If you can wish, you can believe [mission.hack]

A mission.hack is defined here. We look at mission statements or at mission initiatives and examine different ways of expressing them. Hacking them...if you will.

I'm a longtime reader of Pharyngula. Yesterday, PZ Myers posted this billboard by a UM Church.

"If you can wish, you can believe" has been ridiculed by PZ's readers (including lots of knocking of the "Open hearts" campaign) and PZ titles the page "All of Theology in Seven Words." Ouch!

But is it really all that vapid?

Let's consider this a mission.hack....the way how we use words or phrases to open up the Christian system.

To me, anyone can wish for something. It is easy to wish for a new car, for a better job, for whirled peas. We wish for rather subjective things, things relative to a time and place. And often we don't wish for things for other people, do we?

Believing, however, is not the same as wishing. To me, the biggest difference between wishing and believing is sociological: Believing is about relationships. It is out of the norm for people to come to believe in Christ through solely biblical study. People come to church because of the relationships they gain, not because they think they can obtain what they wish for. To me, believing happens when you are in a relationship with another Christian or focusing on your relationship with God.

As I see it, believing is not about wishing, it is about relationships. So, while I disagree strongly with the theology expressed in the bulletin board, a good preacher can make the connections between the two for the edification of the receiver of the Word.

Because wishing and believing have something in common: they both betray what you want. When you wish for a car you really do want that car! When you believe in God, however, your wants are exposed by what kind of God do you want. If you want a God who will protect you and punish your enemies, then you want vengeance. If you want a God who is close and listens, then you want friendship and comfort. If you want a God to smite them homersexuals, then you want a god made in your own image. So a good preacher can connect our hidden wants with what kind of God speaks best to us.

I'm not blind to the negatives. This becomes much closer to wishing in that it leaves us with a subjective understanding of God, not a God that universalizes well. It also reeks of the self-help Christianity that focuses on a God who blesses what you name to God, ala Joel Osteen. But as a whole, it connects with people's wants, and if those wants can be connected to a life of discipleship, then I can see the billboard being effective, if a bit too materialistic and individualistic for my tastes.

Anywho, I can't really offer any alternatives to this mission.hack...just writing what that statement evoked in me in contrast to the negative statements. Maybe emphasizing relationships over wishing? "If you can bowl alone, you can bowl with Jesus" (hahahaha!)

Any thoughts on what the statement evoked in you, or better ways to hack this statement?


cometothewaters May 6, 2008 at 9:10 AM  

Jeremy, I'm still trying to learn this "hack" language, but I had a different read on this statement.

My understanding of "believe" does not entail relationship with others or even necessarily relationship with God. Or rather, I do not see a shift toward relationship when you move from wishing to belief.

A wish is a longing. A belief is trust that the longing will be realized.

I wish for peace. I believe that peace will be.

I wish for justice. I believe that justice will be done.

I wish for meaning behind all the apparent chaos of the universe. I believe that God is ruler of all.

This is where I see these two words touching and overlapping.


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