Sunday, June 06, 2010

Reason Number Twelve

Today, I explore excuse Number Twelve of fifteen for staying away from a worshipping community:  "They all teach and believe different things.  How do I know which one is right?" 

Let's consider the logic to the statement.  We see different ways to practice medicine, educate children, repair cars, cook chicken, clean a house, run a business, grow a garden, program a computer, cut hair, have a satisfying marriage.  Multiple opinions do not mean that we quit seeking medical help or sending children to school or finding better ways to cook a chicken or anything else.  We don't really expect people to agree in these areas.  Look at national (or local) politics.  Disagreement is real, and people are passionate about those disagreements.  Nonetheless, most of us still live and work within our political system. We've not headed off to some isolated island to live a primitive, non-political life, should such a thing even exist.

When it comes to theology--and the word theology simply means "words about God"--there is no way for one human organization to have a complete handle on that kind of truth, any more than one school of medicine has absolutely the last answer to any given disease.  We live in a fantastically complex world.  We are surrounded by mysteries in the tiniest particles and in the utter vastness of space, galaxies, universes.

To come together to worship God offers time to explore that vastness and those mysteries. We bathe ourselves in contemplation of such greatness.  Worship also lets us recognize just how little we really know and how small we are.  Many say they acknowledge the hugeness of this universe.  But most of us really think the universe is our own life, our wants and needs, our hungers, thirsts, appetites, desires.  So, often without thinking, we seek a theology that lets us stay the center of the universe.  Since everyone inhabits a different universe because of different life experiences, personality types, family and genetic influences, cultures, races, sexuality and gender, our theologies also differ.

I used to think that I could get a handle on some absolute objective truth out there.  I would be the one to really, truly understand God and what God wants for you and for me.  While I still think there is absolute truth, holiness, love, mercy and justice--because I think this is the nature of God--I have learned that all of my efforts to fully understand it and wrap my mind around it will inevitably be both limited and prejudicial.  

That does not make my seeking after God futile; it does help keep me humble in the midst of that search.  

So, to expect that all church gatherings would teach the same thing is to also say, "I can fully control God."  It's called "God in a box" and we stay the center of the universe. The differences make the exploration of the Holy One far more fascinating and adventurous.  I say this with much confidence: no one, and no religious institution has a perfect handle on the nature and purposes of God.  Any group that says, "us, and us only," has placed God in a very tight, humanly constructed box and has thus become God.  

Why not celebrate the different theologies?  Why not recognize that such differences give us hope?  Why not see how to develop spiritually with different modes of worship?  Look at the world--only a mind of infinite creativity could bring this into existence.  Different churches, different theologies--could it be that they reflect the Mind of the Maker?  Could it be that this is not such a bad thing?  I personally do not embrace all theologies.  But they can all teach me something. Perhaps the same would be true for you.

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