What if God really is a construct of the human mind, collective human consciousness, generations of human culture? Does that mean we’re not still on to something? Our stories about transcendence, our yearnings for immortality, for perfect love and world peace – are they really only wishful thinking, or could they be baby talk in a real language we hear but cannot comprehend or speak yet?
I suspect we the human race have never gotten it right in our attempts to fully describe it – and it’s possible we’ve not hit on anything remotely close yet to the reality of that being/force/substance/unimagineable I Am/none of these things.
Are we truly naive and destructive for reaching, seeking, asking, theorizing? Of course not, not for those things. But for insisting, grasping, lying (willfully), closing eyes to the observable truth, claiming superiority, excluding, and faking – therein lies religious humans’ ignorance and destructiveness.
I can’t think like I used to – or pray like I used to – can’t sing or talk or go to church or get into a Bible study – not like I used to – but I can’t let it go either. Is it embedded in my psyche because it’s what my ancestors did? Partly, I’m sure. I can never know what it would be like to encounter my faith tradition with the wisdom and discretion of an adult. I can’t completely separate personal nostalgia from the stories of my faith, can’t divorce the little-girl wonder and comforting taste of church potlucks, soft embracing arms of Sunday School teachers, smell of glue and construction paper, sound of rich organ strains, from the doctrine of the Trinity, the gospel of Jesus.
I also can’t completely filter out the shaming looks and words, the hateful tones used of people different from us, the arrogant proof-texting and the general dullness and deadness – the constricting sameness, the denial of humanity in its richness, brokenness and wildness – that hummed around me like the radio station always tuned in and played low.
No, all of that is there, mingled with the body and blood of Christ, between the lines of the King James Version Bible memory verses filed away in my brain.
But it breathes like a living thing in me. It does not lie there mutely like a sterile model under museum glass, oblivious to my scrutiny.
I respect my fellow humans who see no sign of God. Their ideas have given me courage to explore my own – to go down deeper, unafraid (well, less afraid) of people’s opinions of my excavations. I have been changed, and am being changed – I am plunged more into myself, more into humanity, more into life and truth and this shattered, shining world.
The God of my past looks increasingly like a puppet, stitched together from Bible stories, religious aspirations, moral intuition; and animated by power-hungry men. But somewhere in there, I feel so sure, is a beating heart.
Lately I’m letting go of the fairy tale god who came prefabricated for me, all outlined in the Christian school curriculum, and pursuing the living God who cannot be contained in anyone’s mind, or so the stories go. Maybe this God is only a myth in the not-real sense of myth, or maybe this God is deeper and weightier than anything I’ve experienced, which is why this God for now resides in myth.
I journey on, a pilgrim in search of God – and I think it will be a lifelong quest, which only underscores the worthiness of the One I seek.
I agree with your eloquently expressed sentiments – the former church people who have shunned me for my personal excavations/explorations have never understood that when I wrote that ‘I don’t really know God’ it was not a denial of the faith so much as it expressed a sincere yearning to know the true God, not a construct that fit ‘correct theology’
Well. I have a draft somewhat similar to this started for my own blog; honest, I started it before reading this! 🙂 But I’m waiting because I have a feeling that part of my story isn’t ready to be published yet.
I am willing to venture a guess that the body and blood of Christ does not mingle with “shaming looks and words… hateful tones used of people different from us… arrogant proof-texting… general dullness and deadness… constricting sameness”. Maybe it was just crackers and juice. 😉
You are on a good path.
“Maybe this God is deeper and weightier than anything I’ve experienced”. Indeed.
Definitely, crackers and juice – i always preferred those pillowy chalky tiny wafers – they were so different from anything else i ate (unlike the cubed Wonder bread or the broken Saltines 🙂
But this has me thinking beyond the sacrament of communion – if Christ is indeed “God with us,” then i think i would maintain that the body and blood of Christ does mingle with the best and the worst of our humanity. That would include the self-righteous behaviors you quoted from the post.
To be clear, that’s not what I was getting at with those words in the original post. Just thinking further about them now, along with you.
Mingle is such an impotent word. Especially in this context. I am going to stick with my first guess on this one. Christ certainly redeems all our nastiness, but I’m not so sure about the mingling.
Please don’t give my snarky-ness more attention than it deserves…
“snarky-ness” however, now that’s a great word! 🙂
Since reconnecting with you, Julia, getting to know Nathan, reconnecting with others from That Place, I find myself analyzing each individual for clues to…how to say this…how about, “what they really think,” or “where they are really at,” or, most interesting to me, “where they are really going.” We all do this, of course, but I tend to think my insights and conclusions about people are sharper and deeper then most, despite being presented an almost daily preponderance of evidence that I in fact possess no special gift toward “reading” people. That is, people constantly surprise me. Because you choose to discuss aspects of your inner-life publicly, I have subjected you to a bit more analysis than other new-old friends, and have at times concluded things about you that (shock) later become part of said “preponderance of evidence.” For example:
I have this idea that your path must inexorably merge with mine, and you too will, uhh, arrive at this place (path?) I inhabit, (walk?), a place I do not yet have the courage to name. And I don’t just think this of you, but other new-old friends with whom I have had the chance to speak frankly and deeply, the highly reflective and sensitive ones.
But then I read this post and am again made happily foolish. Maybe you truly believe, or are open to believe, that God is “deeper and weightier than anything I’ve ever experienced,” and that “He” is worth a “life-long quest,” and my analysis is wrong, you are not stalling for time, you are not not hurting your family, etc. Maybe you truly are committed to allowing God to remain in heaven, or at least remain, and to live your life in an honest pursuit, not pursuit, umm, let’s say you are committed to not letting go of someplace and/or someone beyond the edge of the universe. Words are failing me here, as must happen to a simple, skeptical man when he attempts metaphysics.
For me, the Great Event of 13.7 billion years ago is as far as I wish to push my imagination. Yesterday I nicked my thumb in the shop, as a spot of blood formed, I thought of excellerating stuff, cooling gasses, coalescing bodies, and at some point, light, and then heavy elements, and then me. As the spot of blood skimmmed over, a song lyric occurred to me: “I am made from the dust of the stars/and the oceans flow in my veins.” It is during these wonderful moments when my inevitable ceasing causes me no anxiety, when I give into the “Great Fact” of my existance, when I hope for nothing but the next moment.
And now I see Nnox is talking about himself, as is his habit, so it would be a good time to thank you for your excellent thinking and writing, to apologize in advance for my next faulty analysis, and sign off.
Kind and generous Nnox – thanks for consistently reading my ramblings and continuing the conversation with such thought and grace.
Your own sense of wonder at existence is, i think, way more sacred (meant in the best sense of the word) than much of what i hear from church people and culture.
It’s been said you can take the boy (or girl) out of fundamentalism but you can’t take fundamentalism out of the boy/girl. But you are proof that’s not always true – discovering that a friend is not clearly on the same path as you makes you “happily foolish” rather than threatened or angry. And in that sense, I’d say we are on the same path after all.