I have just listened to an old friend preach a sermon. She doesn't know, as it was an online podcast. I had believed that I had taken a very different faith path to her and perhaps that was why we gently lost touch. I was surprised at my finding her sermon and listening to it, and pleased that I enjoyed much of it - clearly well researched, presented and human. But...
I felt I needed to write my own thoughts in response to the kind of God and faith she and her church spoke of.
Recently, I went to the first evangelical church service in years. I forgot there were people who think that there is one way to God. I felt a draw and acted on it, though I'm not entirely sure why. Those in such circles would say, she's coming back to the Truth and the Way.
No, I shall never again believe that God manisfests in one narrow path and see those on other spiritual journeys as backslidden or lost. My faith and relationship with God have grown and improved in the years I stopped labelling myself as evangelical, or even exclusively Christian.
So why hang out round Evos? I am acting on a hunch that we have something to give and learn from each other. If I've found something good, why shouldn't I share it?
Evangelicals would say that to proselytise is one of God's chief directives.
But I believe that God's not much into directives as directing. In the spiritual companion way. You might say, as in film or theatre, but I mean the actor's director, who doesn't impose their vision but who wants everyone's contribution to be valued, who will listen, and who is prepared to act differently because of what cast and crew and audience tell him or her.
I feel more and more: who is this God who is worse that humans?! And why are we worshipping Him and telling other people to?
Let me illustrate this sort of God for you...
Imagine you are my congregants. I get to the top storey of a three decker pulpit, so I'm not 6 but 12 foot above contradiction. I have special robes on so you know I'm powerful and different to you. I ask - or rather, order you all to kneel. On the cold floor. Yes it's uncomfy - but you aren't to think of yourselves. Show some humility. Yes, you too, older ones and those with painful joints - learn to give to me and put bodily weaknesses aside. I could ask you to kneel here as long as I want - I am in charge! I do love you all, and want the best for you - but remember, I do know best. I also am your intimate Friend, but I am at a distance from you, divided by this gated dais as well as the height of this one person pulpit. I can see all of you. There is nowhere you can hide. I've got CCTV as well as eyes in the back of my head. You can't come to where I am - maybe in the next world, but even then, you'll only get to the second deck. And that's if you're really good. As judged by me - no appeal.
Do I sound like a good leader? Want to come to my church, live in my land, or work for me? Glad I'm your parent or friend?
How well would I stand up to human wisdom about healthy relationships? Would you want to be close to someone who manipulated you and always wanted you kept in your lowly place? How'd you like to be with someone who ensured you needed them and made you feel bad for self sufficiency, who brings poeple to the edge, to the least comfy, most scary place - just so you know how much you need me and don't leave or question me?
What do you think? Healthy marriage? Good mother? An employer you'd like the tribunals to know about? Want social services to be involved? Thinking of revolting against my dictatorship?
So why is your God this tyrant, this manipulator, this person so afraid of questions and rebellion? Isn't it a sign of weakness to rule by fear? I see much of that in our world: that dependent minions uphold the status quo and spread insidious gospels to keep us all in check so that the olilgarchs continue. Do you think God likes humans who behave like this?
If God is worthy of the title, if God is is Love... let me stop there. Love is God's most important attribute, the most vital thing on earth. Is absolute Love (the only absolute I believe in) a crushing or empowering force?
What do you want for your loved ones? As a good teacher, what do you want to see for your mentees? You want them to be all they can. You are prepared for them to reach if not exceed you. So why not the heavenly, ultimate Friend, Parent, High Priest, the All...? (Note I skipped King and Master).
If God is GOOD, in all senses (you may know the Graham Kendrick song), can He be like the person in my illustration? Be interdependent with God - yes. But a crutch than keeps you crippled? (forgive the Un-PC term, it is pleasingly alliterative).
Rather than getting you to grovel as that preacher, I would ask you to stand tall. I'd come down from the pulpit. And if I would, don't you think that God would? This is what Jesus did. And he's making a pulpit big enough for you all to join him in - isn't that what he said he was off to do...the big mansion...not the rostrum for 1.
Rather than self suffciency being a sin, it's an unnecessary burden. God is saying - I'm here, use me. There are other beings too, some with bodies, some not, who are here to help. What a shame to not have relationship with them too and to struggle alone. Learning to accept and ask for help, to live in balance and relationally - I am convinced that this is a key theology and life essence. Live in love, live with Love.
But no writhing, no 'get down!' God says, Rise. I did, so you can too.