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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What does God want?

What a gorgeous day! Sometimes I forget that one of the benefits of working from home is that I can sit and read in the park if I so choose.

My main task today was to finish my review book and write up my next review for The Plain Dealer. But the weather was spectacular. So after my errands, I packed up a picnic lunch, my book and my cell phone and decided to ride my bike up to Huntington Beach.

The best time to experience Huntington is in the fall, when the summer crowds have dispersed and it’s once again a haven for locals. The water and sky were spectacularly blue. And the cool gentle breeze I found sitting on a bench atop the bluff reminded me that these days are getting fewer.

Beach sounds are the most soothing on earth — the gentle lapping of the water along the beach, the occasional child’s laughter and the quack of a duck or cry of a gull. I sat on bench that was inscribed, “In loving memory of Dorothy Smith who brought joy to so many….” Made me want to know Dorothy and find out what was so special about her. How lovely that she’s still bringing joy to others through her bench high above the beach.

The day fit my mood. I’ve been somewhat contemplative lately for a variety of reasons. Mostly I’ve been thinking a lot about what God wants from me. And so I wanted to point you to today’s review, which is a book called, “What God Wants: A Compelling Answer to Humanity’s Biggest Question,” by Neale Donald Walsch.

In the weeks since I first wrote the review that appears today, I’ve not been able to shake the fundamental premise of the book: That God wants nothing from us.

“There has scarcely been a day on this planet when a battle has not been fought or a human being not killed in the name of God, or for God’s cause,” Walsch writes. Our relationship with God is dysfunctional because we both love and fear him.

He believes that traditional religion teaches a “theology of separation.” In other words, God is over there and we are over here. Us and them. The saved and the damned. Rich and poor.

The very best reason to believe in God is that we don’t need God. God has made us capable enough to get along just fine, as any parent would. Thus, we can be open to just loving God — and just loving God is the most powerful thing any of us could ever do.

He wants nothing from us. But when we imagine he wants something from us then we fear that we will let him down and he won’t give us what we need. It’s like saying to your kids that they are responsible for your happiness.

Perhaps ‘God’ does not want something from humans, but exists only to give something to humans. And perhaps what God wants to give to humans is exactly what humans want. Nothing more, and nothing less.

Hmmm. Now doesn’t that make you stop and think? Don’t be hasty. I was at first and breezed through his argument, but I find I can’t stop thinking about it.

We're all an expression of God. There was someone who came before us and said that we should give what we wish to receive. Only over two millennia we seem to have forgotten what He taught, even as we invoke His name.

But here’s what I’m wrestling with: Traditional religion would have us seek perfection to be like God, but only God is Perfect. And so we’re set up for failure. No wonder so many of us are in spiritual crisis. Walsch’s answer is that God is Life and Oneness.

God does not want Oneness, with humans or with anything else. God IS Oneness, and God does not want what God is already experiencing.

We, and by that I mean humanity, will only find what we are looking for when we look in the mirror. It’s like when you’re looking for your glasses and they’re on top of your head only you never noticed until you passed by a mirror.

But you know what? We’re not so good at looking in the mirror. It becomes a painful, sometimes awkward exercise. A recovering addict once told me that addicts and those in 12-step recovery programs have the benefit of engaging in intense self-examination and reflection. Too bad everyone can’t turn the magnifying glass on themselves.

God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Omnipotent, Most High, the One and Life itself. “If God is everything, has everything, can create everything, and has created everything, what is God without?” What does God want?

What do you think?


Jeff Hess said...

Shalom Wendy,

Walsch's book presumes information that we do not have: that there is anything other than the observable, natural world.

If such information existed, then someone would have claimed the $1 million prize from the James Randi Educational Foundation.

The Enlightenment seems to have taken hold everywhere in the industrial world but in the United States. Here we still debate whether or not our children should be taught superstitions based on ignorance as an argument against science.

We pretend to fight religious fundamentalists in one country while we celebrate them in this country. How schizophrenic is that?



Wendy Hoke said...

Schizophrenic indeed, Jeff. Makes me at turns hopeful that our fellow citizens will see the irony and terrified if they do not. I suppose I have a bipolar outlook. Thanks for visiting...


ajmac said...

Wow. Jeff has quite an insight there about the obvious and striking similaritites between Muslim fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists. I mean, I assume he is referring to the sending of mentally retarded teenagers on suicide missions, the virulent terrorist strains, the subjugation of women, the invocation of battles fought 1,000 years ago, and the like. In fact, it makes you wonder whether James Dobson doesn't send his interns to Al Qadea training camps for orientation in the ways of "superstitions based on ignorance."

As for what God wants, do either of you have any interest in finding out, or would you rather stick to nonsense about theologies of separation and God wanting to give to humans exactly what humans want?

Wendy Hoke said...

I am keenly interested in understanding what God wants from me personally. It's been a lifelong quest and I still don't know. But, like the great Thomas Merton said, I hope that my desire to please God does in fact please him.

What is painful is how humanity invokes God's name to suit its specific cause -- left, right, Muslim, Christian, Jew or Buddhist, Western or Eastern, sectarian or religious. And I wonder what he thinks of all this done in his name. I wonder what he thinks of Christian fundamentalists proclaiming the only way to salvation is through Christ, the rest be damned. And I wonder what he thinks of jihad by the Muslim fundamentalists set on delivering their vision of paradise on earth by destroying life. I wonder why we seem so miserable in this world and yet we proclaim to have this great faith. Are the two mutually exclusive?

There are no easy answers, but I think questions need to be asked.

Thanks for visiting,