Is God a Small One or a Big One?

Posted: March 19, 2014 in Interspirituality
Tags: , , ,

An ancient Jewish prayer begins, “Hear, O Israel, God is One…” It’s a statement of belief in monotheism, that there is only one God. I want to know if that God is a big God or a small God.  What do we seek on the spiritual journey? Do we seek one god is too bigamong a number of competing Gods, hoping that we choose the right one so that everything turns out well for us? Is there a Jewish God, a Christian God, a Muslim God, a Hindu God, a Buddhist God (yes, there is a Buddhist God, if we understand God to mean “the point or goal of the spiritual journey”), a pagan God, and countless other Gods? By the way, God is a gender neutral term. If you want to play the terribly distracting spelling game of God(dess), be my guest, but please understand that when I write “God” my understanding transcends gender because I understand God to be the goal of the spiritual path. God is not a being, but being itself, and therefore beyond gender. I will not diminish God by restricting it to one gender, no matter who it makes feel better. What’s more, as more and more of us come to understand that gender is not a binary system, we see that God(dess) still leaves out a huge segment of creation in precisely the same way that Father God does. If you have some need to be on top of that discriminatory pile for a while, I would recommend therapy. But I digress…

It seems to me we are faced with a return to the tribal and household gods of biblical days, which everybody packed up and moved around with them. These were images that didn’t point to something beyond themselves but were in fact believed to be gods in and of themselves. It’s as if the statue of Jesus on the shelf didn’t represent Jesus but was in fact Jesus himself. When we start arguing that each of us has the only right view of God, the only real God, we return to those primitive ancient beliefs. We also give ourselves permission to profoundly mistreat and even kill those “belonging” to other gods, because they are already lost beyond recovery.  Can we see that image as not too removed from even twenty-first century belief?

What if we came to understand the goal of the spiritual path, God if you will, as so infinitely vast it included all of our spiritual pathlimited belief systems- even with their imperfections and shortcomings?  What if we were humble enough to admit that we don’t have all of the answers, that some questions are beyond our ability to address and some questions haven’t even arisen yet, but that all was encompassed by existence itself, or God if you will? If we could do that, then wherever you were on the path couldn’t possibly be a threat to me – or to my God, for that matter. We could share understandings and insights, work together to solve problems and meet needs, and feel connected to one another rather than estranged from one another. We could change the world and not get in each others’ way for fear we might not get the credit!

Of course, there’s not much money in this kind of approach. Institutional religion makes its money by setting us up one against another and leading us to believe we must convert everyone to our perspective in the same way that Ford wants to win over every GM buyer. The problem is that hasn’t worked very well for us. In fact, it’s lead to nothing but endless wars in the name of a God that really is a god, packed up in the rucksacks of our various military forces as they set out to battle with the banner of their particular god either implicitly or explicitly displayed at the front of the forces.

Perhaps there is no better summary of the problem than this sentiment, culled from the comments section of another blog: “Damn those Muslims, anyway, they are trying to take over the world for Allah while we are just trying to win it for Jesus!” prays-well-logoThe irony, of course, is that Allah is God is Jesus – a point the Christians seems to miss as they unpack their household gods to lead them into battle for the souls of the world. Suppose, though, that the souls of the world are already part of being itself (God) and so don’t need to be saved. What then are we left with?

We are left with the need for a broader view, a bigger vision – a vision that understands that whatever the particulars of our individual situations, we are in this together and inseparably interconnected. When politicians like Ron Paul ask why we care about what happens in Crimea, he reflects the misunderstanding of so many about what our interconnectedness means: when one of us are diminished, we all are diminished. The broader view encourages us to see that truth, to see that since God is being itself, existence itself, life itself, that there is a whole that is impacted by harm to the one.

Interspirituality gives us the freedom to move to that place of the infinite God that transcends all of the many faces, names, and cultures. There is no us versus them, there is only us fighting us, diminishing us, destroying us. Together, we can change that.

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