Oh my God!
I know. I know. Just making that utterance, I know that I have blasphemed against somebody’s idea of God.
But which God?
The POTUS was severely criticized when he had the audacity to speak on this controversial subject earlier last month at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Embedded in his lengthy remarks were two paragraphs in which Barack Obama, the President of the United States of America, who, by title and positon is, undeniably, the most powerful person in the world, dared to give his opinion on religious wars that have been documented throughout modern history; namely, the Catholic Crusades (against infidels), slavery (yes, that was a religious war against African persons), and the Jim Crow laws that continued the religious war against African- American citizens.
He mentioned Islam in the same breath; and therefore set off a maelstrom of debate about his personal religious preference.
At the risk of being ‘crucified’ in the court of public opinion, I too, will dare to talk about God and religion.
First, I admit that my human brain has not evolved to possibly comprehend the omnipotence of God.
I have only a little to offer, but here are a few of my thoughts on a subject that consumes the American public.
Here is what I conceive of as the highest power: no face; no race; no gender; no nationality; no preferred language, food, clothing, or dwelling place; and, no religion, too.
So what particulars of God are left?
It seems to me that the answer to that question is what all the wars are about. God is in the details.
Outcomes from the debates about the nature of God and the various ‘sides’ that God chooses are used to justify all the God driven wars.
And the wars have been interminable: between brothers and sisters; between/amongst tribes and nations; against whole countries, and humanity.
On the nature of God, I recently attended a memorial service for a woman who was described by one of her friends as “God dressed up as Pat Mc.” I immediately recognized that as one truth about God.
Pat’s favorite saying was “all we need is love”. Admittedly, she was a huge Beatle’s fan, but dig deep enough, and I believe that it’s the lack of love that drives so much of our human behavior toward war and violence; and much too often in the name of God.
I know that I have been guilty of making God more like me rather than trying to be more God-like. How often can you say the same of yourself?
I’ve also suffered from the temptation to seek God in various books (Bibles, Qurans, and Hebrew scriptures, et al.), which all tell similar stories about the struggle with our base human nature: pride, anger, greed, gluttony, lust, envy and sloth, you know the PAGGLES.
Often, our battle is just within ourselves; that personal ‘jihad’ against our base human nature; those PAGGLES. Thankfully, many organized religions have developed specific instructions for their members on how to manage, control and eliminate those personal defects.
Some have used the practice of yoga. Others pray and meditate. Still others walk around labyrinths.
Singing and shouting have helped too.
They all work.
Yet, time and again, and over the history of mankind, humans continue to wage war against others whose God is not their own.
They include all our neighbors (representatives of all the ‘isms’ we are trying to legislate out of our behavior in America). They are our fellow countrymen (those immigrants). They are the adjacent as well as ‘foreign’ countries, especially non-democratic regimes. They are the non-Christian countries.
So, how do you define God? Does God have a name? Does God have a body? Is there a dominant image of God in your mind? What happens if you exchange some of those images? What songs does God sing? Does God demand that you perform un-Godly acts? Can you kill in the name of God?
And can I get into heaven if I don’t worship God?
Who told you the answers to those questions? Did you ever seek to find your own answers? No?
Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org