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. Even when we got radio and TV, what we heard or saw on the news about what had happened to folk in far flung places felt disconnected and separate from our own lives.
We, in the West, were secure and comfortable 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.
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! It is now fairly clear to even the casual observer that 1/ God doesn’t enforce His 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.
I’ll repeat myself here: 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. 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? Are you of my religion?’ when someone comes to him for healing. The most famous stories about his healing are of the Samaritan, the Centurion, the women—all those viewed as outsiders by the tribal ego of the time—as represented by the Pharisees.
The Bible is not the final 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 2,000+ 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 guiding us accordingly. Faith is a living, evolving thing or it is not faith. Anything else is just programming.
It might be an idea to start listening to the modern-day prophets. 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 don’t listen ‘because they are not Christians.’ Ah yes, but neither was Jesus. Neither is God. 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 unsustainable 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. God is hand-tied, disempowered and disrespected by anyone who tries to fit this Great Love into one particular box. 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).
- 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.
I’ll leave the argument about 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) to another blog but, if this is your Christian mantra, please just think for a minute. Is it actually likely that someone so full of humility, 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 when he was alive 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.
We are children of a much greater God.
‘The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace’ (Num 6:26).