Yesterday, I watched a documentary called the Sons of Perdition. It’s about young teens who escape a polygamist Mormon Settlement. The leader of the little tribe is arrested and convicted of arranging marriages between underage girls and older men. He continues to lead from jail and he continues to have faithful followers. Next, I watched a documentary called Audience of One. A Pentecostal minister in San Francisco feels called by God to make a movie. At first, it doesn’t seem like such an outlandish idea. God has asked people for some pretty amazing things that defy logic. Yet, as the film about a film unfolds it gradually becomes more and more obvious that this man’s calling is really “out there”. Talking about establishing a colony on the moon was the tipping point for me. It’s not that God couldn’t establish a moon colony. It is about the messenger who has appointed himself and some how managed to leave God out of it without even realizing it. The deeper he got into his project, the farther from God he seemed to drift. Ego and God are like matter and anti-matter. I”m convinced they repel each other.
Writing my thoughts about God is pulling me way beyond my comfort zone. I don’t like to put myself out there for criticism or correction. Once in a while some thing in me believes it’s worth the risk. It is possible that I might have something to say and I’ve got to get out of my own way long enough to say it. I love a wide variety of people from atheists to agnostics and a lot of flavors in between. Each person carries something of great value in their hearts and in their personal beliefs. They add value to my life and I believe that is where the “rubber hits the road.” In this case, the rubber is God. God is also the road and most everything in between.
God gets used a lot. The next time I start to feel slighted or misused all I have to do is think about these two films. People seem to lose God more than they find him without ever realizing that they are the agents of their own disaffection. They freely talk about God without having a clue as to who God might really be.
While I may not be a sister wife or donating every cent to a Pentecostal pastor who is taking years to produce a movie he believes God commissioned, there are times when I am just as delusional. It’s a lot easier to spot someone else’s crazy than my own. I am motivated to sustain my illusions. They are often the only thing holding me together.
What do I base this on? The last two weeks, my soul has been unusually restless. What do I do in response? I start playing online solitaire. Winning doesn’t matter. What matters is putting red on top of black or black on top of red. Mindless, repetitive, I am trying to remain numb. I am running away from my self, my obligations, from whom I am called to be. It feels like too much work. It feels overwhelming and I feel like a coward. Numbness is what I think I want. At least that is what I try and convince myself. Reality pokes through like a sharp dirty stick. I don’t like it. I don’t like solitaire. I don’t like polygamist communities who damage children and some times I think I don’t like God. I don’t have a problem with my idea of God. I do have a huge problem with the God some people talk about so freely but don’t seem to know at all.
As long as I get stuck in the idea of a right way and a wrong way to view God, I’m in for trouble. Honestly, isn’t God supposed to be so beyond human understanding that we are foolish children trying to dig a hole in the sand that keeps filling up with the ocean? (I’m winking at you, St. Augustine.) I can get so hung up in being right, that I miss the point entirely and in missing the point, I often miss God. The crime-fighting super hero inside me wants to be on the moral side of the equation and I’d like to think I am but is it really necessary to be “right”? Can’t I just be and try and do the best job of being me that I can do? Wouldn’t that glorify a deity much more than proving some delusion guy or gal wrong or nuts? Maybe, I’m the nut?
What I’m suggesting isn’t that it’s not right to have an opinion. My rational brain has a lot to say about both these films. It’s pretty obvious that the people in question are beyond the conventions of normalcy. I even say it’s ok to believe that they are wrong. I believe people are wrong about politics all the time and some times they really are. What I’m suggesting is that believing something doesn’t always make it so especially when entering into the realm of religion. In fact, getting caught up in the idea of proving others wrong might just take away time and energy from something much more important: being oneself, being real, being genuine and living one’s own life in accordance with one’s own beliefs. This must be a lot harder than it looks. I am intimidated by this calling. Instead, I want to impose my beliefs on everyone else. This type of imposition doesn’t seem to come from God at all. It comes from ego and my own human need.
God doesn’t need to prove anyone right or wrong. They simply are. If God is the final judge, then the pressure is off me. Judging the world seems in better hands than mine. In fact, I know it is.
In addition to the crime fighter super hero alter-ego living in me, there is also a marauding Saracen racing into “dens of darkness” and loping off heads in the name of all that is good and holy as if loping off heads could ever be holy. I desperately want to feel like I’m on the right side. I want to be a holy avenger. It’s a lot easier than embracing the enemy. That flies in the face of all that is logical. And if I don’t feel like my beliefs are right and since they are radically different from a certain movie maker or polygamist or the Saracens, how do I get my bearings? How do I know what star to follow, what religion to practice, what to believe? If I open my mind to other possibilities, won’t I get lost in the process? Won’t the line between me and the rest of the world disappear?
Maybe, just maybe, God isn’t lost in the details. Maybe God gets lost in all the words we use to limit and define. Maybe God gets lost the moment we start judging or excluding because we’re uncomfortable. Maybe religion is more about our limits than our potential because it feels safe and comfortable and we can reassure ourselves that we get “it” when others do not. Maybe if we all just prayed more and got out of our own way long enough to begin to become the best people we could be, the rest of the world wouldn’t matter so much. Maybe, if I stopped playing solitaire and opened my heart to being what I am called to be, my heart would be less restless and I would begin to feel more alive and in touch with a power that lies beyond my comprehension, a power that calls me with a roaring whisper. Religion, philosophy, politics, ideologies can’t answer for me. It’s up to me to respond.
It’s up to me to say, “Yes, this is what I believe. This is what is important to me and I believe in it enough to take action.”
As delusional as I think some people are, they often put their belief into action. Maybe they have something to teach me after all. I’d better get busy. Solitaire will have to wait.