In listening to a young man on a spiritual quest, I was struck by his image of God: “loves me unconditionally, is always there to listen, is a comforting presence, is a rock upon whom I can depend, full of grace and wisdom.” The reason it connected is because it was exactly what he yearned for in a father and never had. His parents divorced when he was a boy, after a rocky and difficult time. The guy had some pretty rough memories. He found scripture to support this ‘god image’, and it was very comforting, became ‘God’ for him, when the church wasn’t affirming his identity. It is after all, a lonely and confusing world with a lot of sorry outcomes . . . and the journey ends in death. It’s said we need a God and a God image to sustain us. A personal one comes off more comforting than an impersonal one. Sometimes, that’s the only one there for some, who have felt rejected.
This week, the CEO of Chik fil A made news with his support of ‘biblical family values’ and anti-gay marriage stance. It caused quite a boom in sales as thousands of evangelicals against gay marriage bought chicken sandwiches in support. Notice how sometimes the image of ‘God’ people have, ‘hates’ the same people they hate. The Westboro Baptist Church marches around with signs, ‘God hates gays’. That’s not much different from the Old Testament God of tribal religion who hated a lot of the Hebrew’s enemies, and helped to smite thousands of them in battle victories. Some of the stuff ‘God’ is said to require- like genocide, is not really ‘God-worthy’, but rather despicable. It was probably intended to show how God has our back, and certainly scared plenty of folks into trying to keep “Him” happy. The stunning thing is that some folks have all the answers and have the hubris to claim they alone know the mind of God.
Across all the world’s religious traditions (thousands of them) and your own (hundreds of variations), think about how much the ancestors depicted God in their respective times and cultural context. Zeuss is an old white haired man with fierce eyes. Early paintings of Jesus were Byzantine-sort of Oriental; in the middle ages, more European, usually devoid of emotion, often expressionless. Of course, Buddhism and most of the Asian religions are non-theistic, and avoid the projection.
In constrast to placid art depictions, Jesus is described in scripture as angry, weary, and he wept. (That actually rings true of an idealistic, exhausted and exasperated human). He too sought out his dad. I was horrified to hear one God depiction on Christian radio while scanning channels, driving across Ohio recently. Will the real God please stand up? This is why at least some of the ancient Hebrews were also cautious to not name ‘God’ but use an unpronounceable tetragrammon, YHWH (Yahweh) for the unknowable Divine- and plenty of metaphors. It also has the advantage of avoiding idolatry, worshipping that which we have created and projected. Muslims avoid some of the problem by forbidding representations of Allah. For native Americans, God was Spirit, incarnate in all life, yet holding it all together. The Franciscan priest Richard Rohr said in today’s meditation, “We have made God a being, instead of Being itself.”
At one time in the distant past, God was a woman. You can see the little Sumerian statues of her with a huge belly and large breasts, always nurturing, always giving birth, like Mother Earth. At the root of it all, is life itself, a huge and ineffable mystery. If you level the playing field, we all were born, inherited genes/family/tribe/culture/social and economic circumstances in a particular geographic and climactic environment. We’re all products of our education, time, political system and steeped in tradition, beliefs, attitudes and worldview.
A great joy was watching two infants on an airplane one Christmas Day when I had to fly back home early from the East Coast to take year-end inventory in the plant. It was a new job and I was low man on the totem pole. The Asian baby was one seat up from the European blonde, blue-eyed baby and both were fascinated with each other, touching each other’s nose, eyes, mouth and laughing, smiling, cooing in utter delight. It was pure joy to witness to the miracle of life incarnate, full of potential, free of bias and totally in the moment, free from projection, delighting in discovery. May you discover newness in your spiritual journey, and many new things through the belief/God you thought you knew.
Monday the 6th marks the Transfiguration of the Lord for Orthodox Christians
Friday, the 10th is the celebration of Krishna Janmashtami for Hindus- see previous post
On next Tuesday the 14th is Lailat al Kadr, an Islamic event- see previous post
The 15th is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary for Catholic Christians
and/or Dormition of the Theotokos for Orthodox Christians
August 19-21marks the end of Ramada with the feast of Eid al Fitr for Muslims
The 29th, the Christian church calendar notes the Beheading of John the Baptist
August 11th Worthington UMC is blessings the animals, hosting pet adoptions and will receive donations of pet food.
August 19th, St. Mark’s Lutheran in Delaware will have the annual blessing of pets, and have puppies for adoption.
Meditation for this Post:
” . . . the boundaries between the natural and the supernatural were never clearly drawn by the ancients. Thus, the intense but rapidly changing emotions of the heroes were easily projected onto a supernatural world of gods and goddesses, who continually interfered on behalf of their favorites. And many of the myths reflect the organization and values of the society in which they were recounted. . . . “p 9 Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece by John Pinsent, Bantam.