Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, February 8, 2012
The atheist staring from his attic window
is often nearer to God
than the believer caught up in his own false image of God.
Martin Buber, Jewish religious philosopher;
he was born on this date, 1878, in Germany
“Our own false image of God”. That’s our real issue, isn’t it? There many people today who think that they have the “right” image/understanding of God. And I have to confess, I’m one of them. To my heart and mind and learning, I believe I know what/”who” “God” is. Part of it is 40 years of study and thought and meditation; another part of it is my heart and in my personal experience.
Buber is not the first one to raise the question of the nature, the deep mystery, of who “God” is. It has been raised from the beginning of time. As I have gotten older, and as I have thought and pondered more, my own image of “God” has become like the mystery of the Universe: it has expanded and deepened into the vast depths of infinity and of Unknowing ….. just like dear Br. Lawrence entered into his “Cloud of Unknowing”. As that has happened, I have been forced to expand my understanding of the nature of Love, of Compassion, of Divinity, of Humanity, of “being made in the image of God”.
Much of Christianity in America today (and I would say much of Islam in the World today) has been diminishing it’s conception of God. Minds have long since become more and more closed and narrowed. “God” has come under the control of “believers”, who have consistently diminished the nature of God until God is made in the image of their limitations, their bigotry, their prejudice, their fear, their ego-centricity.
For Buber, “the atheist” is a symbol of a more open, approachable mind and heart. “Atheists” represent a person free from preconceptions, and therefore open to being touched by the Ineffable …. by the One that vastly outdistances our sorely besieged capacities for understanding ….. and our tribalism and our fears and our need to dominate.
The newly-consecrated Episcopal bishop of Washington DC , Marianne Budde, recently wrote: “Jesus said, “you will know people by their fruits.” St. Paul wrote: “The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
As I gaze about American popular, highly franchised right-wing, literalistic, evangelical Christianity (which seems to me to demean what “evangelical” means), I see no love, no joy, no peace, no patience, no kindness, no generosity, no faithfulness to the spirit of Jesus, no gentleness, no self-control. What I see is fear and hate and ignorance ….. and in that I see “the sin against the Holy Spirit”.
As I age, my vision of “God” expands like the rush of the expanding Universe ….. and with it expands my awe and my joy and my wonder at the vastness yet to be known of who “God” IS. And with that, my awareness of what I do not know deepens my humanity and my own sense of who I am.
“Staring from” our “attic window” is, I think, the most authentic posture of the true seeker after “God”.
We do not determine Who God Is. The Spirit tells us. The Gospel tells us. God waits for us to recognize Her.