AVOIDING THE “G” WORD
My friend Terry Sissons has a wonderful post on her blog “The Other I” called “My Problem with the ‘G’ word.” The “G” word, of course, is “God” and I also have a problem with it. I avoid it by using “the Sacred” instead. I am loathe to call it “God,” not because I am not talking about “God,” but because the word “God” has been so thoroughly corrupted with anthropomorphic imagery that I lose my bearings every time I use it. I may be wrong, but I suspect the same is true for everyone. The imagery appears to have a life of its own, and absolutely impervious to thought. Any attempt to redefine it fails. Increasingly I believe that those who claim I am trying to trick them, while they appear to not understand, simply have not been able to let let go the imagery about “God” that dominates our imagination. So any mention of “the Sacred” as a substitute for “God” actually has the opposite effect: it conjures up the very “God” I would expunge from our imagination, as if “let in through the back door.”
Perhaps “the Sacred” is not the best term, but at least it’s a start. It gets us away from the “G” word. It is not yet loaded with the baggage of “providence” and “person,” “almighty” and “all-knowing,” “divine will and command, reward and punishment” ― ancient metaphors that have been taken literally for so long that now it’s impossible to understand them as symbols. We are so utterly mesmerized by our traditional images that we can’t even understand what anthropomorphism means and why its prohibition must be taken seriously. The warning that instructs us to say that God is not a person rather than to say “he” is, is simply unintelligible to most people. It is ignored and dismissed as theological mumbo-jumbo and we continue blithely to relate to a dangerous puerile product of our collective imagination.
So, here we are at the beginning of the third millennium of this “sacred” era, the bewildered inheritors of a tradition so rich and transhistorical, so broad and multi-ethnic, so sacralized by the blood of those who died or were slaughtered in its name, that we may be forgiven if we are overwhelmed by it. The inertial weight of this massive behemoth is so great that many feel there are only two options … either live with the damn thing the way it is, or walk away from it entirely, once and for all. This is the Church. We are all quite familiar with this feeling.
We must realize, of course, the infantile fundamentalist “God” that follows us like a dark shadow is artificially kept alive in the crypts of the Church. That “God’s” Church offers a refuge for the immature in a world that would be adult. That “God” is a false god, and as with all idols, those that fall down before it become like it. The Church is the way it is because its “God”-idol is the way it is, and the Church must keep things that way or it will disappear … or change radically, which is the same thing. You can’t change the one without the other. And the “two option” hypothesis suggests that to dump that “God” you’ll have to dump that Church. This is not a plan, it’s an observation.
Were that Church ever to condescend to dialog on the issue, it would probably try to defend itself by saying that despite the utter madness on the surface, it has proposed to do one and only one thing through the millennia of its conflicted existence: to nurture the human relationship to “God.”
Many dispute that claim. They say that through the ages there was just too much concubinage with empire to deny the charge that the only thing the “God”-idol ever meant to the Church was its usefulness as a tool for the maintenance of the status quo of structured predation. And when I look at the “God” they are talking about, I realize they are absolutely right. That “God,” like Tolkien’s ring of power, was forged in the furnaces of hell for no other purpose and with no other possible effect than to enlist the multitude in their own exploitation. That “God” does not exist, I say, or if he does he must be exorcized ― for he is not “God;” he has set himself up in his place ― a philistine Goliath champion of philistines. They are of the same cloth, that “God” and that Church. Those that worship idols, keen the psalms, become like them.
But if the “two option” hypothesis is wrong … if there is a “third way” between Scylla and Charybdis … if the boy is to fell the Giant, if the Temple is to be brought down by a blind man, and the incense to Caesar exchanged for the blood of resistance … it will have to be in the name of that which has no name, not made by human hands, which refuses to be called “God” and is visible only as the face of our hungry human hearts. This nameless presence lurks in no dark crypt, is enthroned in no high temple, promises no miracles, offers no life without death, demands no cloying incense, issues no commands, metes out no eternal punishments. It asks nothing, does nothing, wants nothing … except to be with us. … It’s too simple for words … .