I love to drive. I have some of my most creative moments while passing the time behind the steering wheel. Today, I made a trip to Tuscaloosa to deliver some things to my son who is going to school there. It has been unseasonably cool for August and when you live in Alabama, that news puts a little spring in your step. So, I spent most of my alone time on this trip thinking about how thankful I am and how I wish the "church" wasn't so divided. (strange combo, I know)
Now, thinking and thanking do go well together. I'm thankful for many things and I think about it a lot, but the church is another story. At the same time, lately I have been forced to confront my deepest feelings about the whole idea of church or a community of faith, so that issue has been on my mind as well. I guess the reason they were blending today is a result of the time spent with my closest friends last night at one of our regular Sunday night events. Some of us even hang out every Thursday night too. Thursdays have become a ritual and I look forward to every opportunity to spend my moments with my friends. I like being with these friends whom I happened to have met at church, but I don't feel as warm and fuzzy about being at the church we share in common... why is that? Thanks for your patience. Through my rambling, I am trying to get to the point of this post --
God is love so Love made us. Was it Love's intent for her creation to be divided against itself? I will do my best to talk in general terms on this subject but it is difficult. I have many thoughts but I don't have time for that kind of rambling tonight. I have to get up really early tomorrow. I just decided to throw out an idea or two to get us thinking and to see what happens.
We've got basically four major religions and a bunch of sub categories that extend ad nauseum in direct proportion to the number of splits within a given group. Speaking of divided churches, I will talk about Western Christianity since it is the religion with which I am most intimately familiar. If you live in America, have you ever noticed how many churches we have? There are so many different ways to just name a church that it seems there should be some competition for that naming and the names just seem to speak to a deeper issue; one of judgement and pride with no room for cooperation or dialogue. Someone responds to that comment by saying, "Free will says that I can have any kind of church I want"... Ok. Great argument. But wait! Was this God's idea? Are we justifying our intent to further the illusion of separation by playing the free will card? We may have been given free will but that freedom wasn't intended to be directed at another person or group of persons. Free will is based on the assumption that the one exercising that will has some ability to coexist with others. If not, we throw you in jail. Some of the things I have heard people (including myself) say about people they disagree with is quite troubling. My friends, we are not created to free will ourselves into isolation from the rest of our brothers and sisters.
If love made us then why do we hate what we don't understand? Was it love's intent for us to just assume that because a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or a Hindu doesn't follow the Christian way to God that they will burn in some big ass flaming lake of molten lava that just burns but never burns the heretic up? The imagery gives me the shivers. No, not the hell thing... There is no hell. Just the idea that someone thought all this up so that we could scare the rest of the world into submission. What kind of arrogance creates an illusion of fear so hateful and then directs it outward to every other living human on the planet that doesn't agree? It just makes me think that somewhere we lost our way to God and decided to blame everybody else instead of ourselves.
I once read a great illustration and I will do my best to repeat it here in the hope that by doing so, this post will not offend or confuse anyone. I am a peaceful person and I have no intention of offending or confusing, only challenging. So here's a picture story: If everyone on earth stood side by side, in a circle, hand in hand, and God was in the middle, we would all be able to see God. We would all be able to reach God. We would all have the ability to understand God. We would all have a clear perspective of God from where we stand. Just because you might be standing in a different place and God might look a little different to you from your perspective, does not make your perspective inferior to mine... just different. Different. Not wrong. Different. Not pagan. Just different.
Just because I see God differently from my sister does not make our Gods different. There is truly only one God and that God is Love. I think Love delights in the variety of methods we use in describing our perspectives and I also believe Love is always hoping that we will choose to see each other the same way that we see God and the same way we are seen through the eyes of God.
May we all have eyes to see each other as we are seen by God. May we choose to see each other as worthy of the love that created us. And may we choose to exercise that love in new and creative ways today. Peace -- jb