I grew up in South Carolina, USA, and I currently live in Tokyo, Japan. I am well versed in religion, various cultures, and world politics.
If there is one thing that echoes inside church buildings after mass shootings or other terrible tragedies in America, it is the notion that bad things are happening because we are disobeying God or moving away from God.
Growing up in the South, I have heard the expression "It's not a [fill in the blank] problem, it's a God problem" more times than I can even count. This expression is a non sequitur fallacy, which means it is a conclusion that is not aligned with the previous statement or evidence. Unfortunately, in Christianity, not only is this a fallback, but the use of formal fallacies and non sequitur fallacies in debates and arguments presents the image that Christians are quite illogical.
This expression, however, creeps in when certain values in American Christianity are questioned or pressured, and it causes a lot of Christians to point the fingers at something else. Things like the entertainment industry, video games, the porn industry, the legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, and so many more have been targeted with the the laser scope, but the most common argument is that it is a "God problem".
What Is a God Problem?
God problems are areas in Christian culture where sense and logic cannot be applied, because the reasoning is simply if God is not welcomed, bad things will happen.
This mindset has been used for decades in American Christianity, and it is one of the major reasons for some of the evangelical right's thinking and strategies.
In war times, many Christians will fight with protestors exclaiming how the war is ordained by God, and protesting against it is a waste of time. It is not a war problem, it is a God problem.
The non-Christians are the reason for the bad things happening, even if these bad things are actually happening in the war. In these eyes, war is never the fault of America. It is always the fault of the opposing nation, because how can it ever be America's fault if America is God's country, the greatest nation on earth?
Since the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, there has been an immense amount of tension between white America and black America. One such tension is government handouts. And it is not a race problem, it is a God problem.
When it comes to food stamps, welfare, or Medicaid, there are significantly different stories being told from both sides, but a common story from the white side is that certain people do not deserve these government handouts. These people who receive this kind of assistance are seen as lazy and unmotivated, and they tend to be liars and cheats. Why should our tax dollars be paying for their food when I can barely afford my own? They are not trusting God enough, or maybe they did something worse.
We live in a time now where education is a serious pursuit and is often a requirement in the work place, but perfectly good Christians are becoming corrupt when they enter university. It is not an education problem, it is a God problem.
Christians have seemingly been at war with the liberal arts and the free thinkers occupying the university squares for quite some time. These people are godless, evil doers who have no respect for God and allow all kinds of wicked things to happen. It is almost as if they burn American flags and spit at God daily, and these are the people that are going to be leading our nation in the future? They will not even let our children pray in schools anymore! May God have mercy on us.
American Christians have been in love with firearms for ages. Guns are seen as the ultimate form of defense and a major blessing on American society. When tragedy happens, you better believe it. It is not a gun problem, it is a God problem.
The Democratic Party has been desperately trying to find ways to pass common sense gun laws, but why on earth would I let these heathens dictate how I should view my second amendment rights? And why are they always so quick to blame guns? What about violent video games? Gay marriage? Would that not be the reason for all of this evil happening? It obviously is not the gun's fault, right?
The Problem With a God Problem
This mentality is derived from the Old Testament. It is the image of a vengeful and jealous God enacting terrible punishments for the wrongdoings of the world.
Although Christians are supposed to have entered a New Covenant through Jesus Christ, the quick tendency to blame the world for the tragedies befalling it eliminates grace from the equation and places a harsh sense of justice in its place.
Also, using the "It is a God problem" argument puts an immediate halt to any conversation, because it is a very close-minded approach and will not allow any other ideas to even fancy.
There Needs To Be a Culture Shift
When it comes to connecting with the world around us and revealing the love of God through our lives, there needs to be a grand sense of understanding the people right in front of us.
Conversations need to be treated with love and care, and if we apply Jesus' Golden Rule, we must remember to listen to others in the same way we would like for them to listen to us.
This needs to apply to all areas of discussion as well. Some times it is true that war is criminal and America is to blame for the crime. Some times the things we do directly or indirectly can be quite racist whether we recognize it or not. Some times those liberals are absolutely correct in their assessment about political and religious matters. And some times guns really are the problem, and we need to swallow our pride and think of positive ways to move forward.
