Friday, May 22, 2009

The god I don't believe in

Theologian Paul Tillich defined God as that in which you put your ultimate trust. As such, everyone has a god ... even the atheist who still puts their ultimate trust in something. It's been said that humans have a natural inclination to believe in God, some have even speculated we have a "God gene." That could very well be, but what kind of God do we believe in?

There are a lot of folks who believe in what I call a "lucky rabbit's foot god." This is the god they call on when some crisis hits but who is otherwise either taken for granted or largely ignored at other times. This "lucky rabbit's foot god" is an interventionist deity that waves a finger and poof things happen.

Outside of a crisis, this god is fairly benign - this god definitely does not demand we transform our lives and priorities. But when a crisis hits, those who believe in this god will pull him out like a lucky rabbit's foot and pray for deliverance from the crisis at hand. If their prayers are answered the way they want them to be, it's proof in the power of the lucky rabbit's foot god to deliver the goods. If the prayers are not answered in the manner desired, either it's written off as "god's will" or belief in any deity runs the risk of being rejected outright as irrelevant. I think this god is the one being largely rejected by those who describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious," agnostic or atheist.

Christianity is often perceived as a faith which promulgates belief in an interventionist god. Well, I'm a Christian and I don't believe in a "lucky rabbit's foot" interventionist god. I believe in a relational God who is over, under, in and through all things ... ALL things. I believe we encounter God through our relationships with each other and with creation. This God cannot just be pulled out at our convenience and put away when we're done. Instead, this God lives in an ongoing relationship with each of us and makes demands that we reorient our lives and priorities to live in harmony as God intends. This God demands we live in harmony which requires us to "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God." This God demands we be reconciling people who forgive those who harm us and seek oneness with each other and all creation.

Prayers to this God do not take the form of bargaining or cajoling. Prayers to this God serve to open us to live more authentically in our relationships - to be fully free and honest about who we are. These prayers are always answered in the affirmative because becoming more real is what God wants for us. These prayers bring peace and harmony regardless of the outer circumstances of our lives.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Things that make you say "Huh??"

I had a great trip to Devon PA last week for the Interim Ministry Network's Fundamentals of Transitional Ministry course. It was a three-day course, so I was up in the Pennsylvania Dutch country for a bit.

I had pass through this area in 1986 when the main east-west route (Route 30) was not much more than a two lane road. It still is in spots, but the closer you get to Philly, the more like a freeway it gets. As I approached Lancaster, the heart of Amish country, I found myself on a six-lane freeway buzzing along at 55 mph ... much too fast for horse drawn buggies!

But just east of Lancaster, Route 30 went back to being a four lane country road, albeit dotted with the big box stores and name brand restaurants that are generally ubiquitous but were unknown in the region 20+ years ago.

At one point, the line of traffic veered just a little to the left to get around a horse drawn Amish buggy replete with flashing lights and red reflective triangle on the back of it. Just as I came upon the 19th century carriage and overtook it ... in front of a Chili's restaurant! If only I had my camera ...