image of God

May we all be rid of God

It is said that Meister Eckhart said, “I pray that God would rid me of God.” The literal reading of this line makes no sense at all. Why would one pray to the very one desired to be rid of?

But of course mystics and religious teachers rarely work in the literal.

Photo by  DJ Paine  on  Unsplash

Photo by DJ Paine on Unsplash

We all have images of God that provide us with comfort and a sense of security. Of course we do not call them “images of God,” we just think of what we are thinking of as God. Thus when we talk about God, we are really talking about the image of God we have in our mind. No matter how convinced we are, the image of God we call God is not God. It is only an approximation of God.

Thus to be “rid” of God is not to be without the presence of the Creator of the universe, but to be “rid” of the image of God we carry in our mind that is there only to justify our own positions. It has been said that if God always agrees with you then your God is too small.

Eckheart’s prayer to be “rid of God” is to be rid of the small image of god we carry with us that we use to justify our actions, beliefs and views. To ask God to rid us of God is a prayer of repentance of idolatry.

This Christmas season, the God we encounter in the manger and the meek, mild, quite and innocent God we have in our heads are different.

May this Christmas may we all be rid of God so to be saved by God.

Success Is Not a Name of God

Many people know that Jesus taught many times using parables. A parable is a story that puts things “parallel” to one another in order to allow the space between them to illuminate what we are missing. Sort of like putting a frame around a picture. The frame is the tool the artist uses in order to show within the frame. To get focused on the frame is to miss the point of the art. Which is why we do not get hung on on the historical accuracy of the parables, we know that they are just the frame to show us something else.

rawpixel-1061397-unsplash.jpg

Clearly I am not Jesus - on my best days I am able to be in the parking lot of his stadium. I am not a master story teller and I am working with the art form of parable, but it is not easy for me. What follows is not a parable, but an attempt to offer a frame in order to show a hyperbolic contrast in order to expose the question: What is success to God?

The frame is just two quotes. One from Dorothee Soelle’s book and the other from Jerry Falwell Jr’s twitter feed.

“Martin Buber said that “success is not a name of God.” It could not be said more mystically nor more helplessly. The nothing that wants to become everything and needs us cannot be named in the categories of power. To let go of the ego means, among other things, to step away from the coercion to succeed. It means to “go where you are nothing…” The ultimate criterion for taking action cannot be success because that would mean to go on dancing to the tunes of the bosses of this world.” - Dorothee Soelle, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance

“Conservatives & Christians need to stop electing “nice guys”. They might make great Christian leaders but the US needs street fighters like @realDonaldTrump at every level of government b/c the liberal fascists Dems are playing for keeps & many Repub leaders are a bunch of wimps!” - Jerry Falwell Jr. via Twitter (Sept 28, 2018)


Again, I ask, what is success to God?

The Failings of the Church Justifies Her Existence Not Eradication

Over the weekend, while the Judicial Council of the UMC made a big decision, I could not help but think about Lillian Daniel's book When "Spiritual But Not Religious" Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places Even the Church. While the whole book was fine, it was the first chapter that spoke to me. I share a short excerpt from that chapter with one modification. While Daniel is critiquing the "Spiritual but not religious" category, I offer one slight modification to her writing here. The addition is what is in (parentheses). 

"The church has done some embarrassing things in its day, and I personally do not want to be associated with a lot of it. But, news flash, human beings do a lot of embarrassing, inhumane, cruel and ignorant things, and I don't want to be associated with them either. And here, I think we come to the crux of the problem that the (progressive/conservative) spiritual but not religious people have with the church.
     If we could just kick out all the human beings, we might really be able to do this thing and meet their high standards. If we could just kick our all the sinners, we might have a shot at following Jesus. If we could just get rid of the Republicans (exclusionary language in the Discipline), the Democrats could bring about the second coming and the NPR would never need to run another pledge drive. If we could just kick out all the Democrats (Discipline disobedience), the fiscally responsible would turn water into wine, and the church would never need another pledge drive.
     But in the church, as everywhere, we are stuck with one another, and being stuck with one another, we don't get the space to come up with our own human-invented God. Because when you are stuck with one another, the last thing you would do is invent a God based on humanity. In church, in community, humanity is just way too close to look good."

Perhaps ironically it is the divisions in the Church that keep me connected to the Church. I know it is the Church, with all of her divisions, that help us from creating a God in our own image. Humans are too peaty to model a God after. The failings of the Church justifies her existence not eradication.

God As Projectile

Peter Rollins continues to be a great source of life and energy for my theological reflection and thinking and I am thankful for his life and ministry. Recently I heard him speak on a podcast about how some think that God is merely a projection of our fears, desires and beings into the heavens. And to bring the point even closer to home for Christians, he makes the point that denominations are often failing because denominations are many times just projecting what they think God is compared to other denominations.

Rollins reminds us that God is less projection and more projectile that shatters our projections of God. The Taoist tradition has this line in their sacred writings:

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

Within the tradition I practice we say of God in Christ is:

"The name which is above all names'

The point being that when we give God a name we are only casting a projection. I agree that some projections are clearer than others, but a projection non the less. The True God is less a projection and more projectile that shatters our projections. The moment we try to name God, put God in some theological framework (AKA: a box) or project God we are missing the power of what/who is God.

Finally, Rollins makes note that the beauty of denominations is that the word "denomination" means to "de-name" something. Denominations, when at their best, are doing the work of de-naming God so that God is no longer a projection. The act of de-naming God is scary and even dangerous to some, however in only be de-naming God do we come to an even deeper and fuller trust in that which cannot be named because our projections of God becomes smashed.