God of All People

IMG_0121Victorian writer George Bernard Shaw once said that all great truths begin as blasphemies. One’s personal search and desire for truth is often a lone venture, challenging the status quo and longing for others who desire to see the world more clearly. Change, of any kind, is often resisted, especially when ideas have become sacrosanct, and tradition has evolved into dogma.

Life, lived in such a way, is silent acceptance that humans have devolved in their understanding of the world, or are asleep to their own potential. This reality, coupled by society’s accepted protocol to avoid conversations about religion, politics, and money have led us to where we are today — crippled by economic problems, on the verge of another war, and unable to bring God back into the public consciousness.

This is NOT because of the secular nature of the world, nor is it because “Christ” has been taken out of Christmas, as is the talk-track of those Christians of whom I speak. It is because Christians, as a whole, have become irrelevant. By irrelevant, I mean powerless in the world, and even in our own country, because of our declining mental aptitude on issues of importance, in addition to adopting an “us against them” worldview.

It is easier to believe that all “non-believers” are part of a vast conspiracy to create a Godless world, full of “sinful” and “secular” practices, rather than embracing the God within us all. That is the HARDEST and TRUEST part of Christianity – the “loving your fellow man” stuff – the greatest commandment, second only to “Love God.”

Loving your fellow man means realizing that “the God” that loves you is the same God that loves the little girl in Syria, or the same God that loves all the people in Afghanistan, equally, I might add, and wait, hold up a minute, the same God that loves Obama.

Yes, right-wingers, your “Father” is also Obama’s “Father,” much to your chagrin, and we can do God’s work in this world, only after we realize we are all part of the same family.

Unfortunately, we feel safer when we have identified the “other” — by doing so, we wrap ourselves in a safety blanket. We put up fences and buy ammo (seriously), and we tell ourselves that the world is at fault, or in decline, when in reality, it is our weakness. Christians are falling short.

No one has ever said to me, “stop talking about God,” but for some reason, many American Christians I know feel persecuted. How many times have I heard that God has been taken out of schools?

Children, in public schools, still have a “Moment of Silence” and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, just as I did as a child growing up in a small town in Bible-belt Tennessee. Sure, no one is standing up and reading Bible verses, but don’t we do that at church, and at home? What are we afraid of? Allowing children a little space to develop their own thoughts?

So, why are Christians perpetuating the “us against them” myth? Why do we continue to live on the sidelines, rather than on the playing field? Why are we stuck in a fixed versus growth mindset? More significantly, why are we manipulated by right-wing politics? Why don’t we ever understand the “context” before we share articles on Facebook?

Why aren’t we living into the truth that God calls us to live in the world – not of the world, but actually “in” the world — engaging in art, culture, music, literature, philosophy, and (gasp) SCIENCE . This does not mean having our own “version” of all the topics listed above. It does NOT mean tuning in to the feel-good Christian radio station, or going to the Christian bookstore for the latest apocalyptic must-read for Christian folk.

It means engaging in the world — it means reading until your brain explodes (figuratively) — it means learning how to “see” God everywhere and in everything, so that you can relate to people – ALL people, without judgment. It means not going on the defensive every time God is mentioned. It is accepting that all questions are on the table, and that inquiry is a path of growth and critical thinking.

God calls us to “walk in the way of insight” which requires actually moving toward enlightenment – acquiring deeper wisdom, deeper knowledge – growing in empathy and understanding. God is not a “static” God. He doesn’t “live” in the Bible, though his presence is felt, nor does he live in history (though his presence was noted).

If we believe that the Holy Spirit moves within us, then why do we spend so much time stuck in the duality of human nature – in our own self-perpetuated war? For spiritual people, there should be no division between the sacred and the secular – no need to put on different hats. Why are we separating ourselves from our call to live in truth?

Joseph Campbell said that ALL religions have truth when understood metaphorically. Problems arise when we begin to interpret our own religious metaphors into “facts” that are “better” than someone else’s, which leads to hypocrisy, judgment, exclusivity, and the litany of “sins” that follow.

As Americans, we respect individual choices and honor individual liberties, so why, as Christians, is it so easy to judge the world at large, and to make generalizations about cultures and religions of which we know nothing, other than that, it is not “Christian.” As an issue of semantics, being “non” Christian does not mean one is “anti” Christian, nor does it make that person any less valuable to God. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “God enters a private door into each individual.” Why do we feel the need to condemn someone else’s door, when our doors are locked?

Doctrinal beliefs and dogma are NOT Christianity. They represent human interpretation (whether it is Paul’s, or St. Augustine’s, or a thousand other thinkers) over the course of 2000+ years of our religion. How about the development of the Trinitarian concept, and that ongoing conversation? Explain that one to the kids.

Following doctrinal beliefs and espousing church dogma does not equate to living a faithful life, nor is it acceptable to use as a defense for “not thinking.” Living a life of virtue are daily acts of faith “on earth” as it is in heaven. Before we can become empowered to live as Christ followers, we must first examine ourselves.