platitude: remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.
“he masks his disdain for her with platitudes about how she should believe in herself more”
We all use phrases we can utter without much thought to express ourselves. I’ve written about this before but after hitting it again a few times this week, I just have to say something. In a world of real people encountering real horrors, this platitude has never seemed more hollow.
The platitudes that grate me more than any others are those rooted in the idea that we are in and others are out. When we utter the phrase God is good and it is attached with our personal prosperity, we bear witness that we believe our beliefs are the beliefs that give us special favor. We inadvertently imply that if you aren’t getting to buy that new car, move up in your community or take that dream vacation, YOU haven’t discovered this goodness. This platitude used in this way is rooted the prosperity gospel used by people like Jim Baker and Joel Osteen. It is not, nor was it ever, used by Jesus to express that God is good.
Another way people of faith use this platitude is to encourage the poor, the struggling, the ugly, the addicts and the ill others in their midst to have hope. In spite of anything else true about their lives, they are encouraged to believe that God is good. The Christian teacher Bill Gothard took this so far as to teach that if a woman was raped, God had a plan. He went on to say that her task would be to believe so firmly in the goodness of God that being overcome and violated by a man would turn out to be good in her life!!!
Last week my son and his wife were asked to foster to adopt a third baby. While many infertile couples would give everything for one baby, they now have three! I’ve heard countless platitudes related to God’s goodness with respect to Finn’s arrival. I’ve also been living with the God is so good! ear worm going round and round in my own head. With thirty years of throwing this platitude out there like rice at a wedding, I am here to bear witness that it is way past time for us to stop it.
Saying some form of God is Good rarely, if ever, comes from any genuine grasp of a deep truth we actually know in our bones, it has instead become spiritual OxyContin used to avoid the harsh reality that God isn’t attached to any possible construct of goodness as we in first world prosperity driven religious countries can define it. In my mind and heart I can no longer just say that God is good as I express gratitude for anything in my life. I am beyond full of gratitude for these boys in my life but I cannot neglect the reality of how they have come to us. Any kind of concept that a good God would allow a mother and father to continue to conceive while not being capable of safely parenting their three boys simply does not compute.
Why? Because from where I sit, my son and his wife are the ones who are good. My country, where an imperfect foster care system exists to intervene and save the boys, that is what is good. To be high on the opioid of God is so good will not possibly work for this grandma anymore.
I actually believe in the goodness of Divine life. I believe in the co-creation with that life to make my life better. But seriously, my faith paradigm hasn’t come from prosperity, it has come as a result of personal reflection, radical acceptance and facing hard truth. It’s come from religious de-tox and self discovery. It’s come from authentic friendships where others wrestle with reality in similar fashion. I live with an abiding presence, I believe to be God but very often, very often, real goodness looks nothing at all like material or physical prosperity.
Please think about this and release your addiction to this phrase. Do it for the good of everyone.