The Intelligent God

I was listening to a Christian radio station the other day. A song came on saying “I will not be ashamed of the message of Jesus.” It was one of those proselytizing justification songs. As I listened to it I wondered what is the true message of Jesus? What did the singer think was the message of Jesus? What was his concept of God? The song was from a fundamentalists perspective. As a former fundamentalist I knew exactly what he meant. But now that I have gone beyond fundamentalism, I find myself asking a lot of questions. Nothing is really black and white. Black and white is an illusion the fundamentalists create so they don’t have to ask difficult or unanswerable questions. If you can see shades of gray, then you have to be able to tolerate ambiguity.

God gave us the ability to think and reason. God gave us the ability to know Him/Her in an intensely personal way. To know God is to love God. But everyone relates to God through their own mind and the concepts that have been created throughout childhood and personal experiences. To substitute an accepted list of rules or even an agreed upon set of social mores for the true search of the Almighty, is a cop-out. Don’t make me work or think about God. Just tell me who God is and tell me what is O.K. to do and what isn’t. That’s where many of our Christian brothers and sisters are, in their walk with Christ. Indeed many churches, especially the fundamentalists churches, encourage this. To think independently about God and come up with one’s own concept and realities is not only discouraged, but punishable. If you think that it’s OK to be gay and Christian – get out. If you think that it’s OK to be divorced and Christian – get out. If you think that you can know God in other forms besides Christianity – get out. It happens over and over in churches all over the world. In this regard, the laws of group dynamics are equally present in churches as they are in any other social group context. If one disobeys the social mores of the group, the ultimate punishment is expulsion. So why do we let the few do the thinking for the many? We, as gay Christians, have a stake in what the few thinking authorities say. When they say you can’t be gay and Christian, then we stop blindly following their authority and start thinking it through for ourselves. When it becomes me instead of you that is being expelled, then I must begin my own search. I must find the truth. Who is kicking me out – a local “authority”, or God? These are the questions that begin the search for wisdom and the true face of God.

God is present in the Bible in many metaphors. God is a king, lord, warrior, judge, lawgiver, builder, gardener, shepherd, potter, healer, father, mother, wisdom, friend,brother, sister, eagle, lion, fire, cloud, wind, fortress, shield and many others. Which form of God do you relate to? That is your concept of God. “Our images of God matter. Just as how we conceptualize God affects what we think the Christian life is about, so do our images of God. Ideas (which include both concepts and images) are like families, they have relationships. How we image God shapes not only what we think God is like but also what we think the Christian life is all about. People who think of God as a warrior may become warriors themselves, whether in a Christian crusade, a Muslim jihad, or an apocalyptically oriented militia. People who think God is angry are likely to be angry at the world themselves.” [1] We, as gay Christians, have been told that God is angry at us because we are gay. We’ve been told, “turn or burn.” It is hard at first, to get a grip on the concept of God as compassionate caring and loving because we are gay. Indeed, many gay folks can’t get past that problem. They can’t allow themselves to believe that they are lovable to God. If we make it beyond that conceptual problem, then we’re faced with the questions of who is God? If the traditional religious organizations and theology were wrong about God not loving us, what else are they wrong about? Everything comes into question. This is where God becomes intensely personal. God reveals him/herself to us as we seek God. Because this is personal I may see a different side of God then you do. Theological differences that have become divisive, such as Baptism styles or the Virgin Birth, are almost unimportant. What is important is God’s revelation to each of us, as we seek the true face of God. St. Augustine once wrote, “Before experiencing God you thought you could talk about God. When you begin to experience God you realize that what you are experiencing you cannot put into words.”[2] To know God is to experience God. “Therefore, sin becomes not just a violation of God’s law, but a betrayal of the relationship.” [3]

The more I know about God, the more I realize that I don’t know anything. God is bigger then the broadest definitions that we have. God is so much more than a list of rules. The list of rules cheat their followers of searching for the true God by substituting pat answers for questions. To know God means a lifetime of searching, just to realize that you still don’t know God. But with each step of knowledge and wisdom that you do gain, you get closer to the source of all tenderness and mercy. God is love. We yearn to experience the touch of God. God is experiential. “All of our thinking about God – our concepts, as well as our images, are attempts to express the ineffable. The ineffable – one in whom we live and move and have our being – is beyond all of our concepts, even this one.” [4] When we pray, “God I want to know you,” the answer takes us places we never imagined we’d go.