Saturday, January 13, 2018

Thoughts on God and such

I've had this post mulling about in my mind for some time.  I've given much thought to my path around spirituality and religion, and have come to some new thoughts and conclusions.  I did not grow up in any taught denominational religion.  My parents took us to a mainline evangelical church when we were small to expose us to concepts of faith, but never gave me the idea that one religion was bad and another good.  I did not start any sort of faith journey in earnest until 1993, and I landed in the Episcopal Church, as the deep tradition of the liturgy appealed to me, along with more moderate/liberal leaning social views.  I was baptized and confirmed in the church, and it was an important part of my life for over 20 years.  But, here is my truth.  There was always this nagging questioning in my mind, surrounding main tenets of the faith.  I could not put my finger on it, but there was always this internal feeling of not really 'getting' it. 

Then, in July of 2013, my world was turned on its axis.  I'd seen an interview with Reza Azlan for his new book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth."  It was as if this book was written expressly for me, and wrapped up in a big, red bow.  I found myself devouring possible explanations about certain characters and events in what we know as the Bible, and it all made such perfect, complete sense to me.  And, for the first time, I was able to put my finger on the main part of mainline Christianity that was my rub.  Jesus is the only way to God.  Only those who believe in him will have everlasting life.  So, what about the other 66.68% of people in the world?  And then, there was this odd concept to me of embracing that someone died for our sins, and that was the sole purpose of his walking this earth. 

The more I came to the conclusion that Christianity did not have the market cornered on a path to God, the more I could not stand each Sunday and recite the Nicene Creed that I no longer believed, especially when the first line was, "We believe."  My lips would move, but it felt false and disingenuous.  I walked away from my church home of 20 years, and never looked back.  I embarked upon an exploration of what having 'faith' meant to me, and how I wanted to practice that way of being in the world.  So much has become clearer to me.

As I have grown spiritually over these past five years, this is what I know to be true for me.  My concept of God is not some gray bearded master puppeteer in the sky, who controls what happens here.  God IS.  God is the life force of this universe we occupy.  God is in everything, including us.  God is simply love, nothing more.  God is surrender of ego.  God is a place of heart, not head.  God is not rules and regulations.  God is not believing others are wrong, and we are right.  God is, as I've heard beautifully described, "the space between you and me."  Excluding or judging others has nothing to do with God.  Jesus, along with others who walked this earth, were people who 'got' this, and tried to spread and share the message that we are all in this together.  We are not separate.  We are one.  The kingdom of God is here, right here, right now, if we will let it be.   But, Jesus threatened the status quo of the power of state, and had to be squelched.  His message was igniting people to rebel and turn towards the humanity of their being, instead of being ruled by judgement and exclusion, things that separate us.  Power to men comes only when people can be divided as "us and them."  The Church, as it came to be, was first and foremost, an agent of the state.  People were made to be in fear for their lives and destiny if they did not choose a side.  Church/state ruled, and kept the masses under control.  Gone was the original message of radical love, kindness, and acceptance.  You were either 'for us' or 'against us.'  As different groups of people decided which rules and regulations made sense to them, differing denominations were born, but the message was still the same.  Believe this and be with us, or don't and perish in some version of hell for eternity.  Fear is a powerful way to control.  And so, we've evolved to this point in our history.  Some of us are fully righteous and right, and others are fully misguided and wrong, depending upon which camp you sit in comfortably.   

What if we could return to an understanding that walking in radical love is simply all we are called to do?  What if we could see others truly as we see ourselves?  What if there were no 'us' and 'them' and we instead just saw the raw vulnerability of humanity?  What if we could surrender ego, and choose to entertain that we all have a valid and varied way to find our path to how we understand "God?"  All we are required to do is love.  Pretty darn simple.  Just love. 

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