Sometimes we all wonder why God does or doesn’t do certain things. Why doesn’t He stop this earthquake or thwart that terrorist attack? Or perhaps even more important to some people, why hasn’t the Big Man Up There let the Cubs win a World Series in more than a hundred years? But to add a question: Why hasn’t God trademarked His name yet?
Think about it. Since intelligent design/creationists are always going on about Him being a perfect architect when He made the world, you would think this designer would at least have the common sense to put together a half-decent public relations team. And everyone knows the first step in marketing yourself properly is to trademark your own name. Snooki and half the cast of the reality show Jersey Shore are doing it, not to mention McDonald’s, which owns the names of approximately 1.2 million words that can begin with the prefix “Mc” (e.g. McJob, McBuddy, McPen and charity concerts named McFest).
God is quickly falling behind the times, and it’s creating for Him a public relations nightmare.
Just pause for a moment and recall all the religious people, church leaders and politicians you know who claim to be speaking for God and who have the gradual but cumulative effect of somehow causing you to believe in God just a little less. It’s not that any one priest or president or psychotic cult from the middle-of-nowhere persuaded you to trade in Jesus for sex, drugs and Oprah’s latest new age religion.
No, most of us are not that easily disillusioned. Rather, when someone asks why you haven’t darkened the doors of a church since Mom made you go for Easter in 1998, these negative images of all the people who claimed to be speaking for God flood your mind, and the answer is quite obvious: Why on Earth would you? Those crazy people are probably just past those doors, or at least people who like those crazy people.
Which is why God needs to trademark His Holy Name—God®, Jesus®, Jehovah®, Yahweh®—and He should snag Allah® while He’s at it, just to be safe. With God® able to approve (by federal and international law) the use of His Name, He could work a miracle for His public image—and without violating any laws of physics. Sure, tragedies like earthquakes and terrorist attacks will still happen, and God® will have to deal with the inevitable questioning of His goodness. How much easier will it be, though, when God® doesn’t have to clear up the confusion after Pat Robertson claims the Haitian earthquake was because of Haiti’s “pact with the devil”? No longer will God® have to spend years disavowing the late Jerry Falwell’s assertion that “pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians, and the ACLU … helped 9/11 happen.”
Come to think of it, if God® does manage to trademark Allah, too, He could effectively end this War on Terror almost overnight.
So why doesn’t God? Not that I can claim to speak for Him, but issues of free will and the dignity of individual autonomy seem like obvious explanations. God, selecting mercy over judgment, allows people to mess up representing Him in the same way He allows people to mess up anything else. But while those answers may be intellectually sufficient, they are not really emotionally satisfying. After all, sometimes I really wish the Almighty would just hit Glenn Beck with a lightning bolt for declaring that church-based “social justice” is a code word for Nazism and Communism. But my desire for cosmic justice on Beck is tempered with the realization there is a 100 percent chance that I have misrepresented God as well, both in my beliefs about His nature and will and in my actions as a Christian. So in all fairness, I deserve a divine smiting, too.
So why does God spare me? Perhaps if we understood God more as the Master Artist than as the Intelligent Designer/CEO/Hollywood Star, we could see a method in the apparent madness. If it is true that God is unfolding the greatest story ever told rather than manufacturing the most perfect machine ever made, then it stands to reason God might want elements of the story that can only be written in the messiness of human free will. So on one side of the story there are people who, with poor motives or misplaced zeal, mar and bloody the face of Christ to the point where others can no longer recognize Him as Savior. On the other side are people who have managed, by the shocking grace of God, to live centered in the Spirit of God, having a hunger for justice, but also a thirst for mercy; full of wisdom, but loaded with humility; unafraid to speak the truth, but always lacing it with love. Those radiant people make life so deeply beautiful.
And perhaps God has already trademarked Himself in a way. The Apostle Paul wrote to a church in the Greek city of Colossae during 60 A.D. that in Jesus, “the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” God’s spokesman, if you will, was God enfleshed in Jesus. If that is true, then we are able to determine who speaks for God by the degree in which they reflect the nature of Jesus. No one, of course, will get it just right. That’s where God’s grace comes in. But beyond grace, we can take hope in the reality that the Creator has not left us without a means to gauge divine will, and that the trademark of God’s love for humanity endures forever in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Colin Kerr serves at a growing 200-year-old Presbyterian church in Charleston, S.C. He is the author of two books, including A Heaven-Backed Rebellion: Uncovering the Political Vision of Christian Liberals. You can read his blog at GodsEclectic.blogspot.com.