Also by this author: Family of Origin, Family of Choice: Stories of Queer Christians
Published by Eerdmans on September 21, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
Buy on Amazon
A gospel of hope, inclusion, and defiance
If God gets everything God wants, and if what God wants is you, can anything stand in God’s way?
Too many Christians have been taught that core aspects of who they are—their gender, their sexual orientation, their politics, their skepticism—prevent God from loving them fully. For these individuals, church has been a painful experience of exclusion, despite the reality that Jesus was the embodiment of God’s radical inclusion.
Katie Hays invites weary Christians, former Christians, and the Christ-curious to take another look at God through the testimony of our biblical ancestors and to reimagine the church as a community of beautiful, broken, and burdened people doing their best to grow into their baptisms together. Hays insists that yes, God does get everything God wants, and—even better—we’re invited to want what God wants, too, and want it “more and more and more, until life feels abundant and eternal and delicious and drunken with possibility.”
This is a message of stouthearted faith anchored in wonder—not false certainty. Atheists are welcome. Those who feel uneasy inside a church are welcome. Those still angry at other Christians are welcome. Because no matter what we’ve experienced, the God who still adores this world is the God of hope, inclusion, and defiance of the powers that be. And for those who are willing to collaborate in “the painstaking work of examining our Christian faith and sorting it out—the good stuff from the harmful stuff, the stuff with integrity from the stuff we simply inherited from family or church or . . . the cultural air we’re breathing”—there await life-giving possibilities found nowhere else.
I picked up this book because I thought I would disagree with it. I’ve specifically preached, in the past, that God does not get everything God wants and the title of this book is the exact opposite. And to Katie Hays, God Gets Everything God Wants is more than just the title of her book. It’s a mantra that forms the heart of Galileo Church where she serves as a pastor. Willing to be challenged and open to having my mind changed, I cracked open God Gets Everything God Wants and dove right in.
The first thing I have to mention is the way that Hays writes. In a lot of reviews, I mention that an author writes conversationally. Hays has made me rethink the way I use that term. Hays’ writing is conversational. It’s relatable. It’s pastoral, but not religious. It’s sarcastic and snarky with footnotes that range from humorous asides to glimpses into the rigorous academic background Hays stands on. She fully admits to not having it all figured out, is open about questioning Paul (and even Jesus)…or at least our interpretations of them. Her language isn’t always what you’d expect from a pastor, but always tastefully used for emphasis (some will disagree, I’m sure). God Gets Everything God Wants is inviting. It’s honest. It’s real. And whether you agree or disagree, it’s the type of conversation we need to be having in the church.
God Gets Everything God Wants is, if I had to categorize it in theological terms, an ecclesiology. Hays is primarily concerned with the Kingdom of God as it breaks into this world through the Holy Spirit infused community of the church. The first two parts of the book set up her theological framework. First, God gets everything God wants. Second, Jesus is God getting everything God wants. The last three parts build the ecclesiology, talking about how God chooses to partner with human beings, how through the Spirit we align our desires with God’s, and that we do all of this in a community called church.
My main contention to the book’s title is that, when I look at Scripture, the idea that God gets everything God wants seems to be without much evidence. I mean, you can go the Calvinist route of God foreordaining every single event, making him responsible for every act of evil. I mean, did God want Adam and Eve to sin? Is he orchestrating evil to weave together some glorious purpose? That’s a common apologetic of suffering in conservative Christian circles, which Katie Hays is decidedly not within. But there is a difference between “God gets everything God wants” and “God only gets everything God wants.” So Hays gets a pass there.
On the other end of the spectrum, the phrase “God gets everything God wants” can be used to support universalism, meaning that ultimately God will indeed make all things new and get everything he wants in the end. That’s closer to what Katie Hays is promoting, but not the primary thesis. While Hays does appear to tend toward universalism, her focus isn’t the future, but the present. So does God get everything he wants?
Well, there’s a whole part to the book entitled “When God Doesn’t Get Everything God Wants.” While this seems paradoxical to the book’s overall goal—and title—it is lynchpin of the book. God Gets Everything God Wants recognizes that God desires humankind to partner with him in his Kingdom-building endeavors. One of the things God has always wanted, one of the primary things he wants, is partnership with people. And people are the ones who have failed…but people are also the ones who, imbued with the Sprit’s power, have overcome.
Katie Hays specifically speaks to issues of slavery, patriarchy, and the exclusion of queer people from the life and leadership of the church. She writes about the church’s failures, but also the church’s successes. We’ve got a long way to go, but in partnership with God, we will move the needle toward justice. And we do this through the Spirit and in our churches.
The final chapters of God Gets Everything God Wants develops that ecclesiology of how that works out in the church. It focuses readers on what the church should be about and how it should worship, act, and believe. Katie Hays calls for inclusion, skepticism, and the ability to sit the mystery of the divine. While I don’t agree with every point and some good points are, in my opinion, elevated beyond where they should be or made simpler than they actually are, Hays’ vision of church is so much more than what we’ve made it. It’s so much better. God Gets Everything God Wants? Well…you have to qualify that statement a bit. Much like the book itself, it’s a bold charge tempered by qualifications and sarcastic comments in the footnotes. But overall, yes. It’s a phrase I’d still hesitate to use, because it does require a lot of explaining (at least one entire book by Katie Hays), but it’s a great title for selling books and setting a mission, let me tell you. God Gets Everything God Wants is a creative, thought-provoking, enjoyable conversation. The church needs more prophets like Katie Hays.