Saturday, August 26, 2006

It's God's World, I Just Work Here

I just spent a week in Provincetown, reading, resting, and catching food poisoning. The weather was absolutely perfect. I prayed the Anglican rosary every night and read the Morning and Evening Prayers from the 1895 Universalist Prayer Book every day. I bored my condo companion silly (especially in the final days when I was unable to leave the house due to sickness). I ate a huge lobster that Paul murdered on my behalf. We saw an absolutely terrible Kander & Ebb review at the Provincetown Playhouse. I took photos of flowers. I was/am utterly content.

Much to my surprise, all my thinking about God this summer, and ruminating on faith, has led me to the conclusion that I do deeply believe in God. I have an old Chinese fortune in my wallet from a cookie I must have eaten years ago. It says, "You will become more passionate about your convictions."

I have indeed become more passionate about my conviction that this is God's world, and I just work here.

I no longer believe that God is just part of human nature.
I no longer believe that God is just something in Nature.

I believe in the God beyond understanding. My soul is satisfied with the God of Biblical tradition, as I understand more fully the human limitations in trying to interpret and enter into a mature relationship with this God. I have been studying the Ten Commandments this week. Can you believe I never have before?
Believe me, I know how stupid I sound when I say, "Whoa, man, those Commandments are, like, amazing!"

(I was, however, tremendously disappointed by Christopher Hedges' book about the Commandments, Losing Moses on The Freeway

I found his treatment of the Decalogue undisciplined and irritating. On one hand, he likes to dramatically critique white liberal privilege and distance himself from the talking heads at Harvard, and from his church-going past.
Yet he uses his Harvard education and his church-going past as the very foundation of his self-righteous moral pontificating.
Beyond that, his essays seem to be cathartic pieces that Hedges only barely bothers to connect to the Ten Commandments.)

I think it most luxurious to have been able to spend hours just sitting and thinking about the Ten Commandments. This is why ministers need vacations. This is not the kind of thing you can do between the other thousands tasks of ministry.

There is only one potentially serious problem arising from all this ruminating:
I still don't know what Unitarian Universalists are worshiping if they are not worshiping God or, in the words of the hymn, "hallowing the world God hath made."

If they are gathering to worship in the name of the Holy, in the acknowledgment that this world contains a spark of the sacred, I got no beef with that. If folks don't want to use the word "God," well, okay. Considering that "God" is the nickname most people on the planet give to that "that transcending mystery and wonder which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces and create and uphold life,"* it's kind of eccentric for us to keep avoiding it. But still, okay. Spirit of Life and Love, okay with me.

If, however, UUs are actually worshiping human potentiality, I have to admit that I just don't get it.
I am not offended by worshiping human potential, I just can't do it myself.

This summer has clarified the main question for me: are we worshiping human potential, however veiled, or are we worshiping a world that is imbued with the sacred.
If I know my people, their next question will be: "How do you define the sacred?"

You know what? I don't. I don't mean to be dismissive, or cycnical, or pious when I say that. I just don't. I have spent at least some portion of every day for the past nine weeks thinking deeply about God, and I can't define it. So I won't try. I am more amazed than ever, in fact, that any of us even try to live religious lives together around this Thing that none of us can define. I have recently discovered that I am almost as much in awe of that fact as I am in awe of God.

I discovered this summer that I am definitely in the right business. There is no righter business for me to be in. In fact, there is no other business at all. My little tiny life, even if it ended today, would be remembered as a religious life. I have recently discovered that I don't care about any other accomplishment. That's a big thing to know. That's a big piece of blessed assurance pie to have at my table. "You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."
You can have your anxiety disorder and bouts of depression. Or rather, you can have mine. That and loneliness and all the rest of the existential struggle. I got me some blessed assurance this summer. I hope it sticks. My God, I hope it sticks.

If this summer has made one thing clear to me, it is that I have something very intimate in common with the militant atheist:
For as perfectly dumb and irrational and nonsensical as it seems to the devoute atheist to worship an invisible, unproveable God -- whose very name and potential existence seem only to provoke bloodshed, hatred and enmity, it seems every bit as dumb and irrational and nonsensical to me to worship human potential -- a species whose past and present provide me no persuasive evidence whatsoever that I should place my faith in it.

* - from the UU first Source.