With the release of the Avengers film, my sons have gone into geek overdrive. There was of course the obligatory four days of watching Marvel films leading up to our going to see the feature. I’ve even gotten involved (though usually
immune to geekishness), especially since
the film’s director, Joss Whedon, holds my allegiance since Buffy the Vampire
Slayer days. Part of the boys’ geek routine apparently is researching
information about the stars, often through IMDB and Wikipedia. The boys’
attention is drawn (oddly ) to the religious views expressed
therein by the actors and crew of their favorite films. So they know that Joss
Whedon styles himself an “angry atheist” or that Robert Downy, Jr. supposedly self-identifies
with some combination of Zen-Buddhism and Jewish. Last night they told me that
who plays scientist Erik Selvig in both Thor
and Avengers, is an atheist who “considersthe notion of God absurd and that if a real God were actually so vain as toconstantly demand worship, then he would not be worth it.”
When telling me about Skarsgård’s view, Samuel asked me whether I thought the Bible said that God demanded our worship. The injunction from no less than the 10 Commandments came to mind, “You shall not make for yourself an idol . . . you shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of their parents, to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me” (Exod 20:4-5, NRSV). Jealousy is not far from vanity and so Skarsgård might seem to have a point.
However, I don’t accept Skarsgård’s understanding of God’s motive. I told the boys that I think that to the extent that God commands us to worship him it is not born out of any need that God has. He created us freely and sustains us freely; we have nothing that he has not given us. We are nothing except what he makes us. (This is why Kalistos Ware says “For it is only through thanksgiving that I can become myself.”) Furthermore, God does not demand of us what he hasn’t already given. I think worship is best understood as a pouring ourselves out to God; if so, then it is response to what God has already done; God pours himself out in creating the universe and in creating us. And especially in Christ, God gives himself fully to us. Deep calls to deep, says the Psalmist, and God’s outpouring evokes (or should evoke) our outpouring. God’s call for us to worship him is not a cry for attention; rather, it is a command in the same way that Jesus speaks to Lazarus at the latter’s tomb. “Lazarus, come forth!” Should Jesus have said please? Should he have let Lazarus decide to come forth of his own? Should Jesus have deferred to death? No; it is a command to depart death and to live. And to the extent God commands us to worship him, it is precisely of the same order as Jesus’ call to Lazarus. God calls us forth, from nothingness and then again from sin, nothingness’ reprisal, into life, which is to say, into relationship with him. He calls us to give our all to him (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might,” Deut 6:5), and he does so because that’s how he himself engages in relationship - he loves us entirely.
So in short, I am OK with God demanding my worship. His demand is generated by a jealousy for me, he would love me fully. But how could I receive that love if I hold on to myself or to a myriad of other false gods. No, I must let go of all such and receive his love. True vanity would be to begrudge him, he who is my creator and savior, the Lord and my father, this expectation to follow his lead.