Theology for the twenty-first century

Religion hasn’t been a subject on the blog recently. Religious belief, theology, morality, however one chooses to label it, has suffered ideologically right along with democracy, freedom and equality over in the political arena. What passes for theologically-based practice today is far removed from even a century ago, not even considering Holy Bible definitions. Just as with political ideology, religion is not a closed club, nor an autocracy of legal practices.

Let’s start with basics: How many of us have quoted God? How many have said, “God thinks . . .” If so, we have strayed from a proper twenty-first century relationship with our deity. God doesn’t ‘think’. God is. Gods of any religion are ultimate forces of existence, time, infinite power and the reason anything physical exists –including everything in the past and the future. God doesn’t have to think. God already knows. We are required to think, not God.

To offer a simple analogy, consider that God is a large brick wall. A person walks up to the wall and tries to break the wall. That person may end up with skin abrasions, wasted time and maybe even some broken fingers. The wall did nothing; it was just being a wall. An observer watching nearby comments, “The wall punished the person for trying to damage it.” Obviously, the wall didn’t have to think but the beat up wall abuser should have.

Unfortunately, humans being humans, they are highly susceptible to interpreting every phenomenon as if it were the product of human reason and human emotion. There is a popular theology around today that says every person has a god who thinks just like they do and has the same opinions. Somewhat convenient, each person belongs to a god-club where all their gods have similar opinions. One can see how putting people’s opinions in the driver’s seat has the same effect as raiding the Capitol on January 6 or in ignorance challenging the properties of a brick wall.

Gods have three qualities that humans can recognize:

1- omniscience, a fancy word that means God has no limits in any dimension or under any assumption. God is, was, will always be and is the essence of all existence. This characteristic is critical if God is to be the source of a common ethical value for all things living and nonliving.

2- God neither blesses nor forgives, nor punishes – just like the brick wall. It is the human mind that, like the bystander above, must judge cause and effect in human terms; the wall punished the attacker; the wall protects the home; the wall grants peace of mind. The proper interaction with God is to measure one’s own contribution to the wellbeing and sustenance of God’s kingdom, that is, one is measured by respect for and supportive effort to perceived reality.

Recent political awareness about the fact that humans are upsetting the planet’s priorities is a good example of recognizing that humans have been attacking the ‘wall’ called biosphere. Also becoming unusually evident is the problematic division between the well-to-do and the not-well-to-do, an unnatural circumstance that is both extreme and global in nature. What must humans do to rectify their relationship with God’s creation? As with the person who attacked the wall and was ‘punished’ for it, so, too, do humans suffer by their own accord when in conflict with God’s creation.

3- The third recognizable characteristic is a feature called ‘grace’. Whenever a person does a good thing for another person, creature, the planet or prevents damage by any definition, there is a strong reassurance of the self, a sense of completion, of being on God’s team, a positive feeling of personal growth. We are no different from any living creature that assures the great morality called God.

Ancient Mariner

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