Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Friends, what is God?

I have been listening to various recordings of interviews, lectures, discussions, and debates (mostly in podcast form), as well as a couple sermons on God, Jesus, Religion, and science. In each of these recordings people talk about God, Christ, or Religion (yes with a capital ‘R) without first clarifying what they mean, as if it’s assumed we’re all talking about the same thing when we use these words.

I listened to more than one entire argument about the incompatibility of science and Religion or science and belief in God where I had to discern from what the arguer was saying just what he or she meant by ‘God’ or ‘Religion’, only to discover that whatever definition used was not at all what I mean when I use these words.

I listened to two beautiful sermons about following Jesus Christ where congregations were encouraged to listen for Christ in every part of their lives, to not get stuck in ruts or merely following procedure. I realized that it has taken me years to be able to understand this sort of sermon; in this preaching it is assumed that everyone knows what and who Christ is, what it means to listen deeply, what it feels like to follow God or Christ within and to feel that deep sense of being called. In my experience that first step requires openness to experiences, a struggle to understand those experiences, and a commitment to trusting what is found there. Without knowing that, all this talk is very peculiar, confusing, and even stressful – why don’t I know what this guy’s talking about?

Here we all go pretending or assuming we know what other people are talking about when they use these words and refer to certain experiences as if we all mean the same thing and are coming from the same place. No wonder we have such walls around us in this world!

Something that I continue to learn over and over, especially recently, is the great importance of open, honest, and full communication. Friends we must be open to the different understandings of the words we use. We must clarify our own meanings without assuming those with whom we speak know what we mean right off the bat. We must not be afraid to ask others to clarify what they mean and to be open to their truths.

Granted, these are not easy things to define. I have struggled in this very blog to intellectually articulate what I mean by God. But that, Friends, in and of itself, is a clarification of what I mean. It is clear by now, I’m sure, that when I speak of God I do not mean some distant being, some old man in the sky. I have clearly avoided using gendered pronouns for God. I see God as omnipresent, in everyone, everywhere. God is what I hear and feel when I quiet my mind and my ego and listen deeply. God is that deep knowing when something is right or wrong, of when I need to act or hold more patience. These statements, while hardly a beginning of a definition of God, are much more of a clarification of my experience of God than merely using ‘God’ in a discussion or argument without any attempt at such an explanation.

So, Friends, tell me: What is God, in your experience? What do you mean by Christ?

I expect that we will find more than one answer among ourselves.

Love and Light,

1 comment:

kwix said...

Wonderful post, Claire!

Yes, I too am surprised at the cavalier way people assume they can name God, pin God down, get God all straightened out and filed away in some creedal statement -- as if every person means precisely the same thing by the words "God" or "Christ" etc.

I guess we wouldn't be Quakers if we took these things at face value!

So, no, I don't think that any of us mean precisely the same thing by any term we use! And it can be very off-putting to have someone give a great sermon on walking with the Christ I love -- only to find out at the end that I get walked off the cliff of homophobia or Islamaphobia or fundamentalism etc.

But on the other hand, we have a lot of overlap with others: the Christ they walk with is the Christ I walk with too, and much of our walk is the same. Or a lot of their insights on God are insights I can appreciate and need to hear. We can use that commonality and those insights even if we don't walk exactly the same walk.

My understanding of God is not too different from yours. I see God as our ground of being, our source of meaning. God, on some level, IS Meaning: both the scientific, measurable meanings of things and the big Mystery of why.

Of course that can be a bit abstract, which is why I'm glad that I grew up with what around these here parts is a more personal version of God known as Christ. I don't think it's necessary to know God by that name, but "Christ" helps remind me that God -- as my personal ground of meaning (not just the universe's!) -- is also a very intimate concept.