Interpretations of what people think about God are diverse. When these interpretations are hardened and lines drawn in the sand, “God” becomes a name used against people of other religions, sexual orientation, nationality, economic group, race, etc.

These interpretations are often paraded (and politicized!) by popular TV preachers, some politicians, and other public figures. Mr. Gallop (of the Gallop Poll) calls people alienated from this mean-spirited “religion” the “nones.” Pollsters reveal the nones are rapidly growing in number.

Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, and many others are reviving and refreshing approaches to God from Christian traditions that have often been in the minority. The emphasis is not on interpretations that divide, but a pool of experiences that unite. “God” is not a super being controlling human destinies from afar, like a puppet master pulling strings, nor prayer a long-distance phone call. God is here, now, profoundly related with us and in us, and can be known in many ways. St. Paul expressed this, quoting a Greek philosopher: “We live and move and have our being in God.”

God’s otherness is mystery, but God is intimately related to the creation. One might think of the universe as “the body of God,” and humans are caretakers and trustees of the creation. (Something we aren’t doing very well.)

For Christians, Jesus gives major intimations of God as just, loving, forgiving, inclusive, guiding, supporting, saving, and much more. God’s spirit infuses the world and is known through all the varieties of human experience — e.g. beauty, kindness, children, people in all their variety, nature, science, art, knowledge, wisdom, a seed of God within, the heart and much more. Religious experience is all the experience of a religious/spiritual person. In spite of evil and ignorance, God seeks to bring more goodness and love upon the earth, working within the created order. God “self limits” God’s self. And in the words of Martin Luther King and his mentor Howard Thurman, “The moral arc of the universe bends in the direction of justice.”

Our task is to dream and think greater thoughts about God. The promise is that in the victories, toils and sufferings of our lives, we will find fresh intimations of God within and all around us; as in the motto of a great religious order, “Finding God in all things.”

James Bortell is a retired United Methodist minister living in Normal. He may be reached at jimbortell@gmail.com

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