“Last December, a poll revealed something encouraging about spirituality in America. When asked if they had ever had a religious or mystical experience, more responders said yes than no. This was a first in the 47 years that the Pew Research pollsters have been asking the question. (A religious or mystical experience was defined as ‘moment of sudden religious insight or awakening.’)” This comes from Deepak Chopra’s “What Do You Believe? The Power of an Open Mind” article here.
People who grew up in the strictest of religious traditions might be saddened that this wishy-washy kind of faith is cropping up, but I think it’s exciting.
Just as Galileo Galilei went up against the Church of his day and touted Copernicus’s view of a heliocentric universe (in fact he was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life), just as Darwin expressed doubt at what the Church was teaching and supposed that things weren’t created the way we thought they were, just as today’s physicists are altering our view of the universe by discovering new mechanisms, particles, and bodies, we might want to open our minds up just a crack and adjust our view of God, of faith, of the world. It would make sense that this might be required of us.
If you believe in God (and you certainly don’t have to), then why put Him in a box? Why demand that He can only live by each word of the Bible or Torah? Being a writer myself, I can’t even imagine limiting God to the words in my dictionary or thesaurus. He must be bigger than that. And if that’s true, what else don’t we know about Him?
How does it hurt God to have evolution be true? How does it hurt Him to offer His grace to everyone, even if their vision of Him is different? [Do you not look at your parents differently than your siblings do?] And perhaps I should be using the female pronoun to describe Him. Might His maleness be more of a reflection on the scribes who wrote Him…and not Him?
Do we have such hard hearts and slow minds that it’s taken us this long to realize that Jesus’s words are simple. Hard, but simple. Love your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. Whoa. Back up there. Love my neighbor? Am I doing that? That’s a huge task. It requires forbearance, love, patience, foresight, quickness, empathy, grace, and did I mention love? Love, love, love. It really is too messy sometimes.
It’s my humble opinion that we’ve had “issues” in each century. Racism was fought from the 1860s on, with an escalation in the 50s, 60s, and 70s (and certainly, we’re not through yet). And now we’re hung up on sexual equality–both for women and homosexuals. It’s not an easy battle, because we’re so stuck in our prejudices and beliefs. [Because truly, if we’re absolutely honest with ourselves, we’ve become a pick-and-choose sort of people. We say, “Oh yes, that’s in the Old Testament. We don’t have to follow that anymore. Oh yeah, that’s in the New Testament, and we probably should follow it, but I really don’t think women should have to wear head coverings in church today, do you? So we’ll slide right over that one. Let’s see...what else? Oh, the jewelry and adornment. Can you even imagine telling women to abide by that today? We’d better skip that, too.” And so on and so forth.]
How exciting for us to be many individual people (not a congregation, not a mosque, not a temple, not a synagogue) standing before God, saying, “Hmmm, I would like to know who You are. I’m not sure I can separate You from all I’ve been told about You, but I don’t believe You’re anything like the dogma I was taught. Could You please show Yourself to me…to us?”
And I think He/She/It (See? There really isn’t a good pronoun to use…) would.
But not necessarily in the ways we expect. [Because, of course, we still have remnants of the old dogma rattling around in our brains, throwing up road blocks to new learning.]
I, for one, am looking, watching, waiting. I love the magnitude of waiting for a soul encounter (the only way I can think to express it at the present moment). It’s like my whole being has expanded to contain the whirling universe. Anything is possible. [I just finished reading Do You Believe?: Conversations on God and Religion by Antonio Monda, and I especially liked Nathan Englander’s response to the question How would you define your current relationship with religion? Englander replies: “That of a person who’s stripped off everything, who feels freed up by it but perhaps doesn’t always know what to do about the naked part.”]
Care to join me?