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