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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

God is Great! or Not!

How we talk God (by whatever words) is important because it influences how we live with one another.  David Korten indicated (see an earlier blog) that how people understand Wealth, God, and Human Nature makes a big difference in the lives people lead and the policies they advocate.

Elsewhere I defined the stages of faith: from naive, to critical, to wise faith, and beyond. Sometimes we get stuck in an earlier stage. While I think that the study of human development explains God-talk to a large extent, I also think with Korten that different kinds of God-talk show different stances to one's self, others, and the world.

Let me contrast two kinds of God-talk--using "God" to mean any symbol for "ultimate concern" (Tillich) or "higher power" (AA). Some of these symbols are "Jesus" as in "Jesus saves", "Allah" as in "Allah is great," "Yahweh" who gave the law, "Divinity," "Great Spirit," "Creator," "Transcendent One," "Universal Force," and so on.

The first makes an entity of or personifies transcendence, which critical and wise faith would recognize as metaphorical and often capable of interpretation into the contemporary worldview and language. God (Jesus, Spirit) loves us, calls me, bless America, leads me, punishes evil and rewards good, hears our prayers, creates the world, rules nature, infuses souls, inspires leaders, dictates truths, keeps his promises, saves, helps, is Father, Mother, Brother, Savior, lives in me, tests me (but not beyond my capacity), and so on.

But besides being a leftover of or hang up in an earlier stage of faith, this mode of God-talk shows a different way of dealing with ourselves, each other, and our world. It puts meaning outside us and nature. It supports a hierarchy with a Dominant One holding the strings, directing the process and progress, choosing what is right and wrong, providing standards that are absolute, unchanging, fixed.

It is primarily this notion of transcendence that both new and old atheists are denying and that makes atheism possible and desirable at all.

Now the more reformist, contemplative, and I suppose heretical way of imagining transcendence is as a center point in space and time that is in-tending beyond the here and now to the determining past and the in-shaping future, to the interiorizing self and the expanding community and universe, to wonder filled reality and the projecting ideal.

Here God does not love us but is the love we have for one another. God is not pulling strings but is the attracting beginning and end of the universe. God is not creating but becoming in our interacting with each other and our worlds. God is neither a punishing father nor nourishing mother, but the destructive and creative energy in us all. Here God has no priests, ministers, mediators, and answers no prayers. Contemplation is its own reward as is faith and good works. No name, blame, or shame here. Just life and love.

In our congregation we use the language of "Spirit of Love" and "Spirit of Life" rather than God, Jesus, Creator, or Parent. Still perhaps a bit metaphysical, I can live with that language and the image of the divine spark of original blessing in each of us which we join to light up our world in social justice.

These competing imaginations of transcendence, I think, shape our political choices and future. (See last blog.)

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