Monday, October 26, 2009

Part One: Compassionate God

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I want to post a paper I wrote for my Philosophy of Religion class. It has to do with the idea of God as all-compassionate...feel free to comment on it.

Part One:

When I was five years old, I vaguely recall drawing a crayon picture in my kindergarten class of a God who sat high in the sky at a computer desk. This Zeus-like man sported a flowing white beard and programmed the life of people on earth through his masterly computer programming skills. Obviously, the drawing was an innocent sketch of something or someone–––God–––that remains as much a mystery to me now as that moment I drew my old friend on the computer. I guess the difference between the me that thinks about God now verse the me that thought about God in kindergarten, is that the me now has more ideas and life experiences to draw from when trying to construct an image of God. But I concede that I am still much like the little boy with crayon in hand.
Nevertheless, I now, ironically enough, will consider God through a paper typed on a computer. The God I plan to discuss is not one who sits high in the sky at a computer desk (that would make God some kind of control freak computer geek–––not to offend anyone with computer expertise!). Rather, the God I will discuss is one who is fully compassionate, unselfish, and completely lacking in moral defect. God is not playing any games with anyone or entering codes or cheats to challenge or control. Instead, this God has to find a way to creatively enter into the humanity God created and make a revelation that is potent enough to touch the human heart enough that the human experiencing this God understands and seeks to turn away from her or his own selfish fears and desires. The mysterious interaction between the divine and the human would have to convince the human both in the existence of the divine and in the incredible call to the human to enter into the mystery of the divine, thereby forever intertwining the created with the Creator. What type of evidence might a fully compassionate God give to humans in order interact with them? How might God become present to humanity?
Faith traditions from around the world seek answers to such questions, relying on prophets, tradition, scripture, and phenomenological experiences, among other categories, to form belief systems. However, if I may be so bold, I want to attempt to step outside the doctrine and beliefs of major monotheistic traditions and seek to answer the question of how the God I have described might interact with humans like us from an existential standpoint. Leaving aside my Christian identity, I turn to an allegory to consider a modern Godly revelation.
Say that today I would like to go shopping for a birthday card for my mother only to find out, after walking to the local drug store, that the store is closed for the day, I would feel as if my set task was not fulfilled. Maybe I could shrug that off (with an example like that it wouldn’t be hard to do) and reason that I can walk to the store and get the card another day. But what if I take this to an extreme situation: my mother is on her deathbed and that card symbolizes a last chance to say I love you to a woman that gave birth to me. I run to the store only to realize that it is closed for the day. Dejected, I drive to the hospital to visit with my mother. I get to the hospital only to hear the terrible news from the doctor that my mother has passed away. In this instance, I feel a lack of fulfillment that comes from not only not having a card to present to my mother, but also a feeling of regret at having not been able to at least personally say goodbye. Tears maybe even swell my eyes as I realize that my mother is no longer alive. My desire to say goodbye to my mother, to tell her I love her, has not been fulfilled.
Following the doctor’s announcement that my mother has passed away, I cry out “why!” I am feeling as if I have somehow been betrayed by someone–––though I don’t know who. No one answers. I feel forsaken, shook and angry. My lack of fullness is becoming apparent to the nurse and doctor who are with me. They understand my struggle because they have had similar experiences of loss, and yet anything they say won’t make my pain go away. The pain feels lodged inside of me, as real as the blood that flows through my veins and keeps me from death. In this moment, I am seeking an answer to the question of why my mother had to die before I had the opportunity to tell her I love her. Just to make the situation even more difficult, let’s say that before she died, I had told her something very difficult–––that my wife and I were going to get a divorce. This is something my mother cried about–––I felt terrible telling her on her deathbed. Nevertheless, I felt like I had to tell her, to get it off my chest so to speak. The card I wanted to give her was something more than just a birthday card then; it was an apology and a sign that I sought forgiveness from and reconciliation with her. I was part fearful that if I didn’t apologize it would sting me more and continue to hurt her even as she struggled with the pains she was experiencing while slowly losing her battle with cancer. Giving the card to my mother was more than a way to say sorry; it was also a hidden way to restore some of the pride I had lost after telling her about the breakup with my wife.
To interrupt, it is now evident that the “I” in the narrative is not fulfilled, not fully compassionate and not without moral defect. He struggles with fear, pride and guilt among potentially other things. Moreover, his lack of confidence in relationships and his struggle to find peace in them seems to suggest a further lack of fulfillment. Establishing this, I want to now interject (abruptly) with a revelation from God. It seems to me that God would have three general ways to be revealed: (1) through a place, (2) through a thing, or (3) through a person. Let’s consider God appearing first in the form of a place in our narrative. To speak metaphorically, we might consider the place that a compassionate God appears in the told narrative is the drug store where I intend to buy the card to give to my dying mother. The place seems to represent an attempt of my wanting to reconcile a broken feature of the relationship with my mother. But the place is closed.
Second, let’s consider God appearing through a thing–––the card in itself. God might speak through the compassion, the words of kindness and love to the person who gave birth to me. But the card is never bought and God therefore does not appear in this thing in the case of my narrative.
Lastly, let’s consider God appearing through a person in the narrative. Does God appear through me? Is God revealed in my attempt to reconcile my relationship with my mother? Partly, I would argue, but not fully. For instance, I show signs that I wish to be closer to a God who is fully compassionate and unselfish and to be trusted, insofar as I want my mother to understand my love for her. I express this desire through my desire to give a birthday card. Still, as I have said earlier, the giving of the card is not completely unselfish–––there is an underlying pride because I want to receive–––and implicitly expect–––some kind of forgiveness and acceptance in return for the work I put into buying and giving the card to my mother. A fully unselfish and completely self-giving person would not want anything in return for the gift. Further, I am not giving of myself in giving the card–––I am giving a symbol of how I feel or who I am, but I am not physically giving myself. Would God have to be revealed through a full act of physical giving?

I'll post the second half in my next blog posting. Take care and God's blessings.

peace and with love,

your friend bob : )

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