Until about a hundred years ago, we were all pretty comfortable with a small, exclusive, tribal God.
We lived in villages, towns and cities without a wider view of the world and when news came it was generally several days old – it took a full week to let everyone in the USA know about the death of Abraham Lincoln, for example. Even when we got radio and TV, what we heard or saw on the news about what happened to folk in places like South Africa, Eastern Europe, South East Asia felt disconnected and very ‘other.’
We felt secure and comforted in our knowledge that we were in the First World with the right religion and it was our job to colonise and teach the others. I realise that’s a particularly British view, but hey, I’m British – a nation ruled by Capricorn and very hot on authority, law, boundaries and talking about the weather so we don’t get too intimate too soon.
But now, our window on the world is so wide, with 24 hour news, the Internet, Social Media, that it has become obvious that other faiths, other lives and other attitudes are prevalent and, what’s more, God refuses to do anything about it (how very dare He?). It is now fairly clear to even the casual observer that 1/ God doesn’t follow His (alleged) own terms and conditions and 2/ A small, tribal God that excludes everyone who doesn’t follow a specific religion simply doesn’t work when you live in a big Universe.
Cue the expansion of atheism – the religion that, understandably, doesn’t believe in any small, tribal God that excludes. Atheists never seem to look any deeper than that, just like most religious people don’t.
I’ll repeat myself here: a small, tribal God that excludes everyone who doesn’t follow a specific religion simply doesn’t work. It’s not meant to; This God is a human construction. In fact, it’s a distortion of Jesus’ own teaching. If you actually read the Gospels you’ll find that Christ doesn’t exclude anyone. He never once asks, ‘Are you gay? Are you a thief? Are you a non-believer? when someone comes to him for healing. The most famous stories about his healing are of the Samaritan woman, the Centurian, the women – all those viewed as outsiders — even enemies — by the tribal ego of the time. as represented by the Pharisees.
It’s no use quoting the Bible to me. The Bible is not the <em>final</em> word of God, even though we have been taught that it is. The Bible is an extraordinary and (to the mystic) amazing and true book…and it is 2000+ years old. God didn’t give up on us when the Bible was completed: God is still talking. God is still teaching. God is still expanding. God understands where we are today and is teaching us accordingly. <em>Faith is a living, evolving thing or it is not faith.</em>
It might be an idea to start listening. Otherwise, religion is the same as re-broadcasting TV programmes from the 1970s with 1970s attitudes to life and pretending that the world is still in the same place. The world has moved on. We know that. God knows that too.
There are many modern teachers to whom orthodox Christians simply wouldn’t listen. So many of us are missing the prophets of the 21st century, full of the wisdom and Grace of the Divine, who are trying to lead us to become children of a greater God and not the small, tribal God of prejudice and separation. We turn our backs on them just as people in Jesus’ day turned their backs on him.
Teachers such as Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, Adyashanti, Richard Rohr, Stephen Jenkinson – and many more – are opening our hearts and minds to be able to comprehend, love and allow this Greater God, this loving God, this God of wonders and strength. It has always been there; we just haven’t been conscious enough to comprehend It.
You see, God was always big enough for the Universe. God was always big enough for galaxies, black holes, other planets with life, suns that are being born and dying, meteorites and supernovas. That’s because it’s all God. Dark Matter is God; all of creation is God. It was always us who made God small. We make God small only when we are small.
God is not an old man in the sky looking down to check what we’re doing under the bedclothes. God is not a human being with an ego that requires us to worship It.
Religion panders to God’s ego and God doesn’t have an ego. God is pure Consciousness, pure Beingness, pure Love. To paraphrase Danté, God is the love that binds the stars and the planets in their courses. Love does not tell you it loves you when you are alive and then change its mind and send you to hell for doing it wrong when you die. That’s an unustainable story.
Here are some other things that God doesn’t have.
- Religion. God is not a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu or a Jew. God is Belief itself. <strong><em>God is hand-tied, disempowered and disrespected by anyone who tries to fit this Great Love into one particular box.</em></strong> We have a lot of difficulty believing that because we are ruled by our own egos and there is nothing the ego wants more than to be right.
- Gender. God is neither male nor female. The Hebrew Testament uses ten names for God, the Lord and the Lord God, nearly 50% of which are feminine. They include El Shaddai (the multi-breasted One).
- Ego: Ego is the psychological word for the working of our brain which focuses on survival and our place in the tribe. Ego requires there to be an other and it requires the other to be wrong. We all have egos and places where we feel safe and we will fight to keep the status quo because it is vitally important to the ego that our family, our tribe, our spiritual group, our religion is the right one. God, being pure Beingness, is incapable of playing that game.
- Favourites.God does not take sides. The Christian religion got its first body blow when the Emperor Constantine adopted it in the 4th century and made it a religion of war and status instead of inclusivity and love. We haven’t lost those criteria yet and we need to, fast. God is not even on the side of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because the judgement of those things is purely human (which is why eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not a good idea). We judge all the time. God doesn’t.
The problem is that if God doesn’t judge, where does that put all the teachings about hell? Nowhere, that’s where. And that’s a concept far too frightening for many Christians to comprehend. If the wicked aren’t punished by God then the whole tenet of religion falls apart. Did you know that the concept of hell doesn’t actually exist in the Bible, it’s sheol, the abode of the dead.
And while we’re at it, the Jewish faith doesn’t have the concept of original sin – and Jesus was a Jew. But that’s a whole other blog…
Of course, I must now mention the blunt instrument of the Christian faith: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, nobody comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). This is used to demonstrate that if you don’t believe in and worship Jesus, you won’t go to heaven.
I’ll write more about the inner meaning of this in Greek and the relevance of its place in John’s Gospel in another blog … but if this is your Christian mantra, please just think for a minute. Is it actually likely that someone so full of humily, love and kindness as Jesus would send you to hell for not worshipping him? Can you please point out to me exactly where in the Gospels, Jesus asked us to worship him? Plenty did but he never asked us to. What he wanted was for us to follow him; do as he did. Worshipping him and judging others is a piece of cake and a fabulous cop out. Following him is darned hard work.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t deny that Jesus said it; it just has a far larger, wider, more glorious interpretation if you understand it while realising that Jesus was speaking as the Christ – and that Christ is not Jesus’ surname but a title. The Christ existed before and exists after Jesus; it is the entire glory of creation (in the beginning was the Word) and it is true that we all go to God through the Christ. But that Christ can be the glory of a sunrise or sunset, the hand of a friend holding ours, the love of a pet. Christ is enormous; Christ is all-embracing. Christ is in you.
We are all children of a far greater God.