In order for any of that to be recognized, though, there must be a shift in the culture that allows for such outside voices to be heard.
As the great Joseph Joubert once said;
"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress."
My hope is that we delete this mindset that we must always be right or that we have to win every argument, and instead, may we move forward together with hearts ready for progress, hope, and change! For this to happen, though, we must acknowledge that it is not always a "God problem" when bad things are happening. Some times, the problem is just us.
© 2019 Jason Reid Capp
Jason Reid Capp (author) from Tokyo, Japan on September 18, 2019:
@Cheryl E Preston
Thank you for comment, and I really appreciate the compliment. I hope more readers check this out too, as I think it really does highlight some casual problems in every day life.
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on September 18, 2019:
Thank you for this enlightening article. Gives the reader much to think about.
Jason Reid Capp (author) from Tokyo, Japan on September 16, 2019:
Thank you for the compliment, sir, and continually participating. It truly is a love problem.
A lot of what you shared rings true for my background too. On top of the "God problem" and "Put it in God's hands", I find the "Praise God!" comment to be equally frustrating when it is applied to anything and everything. I understand praise is an important role in the faith, but the "Praise God!"-mentality follows the "God is the one controlling everything"-mindset. So if something bad happens, I either disobeyed God or He is teaching me a lesson. If something good happens, God orchestrated it and I had nothing to do with it essentially.
My friend is a professional guitar player, and he often gets asked, "How did you get so good at guitar?" He just simply replies, "A lot of time and practice." But it is crazy the responses he gets; "You are so gifted!", "God has blessed you.", "I could never be as good as you.", etc. With responses like that, it is easy to see the laziness of certain people. Life is hard, and it takes a lot of energy and hard work. It cannot simply be "given to God". Like you said, we have to do the work, fight the fights, and put our prayers into action.
Thank you for your insight!
Rodric Anthony from Surprise, Arizona on September 15, 2019:
I have never heard about a God problem until now, but the sentiment that I get from cultural Christians at times fits that description. What I would hear is, "Leave it to God." or "Put it in God's hands."
You cannot pay your bills? Put it in God's hands.
Did you lose your job? Put it in God's hands.
Do you need heart surgery? Put it in God's hands.
If we leave everything to God, we won't get anything done since God is not our maid or a magic wish granter at our beck and call.
We have to do the work. God can encourage us, strengthen us, maybe even provide a miracle here and there; but He will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. Many times He does nothing that we want and everything falls apart for us.
Blacks did not get civil rights because people left it to Him. People fought for it. Gays did not get rights and protections because people left it to God. People had to fight for them!
I grew up with the teaching to pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on me. It serves me well.
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on August 23, 2019:
amen. Yelp, a love problem. Regardless of politics.
Jason Reid Capp (author) from Tokyo, Japan on August 23, 2019:
@A B Williams
Thank you for reading my article and commenting! I really appreciate it.
But, unfortunately, I have to say that the end of your comment was precisely the point of my article. I currently live in Japan, one of the most atheistic countries in the world. The amount of times I have heard the line "We are Japanese. We don't need god." is uncountable. But this is the environment that I live in.
However, it is one of the safest places on the planet. The culture is rich with honor and respect, and people genuinely care for each other out of duty. But based on the logic that turning away from God would bring pain and destruction, Japan absolutely does not fit that mold. Sure, Japan is not perfect, by any means, but tragedy does not strike the country like it does the United States, for example.
Personally, as I even said in the article, I think the problem in America is heavily cultural. In the religious and political realms, sides are just not willing to listen to each other, and it has caused immense division as well as creating waves of hate. When the church is heavily responsible for this too, that is a bad sign. I'm not painting "good guys" on any side, because I personally think the dividing of people is just wrong and creates less chance for love.
Jesus drove a lot of people away, yes, but he welcomed everyone. He tried to talk to all people, including his enemies on a regular basis. He didn't shy away from difficult conversations, but he proved over and over again that you can speak the truth in love.
The truth is a powerful tool, and I honestly believe that all sides of any discussion have shards of truth in their possession. However, most people see their truth as the "only truth", and that is where disconnect and division can be created. When two or more people have different truths and are able to discuss them in a loving way, magnificent and game-changing things can happen. But the problem is that so many people are just not willing to listen to each other, and that breaks my heart.
