For too long, I lived serving a false god who hates, bars and favors. This god put borders over people, waged war against my neighbor, blessed some with the clothing sewn by slaves, provided food to some while others starved.
A belief in such a god was like believing in Santa Clause. Santa seems to give some people a great number of gifts while others go without. “Mommy, why does Santa give us all of these presents but my friend only gets a few?” Parents have a tougher time answering that question then when their children ask them why others have food and others starve.
I do not believe in such a god anymore than I believe that an omnipotent person would choose to give presents to those whose parents had wherewithal to do so. This god was the one who had to die and be rejected in my life.
Such language makes some uncomfortable, but eventually all false gods die, and the God who was, is and will always be emerges. This is the God of love, compassion, empathy and welcome. The God who become a person and made his dwelling among us so to suffer with and show us an effective way to live non-violently and in the care of our neighbor. This was revealed in Jesus.
The colloquial nature of college gave me an opportunity to see that the god I thought I worshiped only existed in my mind. It was a manifestation of what I understood to be truth, which was the antithesis of what Jesus came to represent and what humanity needs to continue forward.
The god from my past had to die before I would find the God who was always there. There was a God whose whose sovereignty shined in the darkness, showing me a new way to live life without worry, with less stuff, more relationships and a focus on what was truly important. And it took becoming atheist to find such a God.
This was a God who loved and welcomed all regardless of their religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, political views, immigration status, what they wore, who they loved, where they came from, and whether or not they murdered, stole from, or otherwise victimized others. This was a God who offered life and life abundantly to all to come and find rest from being despised and rest from wrong.
This was the God who became flesh, the one who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Who showed us to put the needs of others before our own and to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility to consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:1-8).
People are not hungry because God ordains it. People are hungry because a system works against them. God is not the cause of war and injustice, people are. It is in Christ I find the God who became flesh, tearing down borders, healing, feeding, and speaking against a system that breeds poverty.
This Jesus is the quintessential example of a community activist, not causing trouble in the form of violence (although turning over tables does have its place). This is the Jesus who went to places forsaken by people, forgotten by the systems who took care of wealthier classes. Jesus ate with the prostitutes while the rich abused them. Jesus ate with the thieves who would steal for a simple meal.
Jesus challenged a system that allowed for a select group to profit. This was a Jesus who found me in my darkness, anger, and bitterness when I became an atheist. And it was this Jesus who helped me see that people are not God forsaken, they are church and people forsaken.
I am an atheist of the god who hates and a believer of the sovereign God, revealed in Jesus, who shows us that hate has no home. This is a sovereignty that implores we take the action of caring for others, loving our neighbor, and welcoming the refugee. This is a sovereignty I saw exemplified and taken seriously in the writing revealing Jesus’ ministry. For this to become a reality in my own life, I needed to leave the past in the past.