We have God disastrously wrong.
We focus a lot on God being powerful, and when tragedy happens, we wonder why he didn’t intervene or assume he caused the tragedy on purpose. So we see God as fickle and heartless.
We focus a lot on God being just and righteous, and when the unthinkable happens we think we must have done something to deserve it. So we see God as a vindictive tyrant.
We don’t focus enough about the ramifications of God being about love first. Love creates what it cannot control, as any parent will tell you. And that allows us to see God as one who understands how badly it hurts when things don’t go the way you wanted.
In fact, though the story told in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures gets read through the lenses of power and justice, if you think about it, they’re also a collection of stories about God creating out of love and then constantly having to make the best of things going horribly wrong.
I can’t really talk about the backstory to this without opening a window to someone else’s private pain, but I was listening to the readings in daily mass today, and when the first one talked about repentance, I thought “That’s not the message they need to hear from God right now,” and when the Psalm said Exult in how great God is, I thought “That’s definitely not what they need to hear right now.” But if they heard “I know what love’s labor lost feels like, too,” from God, that would be relevant to their pain. And very much the truth of God’s story.
I posted this on Facebook a few days before Lent, and the comments I got helped me realize just how deeply we have things wrong. We have inherited a model of what it is to be God from a past hierarchical, monarchal society, and while we’ve patched some love and mercy on top of it, we haven’t been able to jettison the essential focus on God as powerful, all-knowing judge who happens to be loving and merciful. My hope in this is to work out what it would mean if we flipped that model on its head – if we started from the position that God is first and foremost one who loves, out of which comes everything else.
A contemporary spiritual hero of mine, Father Greg Boyle, said something in one of his thought for the day videos at Homeboy Industries like we think of God as large and in charge, and the reality is that he is too busy loving to care anything about being in charge. If we are willing to set aside the first principle of God as omnipotent, omniscient and wholly just, I’m going to suggest that we might get closer to a right understanding of who God is, who we are, and what those things mean for how we should act.
St. Francis of Assisi was known to walk around repeating in prayer to himself, “Who are you, Lore my God? And who am I?” And those are the questions I want to start with. I’ll also look at some of the essential questions about God raised traditionally in theological writing. And I’ll also dig more deeply into the ethical-social implications of this approache than the creed allows.
This may not work. One reason I’m posting this rather than writing it in a journal (other than I type faster and more legibly than I write) is so other people like you can look at it and raise questions, tell me what makes sense and what doesn’t, and maybe tell me this is all dumb. Even so, I’ll benefit from having thought through this and even more from your corrections. Maybe in the process of responding, you’ll benefit to.
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