Does that make sense? I am not attacking you. That was not my intention. I just hope this better clarifies where my mind is and what the heart of this article is about. Thank you again for reading and sharing, though!
Jason Reid Capp (author) from Tokyo, Japan on August 23, 2019:
Thank you very much for the comment. I have worked for a Christian organization for many years, have had relationships with many other organizations, worked alongside numerous churches, and have interacted with Christians from all over the world in many different countries.
But in the past couple years, my eyes have become so much more open, and I am seeing the sad reality of a lot of Christian behavior. Once you see it for what it is, it is quite difficult to unsee it. I know, as humans, we are not perfect and never will be, but striving towards perfection (AKA godliness) should be a goal and that means biting out tongue when we have to, turning the other cheek when we have to, and avoiding the unbiblical direction the church often goes in while still holding on to love and not casting any judgment, shame, or hate.
If we really want to resemble Jesus in our lives, we need to stop getting so caught up in this political nonsense and just remember that Jesus did not focus on this at all. He was about helping people grow, serving the least, caring for the unloved, and representing how we can live better lives ourselves. He wasn't blaming the world for problems, he wasn't focused on the political powers and their influence, and he wasn't about separating. He was a uniter, not a divider, and I want to spend more time focusing on that truth and learning how I can help all sides to better understand each other, move towards one another, and love whole-heartedly.
A B Williams from Central Florida on August 22, 2019:
Hi Jason, between Tim responding and the mention of South Carolina, I was drawn in. I too am originally from S.C. and Tim is my buddy.
A few things stood out to me, some I agree with and others I do not, but it would take much too long to get into right now.
I will focus on your mention of the Golden Rule. When I was a kid in the great State of S.C., the Golden Rule was written on the walls of my school, so were the Ten Commandments. We didn't just pledge allegiance to the flag, we'd also pledge allegiance to God. All daily reminders, that we weren't the most important thing in the universe, the world didn't revolve around us.
These were all things that were a part of our day, we'd see those words day in and day out, coming and going, year after year.
Over time, individuals became offended by those words on the walls and of the mention of God, and so, they disappeared from our schools.
You say it's not a God problem, I agree. It's a turning away from God, a shunning of God, an elimination of God in our day to day lives.
In today's climate; we are made to feel embarrassed and inferior about mentioning God or calling upon his name.
It is occasionally 'allowed', 'acceptable', when many horrible things seem to be happening all at one time and no one knows where else to turn....but then, with time, we are right back to where we started, allowing wedges to be placed between us and our Creator and back to remembering our place in a secular world.
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on August 22, 2019:
As I read your article, I must say, I've seldom heard this comment in this state, just north of S.C. Yet, that doesn't take away from the significance of it. I often point out: "It's a love problem." I think this statement reflects a controlling mentality within a church: "It's a God problem." God is perfect, Hes not at fault. We as humans are, therefore, we must pick of the call for love by Our Savior and follow that Commandment.
Facts are often misrepresented. For instance, more White Americans receive "handouts" as opposed to Black Americans at this time. Also, remember how the crack epidemic was treated in the U.S.? Build more prisons. Lock them up for the tiniest amount of the drug. However, money is being rushed to fight the opiod crisis in the nation. Guess which population was impacted most by crack? By opiod?
When we begin to blame each other instead of acting in accordance to love to be fair and kind, it's easy to place the blame on some untouchable quality to protect a position of power.
Truthfully, our Lord would be seen as a radical thinker, a socialist, a controversial figure today by some elements of the religious right. In other words, love is the problem for that branch of Christianity in general. But we can reach them, one soul at a time because that's what Christ would do. Thank you for explaining this eloquently and with the keen heart and mind of a man who acts in accordance with His Commandment.
Jason Reid Capp (author) from Tokyo, Japan on August 12, 2019:
Thank you so much for the compliment! I know my approach can be quite frank, but I do hope that it communicates well and helps people to understand that things are not always what they appear to be.
Margaret Minnicks from Richmond, VA on August 12, 2019:
Jason, you have explained it well. Hopefully, a lot of people will read this article and embrace your teaching.