Q. Many successful sports, showbiz and business people credit faith in God for their success. But a recent article in the Wall Street Journal discusses winners at this year’s Grammy awards and their belief that it’s not just faith that’s driven them to the top of their profession — God actually chose them to be successful over other musicians. As Christina Aguilera’s mother says, “We thought there must be some divine intervention. Early on, I realized…God has plans for her.”

The article’s author, Neil Strauss, calls this “competitive theism” and says, “As I compiled and analyzed these interviews for my new book, I reached a surprising conclusion: Believing that God wants you to be famous actually improves your chances of being famous.” Interestingly, he also concludes that an individual believes this regardless of his or her own personal morality, thus justifying a faith in God from artists whose lyrics and behavior may seem very un-Christian.

Do you think a strong religious faith can help people succeed in highly competitive fields such as sports and pop music? And is a multi-millionaire pop singer any more deserving of special attention from God than someone striving to find the cure for cancer, or anyone else for that matter?

 

As always, there are at least two truths going on here; and as always, it is arrogance and folly to judge which one is happening in someone else’s soul.

On the one hand, there is, indeed, such a thing as giftedness; people of faith believe that these gifts are of God. When you’re “in the zone” of the best thing you do, when you’re soaring high on the uplifting currents of everything that’s possible in human excellence — if you’re a person of faith, you feel God with you in that. You feel, in your very marrow, God’s delighting in you then.

And caught up in that ecstasy of God’s delight, the natural and appropriate response is an expression of gratitude and humility. It is perfectly right for those who have felt God singing in their blood and surging through their gifts to say, “It is not I who am responsible for all this excellence. I must admit, this is from God, and I am merely a vessel of grace for this great thing.”

On the other hand, of course, is false humility—the shallowness of those who are consciously expressing a faith they don’t feel simply because they think it’s in vogue. These are the people whose speeches ring hollow and whose posed piousness is irritating.

But on a third hand, there are otherwise well-intended people who simply have not yet gone all that deeply into the life of faith and are unclear about how it all works. In the first shallow waters of what may become a deeper journey, they fumble for words to express the beginnings of their experience of God reaching for them and working through them. It’s not an easy thing to put words to, and which of us, our own words inadequate to capture heaven, is to blame another for trying?

And then, there has been more than once that as my own pious lips have been saying some version of “Give God the glory,” my naughty inner self has been snickering, “Damn, I’m good!”

So who am I to judge?

The Rev. Amy Pringle

St. George’s Episcopal Church

La Cañada

 

Of one thing we can be sure: God wants us to be happy. He wants us to be happy not only in eternity but even now in this life. As the Sacred Scriptures say, he came that we might have life and have it to the fullest.

How do we open ourselves to this gift of God that he wants so much for us? How do we appreciate and enjoy this fulness of life?

One thing is certain: It doesn't happen by having a discussion ( prayer?) with God, in which we tell him exactly what we need to be totally happy. No, exactly the opposite is true.

In our prayer we ask for three things. First, Lord, teach me always to love as you love me. Second, Lord, help me always to do your will. Third, Lord, thank you for the gifts you have given me and let me always use them for the benefit of others and to build up your kingdom.