The Wizard of Oz is a wonderful movie that seems to be embedded in our culture. (If you haven’t ever watched it, I highly recommend it!) And I think the ending is a great analogy for the image I was expected to project to others. I was expected to stand tall to my friends and teachers all ‘for testimony sake.’ I had a public sales image to keep up at all times, no matter the cost to me. If you watch this short clip (around 44 seconds), you’ll get my point instantly and can stop reading right there. Just kidding!
Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Green Curtain
I think Baptist fundamentalists would never admit this, but they all believe in ‘that man behind the curtain.’ They call their wizard, ‘God.’ They claim that God has done all sorts of incredible, fantastic miracles back in the day for Israel.
Here are a few. . . (source: List of Miracles in Old Testament)
- God sent thunder, lighting, and huge hail that was so large it killed the Egyptians’ livestock
- God sent manna from heaven in the morning for 40 years to feed the Israelites
- God killed Israelites who were complaining against Moses by opening a huge hole in the ground beneath them. God killed not just the men who were complaining, but their wives and children!
- God burned 250 men with fire from heaven
- God caused the walls of the city of Jericho to fall allowing the Israel soldiers to slaughter every man, woman, and child in that city.
- God caused the sun and the moon to ‘stand still’ until Israel ‘had avenged themselves on their enemies.’
- God saved Jonah out of a whale where he had survived for 3 days
- God saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from burning to death in a fiery furnace
- God saved Daniel from being eaten by lions
I think you get the idea here. . .God of the Old Testament is a God who creates unmatched awesome and fearful miracles. God of the Old Testament took names and kicked ass!
I was taught that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That same God who saved Daniel from being torn and eaten by lions is the same powerful God who will help and strengthen us in our lives today.
In the New Testament, we find that God in the form of Jesus
- Healed blind and the deaf
- Cast out demons
- brought a dead girl back to life
- walked on water
And other miracles through the apostles were
- Phillip was miraculously transported to Azotus after preaching to an Ethiopian eunich
- Peter miraculously freed from prison
- Paul and Silas freed from prison
- Healed sick folks
- Spoke in different languages that the speaker didn’t know, but others in the meeting recognized
- Demons were cast out of tormented people
I was taught that every one of these miracles literally happened on a historical timeline.
I was further taught that (and here it gets a bit confusing)
a. God stopped doing miracles today because we have the Bible, and the Holy Spirit living inside of us, so we don’t need any showy miracles to confirm the Gospel.
b. We should pray to God, confessing our sins first so He will hear the rest of our prayer, then thanking Him for what we have, then praying for others, then finally asking for our own requests. So even though God doesn’t do miracles, we should still pray, believing that God will perform a ‘miracle’ to answer our prayers! Still following this?
Now this gets pretty weird. I’ll unwrap this twisted set of contradictions that just ooze out from this second little point I just listed.
I was also taught that as a born again believer, God sees me through His Son Jesus, who was the perfect sacrifice for my sins, so that God sees me as being perfect, justified, and ALL my sins, past, present, and future have been ‘covered under the blood’ so that I can have ‘fellowship with my Father God’.
And yet, 1 John 1:9 teaches me ‘that if we confess our sins, He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ What?? I’m not cleansed and still have to confess my sins even though Jesus died to pay for all of them??
And also another What?? God won’t hear me if I have sin in my heart, so I have to confess my sins first so He will hear me?? How could God have heard even the first part of my sin confession if I had sin in me preventing me from communication with God?
As a sensitive 13 year old kid, I recall many days walking home ‘confessing my sins’ to God as I walked, but then my mind would get distracted, or wander, and I would then have to start over, first confessing for my being distracted, then starting back at what I was confessing. As crazy as this sound, (and it is!), many days I would walk home mumbling prayer to myself trying desperately to get ALL my sins confessed the right way so that I would be in good standing with God. That’s a horrible burden of lies and logical crap to impose on a trusting, sensitive naive 13 year old boy!
So to get back on track a bit, I never saw any ‘miracles’ of the same nature as what were listed in either the Old or New Testaments. Not once. Ever.
I did however, get taught third hand stories that always seemed to be set in the historical past about how God had done miracles. George Mueller comes to mind. Here’s the story;
“The children are dressed and ready for school. But there is no food for them to eat,” the housemother of the orphanage informed George Mueller. George asked her to take the 300 children into the dining room and have them sit at the tables. He thanked God for the food and waited. George knew God would provide food for the children as he always did. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning. I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.”
Soon, there was another knock at the door. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed. He asked George if he could use some free milk. George smiled as the milkman brought in ten large cans of milk. It was just enough for the 300 thirsty children.” [source: https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/church-history-for-kids/george-mueller-orphanages-built-by-prayer-11634869.html]
As good as this story is, it strikes me that perhaps he should have planned ahead much better.
But the point is that every ‘miracle’ that I was ever taught about, came from the dead historical past and in some other country. I never saw any miracles in the here and now that were awe-inspiring.
Quite the opposite in fact. My Dad was the pastor of a church that ran around 70 folks for the Sunday morning service. We believed that God ‘owned the cattle on 1000 hills, the wealth in every mine.’ But I think He kept most of it to Himself, because the churches Dad served in certainly didn’t seem to have money to support him very well. We grew up on the poor side of things. Other people bought new cars, had new color TV’s, new furniture, and took vacations. But not us.
If spiritual beliefs have any meaning, they must have some tangible evidence to back them up. And after a while, I begin to realize that the gulf between my prayers and my specific miraculous answers was as wide as the Grand Canyon.
And so, despite all the claims that ‘our God is an awesome God’, at the end of the faded brick road is just a tired old guy behind a shabby curtain trying to keep the old hand cranked phonograph playing the same old tired ‘miracles.’
‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain’ is the same as the fundamentalist god that I was brought up with. All fluff stories. No substance.
A big lie. A huge delusion. And a great and sorrowful disappointment.