ in action, thanks to the technological advancements of the printing press and the spread of literacy, through reading the Gospels myself. I will also gain inspiration and insight from the lives of others who are, in Maya Angelou's words, the process of becoming a Christian, because that's how humanity works and the Church was designed for humans.
The "What Would Jesus Do?" trend was so annoying because too many preachers of the time could accept the answer to the question. The question, however, is a powerful one because it pointed the asker back to Christ's story. I hope "Follow the God you can see" will have a similar impact.