How We Talk About God
I've written about this before, but sometimes you just have to keep writing about something because it burns inside of you and maybe you didn't get all of it out the first time or two.
Or maybe there are people who still need to hear it, or maybe didn't hear it at all when you said it before.
Here it is:
I often will have conversations with people who will tell me that they don't believe in God. Typically, I will tell them to describe the God they don't believe in, and then they will give me a list:
- They don't believe in a God who is judgemental, angry, and vengeful.
- They don't believe in a God who lets people die in horrible, tragic ways.
- They don't believe in a God who prefers some people over others.
- They don't believe in a God who leads people to ignore Science.
And this is the point where I share with them that I don't believe in the God they just described either. This usually catches them off guard a bit... in a good way.
Madeline L'Engle once wrote:
Everything we do either draws the Kingdom of love closer, or pushes it further off.
This includes how the things we believe about God inform the ways we talk about God.
The problem is, far too many of us struggle when it comes to our notions of God, and what God is all about. I have my own baggage, to be sure. You probably are carrying around a couple of bags of your own, I bet.
But what do we do when the dominant voices in the conversations about God seem to be the ones that describe a God that looks a lot like the one my atheist friends don't believe in?
A God I don't believe in...
The way some people talk about God lately, you would think God definitely prefers some people over others based on their politics, world view, the kind of church they attend... and even the color of their skin.
The great Baptist theologian and author, Dallas Willard, once wrote:
Indeed, all human troubles come from thinking of God wrongly, which then means, thinking about ourselves wrongly.So how do we learn to not only think about God differently but also practice embodying what we experience of God to others? How do we act as a counter-point to those who try to paint God into a hate-filled, exclusive, intolerant corner? (As if they could, really)
It all comes down to learning how to experience God more fully. We do this with open eyes and open hearts, and we experience God in all of God's great grace love and mercy in the following ways:
- Through an active and fervent prayer life filled with vulnerable conversations with God, journaling, meditation, contemplation... whatever it takes to stay connected.
- Through others who are brought into our lives to encourage us, challenge us, convict us, and guide us.
- Through sacred texts like the Bible, along with the writings of Christian mystics, sages, teachers and the like.
- Through Creation--which was referred to as the Fifth Gospel by St. Francis.
- Through circumstances--sometimes we are able to see God at work in the world around us in astounding and life-changing ways.
May you live into this experience and begin to see God in ways that will move you ever closer to becoming the person you long to be.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.