Monday, June 01, 2009

Do you love God?

In his sermon yesterday, Rabbi Shaman told of a woman at another UU church who had stood up and announced the oft-heard "I'm a UU and I never knew it" and the rarely-if-ever-heard, "and I love God!"

"I love God." Wow. Just when I think I'm pushing boundaries, someone comes up and pushes the boundaries a mile from me. I love it!

It sounds like at many of our churches (definitely mine), we are becoming more comfortable with using the "G word," understanding that it encompasses a lot of different ideas.

But how would your church respond if someone said, "I love God"? Would they recoil? Giggle? Direct the person to the closest Unity or UCC church?

I thought about the phrase in terms of my own life. Would I personally say "I love God"?

Hmm. Well, it's not something I've done in a long while. Why is that?

Part of it is my feelings about anthropomorphizing God. My understanding of God is moving closer and closer towards God as a verb, which I guess means I'm moving towards process theology. Which is a little strange, since I have yet to hear a description of process theology by a process theologian that didn't send me running for a dictionary, thesaurus, and slide rule.

Can you still buy slide rules?

Where was I? Oh yeah, loving God.

So how much of all that is me splitting hairs? I mean, I "talk" to God. It is always with the underlying belief that the God I am envisioning is a metaphor for the transcending mystery, for that which is beyond my comprehension.

Dude, the Christians at school just call that the "ineffable God." Not too different.

I love life. I love the interconnections of everything and everyone. I love the inspiration that seemingly comes from nowhere, that leads to scientific advances, art, greater understanding.

Do I love God?

Gonna have to ponder that.


ms. kitty said...

What a terrific post, LE! Now you've got me thinking. I end my nightly prayer time with "Good night, God, I love you", not thinking much about who/what/ I am directing that comment to.

But it comes out of the sense of connection I feel during prayer, the same sort of connection I feel when I'm talking to someone I love---my sister, my son, my friends. At a different level, maybe, as I've just reviewed my day in my prayer, asked forgiveness, asked for blessing and strength for those who are struggling, asked for a good night's sleep and a chance to be helpful in the next day, asked for guidance to be a good minister, mother, friend, sister.

I don't talk like that to anyone but God---and I set aside the odd thought that it might be stupid or useless, because it's not stupid or useless to me. How can I not love a concept/being/idea/thing/antropomorphized whatever to whom I can say all these things without fear?

I've learned that not everything has to make sense. Does it?

fausto said...

It's pretty obvious to me that you do. It's also pretty obvious to me that what many UUs don't love about God is in fact only other people's stingy definitions of God. I think we UUs used to be able to use and understand the word in a more broad, figurative sense (see, for example, my post today on John Quincy Adams), but in recent decades we've wrongly allowed our own understanding to become constrained (by the same literal mindset that constrains Biblical inerrantists, incidentally) into a necessary rejection of the limited apprehensions of others.

The ancient Jews avoided getting trapped into such constraints, and preserved their appreciation of God's essential ineffability, by observing the commandment at Exodus 20:3-5 against portraying God in any fashion. For them, even speaking his name was considered a transgression. They adopted euphemisms instead. But Christianity, as Emerson lamented, eventually became a system in which the tropes were accepted as reality. What Emerson called us to reject was the false apprehension of the tropes as reality, but not the true apprehension of transcending mystery and wonder.

Ms. Theologian said...

I've been stuck for a while with the notion that perhaps anthropomorphizing simply isn't as bad as I've been taught. :)

smijer said...

I love life. I love the interconnections of everything and everyone. I love the inspiration that seemingly comes from nowhere, that leads to scientific advances, art, greater understanding.boom de yada boom de yada boom de yada boom de yada

EmJay said...

Been trying to figure this out for myself. Posts like this help. I've been a member of a UU church for over 3 years now. I know it is home, sometimes can't keep up with UU dialogue about God. I am one of many in my generation of the unchurched. I just don't have the vocabulary for it yet. I wonder if it matters if I have a position on God. It is possible to be an active member of a UU church and never fully explore the issue. Is that good or bad? I don't know. It is my responsibility to answer that question for myself, I guess.

Lizard Eater said...

@Ms. Kitty -- I think there's a lot of wisdom in not requiring everything make sense. Letting the mystery be.

@Fausto -- our thoughts are going along the same road. I'll be writing more on this.

@Ms. Theo -- speak it, sister! I'm coming to the conclusion that anthropomorphization sure can make life easier to explore what our heart wants.

@smijer -- I am debating whether the laughter you gave me is negated by the earworm you gave me. But I like daffodils, too.

@EmJay -- I think you're in good company, if your interest is in things other than "what is God." Like the Buddhists who say if you ask WHO you're praying to, you're missing the point.

Kate said...

I don't know if I love God, because I don't know what that means.

About six years ago I was starting my UU journey, like EmJay unchurched myself, and was in utter conflict for some time about how a good friend in a conservative religion could be so sure about God when I looked for God and found nothing. I do think I looked--I was pretty depressed at the time, and would take anything.

It took a while but I finally realized that the God question was not the interesting question for me. I realized whether I believed or not it wouldn't really change my values or actions. (Seeing as it would be a pretty non-traditional God if I did believe.) I occasionally explore the symbolism, but still don't find that it adds much for me, even though my personal mysticism quotient is actually fairly high.

I think my church is okay with God language. Our previous minister used it more than our current one, and I think it was one of his projects to get people used to dealing with the words without freaking out. I once would freak out but now I can use the symbolism. Like in your comments about Buddhists, I can finally explore the concept of prayer without running in circles about who's listening.

Mystical Seeker said...

I was entertained by your comment about process theology. I am a fan of process theology myself, and yet I understand what you mean about running to a dictionary. It is true that Whiteheadian terminology is very dense and philosophical, with all its talk of concrescence, prehension, and occasions of experience, but in reality I think process theology is not as complicated as its terminology would suggest. To mean, seeing God as a divine lure, the source of the creative unfolding of the universe, rather than as an omnipotent personal being outside of our physical universe who manipulates via omnipotent power, is a beautiful and elegant way of conceiving of the Divine that is consistent with our understanding of the evolutionary history of the universe, which resolves the problem of evil by not positing God as an omnipotent being, and which sees God as the perfect embodiment of love and as someone we can love back because it sees God as that which perfectly sympathizes with all of our experiences.

(I can't believe I just wrote such a long sentence.)