Being honest about religious ‘convictions’

9 Jul

I read on someone else’s blog a quotation that is just so true: it really cuts to the reality of things. Here it is:

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

This is attributed to someone called Anne Lamott, whom I don’t know. But thanks!

For many years I have been criticized for sermons and teaching that are so much focussed on a God of love and acceptance, and not enough on the judgment of God.
I plead guilty. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

For sure, there are things that are wrong, and abhorrent to God. But to say that is very different from announcing that ‘God hates …’ and here the sentence is finished with a category of people (often referred to with disparaging labels).

I cannot be part of that.

In my mind, this concern is linked with another wonderful quote I found many years ago, from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote in his Aids to Reflection (1825):

He who begins by loving Christianity better than truth will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all.

To put this into more inclusive expression: when we focus more on our own perspective and claim absoluteness for it (our religion, our theology, our church doctrine, or philosophical framework), we are on a pathway that implies we have nothing to learn from others, nothing to gain from other approaches or cultures or perspectives. We end up in a kind of closed self-love, which is destructive.

Once again, this does not mean that we have no commitment or no convictions. On the contrary, if we are to learn from others we need a commitment to the truth, to reality and genuineness. That’s an absolute in itself. I care about the truth and I will try always to avoid falsity. But in order to do that I need to be open to new learning and new possibilities.

Putting these two quotes together, I am challenged to love God and my neighbours, with my whole being, including my mind and moral engagement.

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