Those who define themselves as Atheist may see this post as a bit off putting. After all, how could they meet something that doesn’t exist? Posts like this must seem like nonsense, time-wasters. As always, I’ll do my best to disappoint you.
Those who have some sense of a higher power will usually file this topic under “Conversations to avoid at dinner parties.” Most people aren’t really sure what to make of God. With all the competing religions, ancient and new-age spirituality, odd religious practices and traditions, its easier to just take our chances and figure something out as we go.
Those from a religious framework will dislike the above two options. Since both atheism and agnosticism don’t claim to “know God,” they’re viewed by the religious as deficient beliefs that would resolve themselves if “ those people” just joined the particular religious team.
Meeting God is religions primary commodity. All religion shares the following common framework:
- The ante. Just like poker, there’s a minimum bet in order to play.
- Islam–> five pillars.
- Judaism–>ten commandments.
- Cultural Christianity–>accepting Jesus as Lord and savior.
- Buddhism and Hinduism–>Dharma.
- The disciple. The “student” process of learning the traditions and practices while going deeper with the teachings. Each religion has a unique theological perspective along with its own tribal nomenclature.
- The practice. Going about life applying the new worldview. There is always pressure to find or create community with those who share the same worldview. If your team possesses the truth, then by default, all others don’t. Your practice makes you and your belief superior to others. Here you learn that God likes your team best.
- The promise. Throughout the ups and downs of life each belief system offers its best equilibrium to offset skepticism and doubt with a promise about the future or when we die.
What if religion got it wrong? What if meeting God wasn’t a formula, or a future promise, or worse, a future threat? What if meeting God was a common everyday thing? What if we’ve already met God.
Some people look to religion to meet God. But less and less each year.
Some religions are growing, but mostly due to birthrates. The greatest growth is within the most fundamental spectrum of each religion, mostly coming from people emerging out of chaos and disintegration. It’s easier for strugglers to seek divine intervention.
As people hit their 20’s, they are leaving religion in droves. Mainline religions are declining on average 15-20% per year.
Islam blames the influence of the West. Christianity blames secularism. Judaism blames the cultural erosion and hybridization. Eastern beliefs blame modernity, business, and distraction.
Religion sees this decline as moving away from God, but is it? How is that even possible?
We CAN know God without religion in the same way that we can math without school.
There is no denying that some have met God through their religion during a sincere moment during a ritual or practice. This is how practice becomes practiced.
The founders of each religion met God before their religion existed. Muhammad, Moses, Buddha all came first. Paul’s experience reordered his entire religion. This is the point of Jesus’ teaching and why Christianity could never have been intended as an alternative religion. Instead, Christ is conduit to God regardless of religion. I’m not saying all roads lead to heaven. I’m saying none of them do. Heaven is not where we go, it’s the place from which we live. Eternal life includes this one.
So religion can provide a framework to meet God, but it is not required.
Sacred texts are called revelation. They “reveal” God to us. Like C.S. Lewis says, it’s like MacBeth meeting Shakespeare. It’s only possible when Shakespeare writes himself into the script. If you believe the world is created by God, then it must also be true that creation is the first revelation of God. Earth is the first Bible.
Is it any wonder so many find themselves drawn into nature? What happens when we are there? What happens in the quiet? What happens in solitude? Is it not true that we all see ourselves as part of the landscape? Do not deeper, existential questions emerge within us? What exactly is our experience with beauty?
We’ve all met God in nature. We just called it beauty.
Every leaf, grain of sand, insect, creature, star, stream, mountain, tree and cloud is revealing something (telling its story) to us. It’s coherent. While you may believe it’s all random, your sense of beauty and awe denies that assertion. We may call it by another name, but we are meeting God. God is not the tree, rock or bird, but God is also not other than these either.
God isn’t out there, over there, or up there. God is within us all. We all share something of this cosmos. The degree to which we grasp that is the degree to which we have met God. We each reveal something of our Maker. Death hurts because we lose that unique revelation in the world.
We like to think we meet God on our terms. As if God must fit within our limited frameworks of understanding. Death is the moment where our Maker’s terms are visible. Meeting God need never be a threat, but it is a redefinition of terms. At which point, our terms, definitions and frameworks will look really silly. What’s amazing is that our terms can be waved before we die. May we all lay down our terms.
When Jesus came, he proved that God has met us all. The religious, high class, the working class, the prostitute, the tax collector, the warrior, the corporate climber, the poor, the broken, the rich, and the leper. Each had a unique experience/theology. We know it was God, because each lost their social index and heard their true name.
When we meet God, we realize we all bear the same name: beloved.
None of us have to die in order to meet God. God is here now, continuously within us, dwelling permanently within each moment, and calling us by our name that can never be lost or forgotten.
I used to try and convince people to come and meet God. Now I merely point out how everyone already has.
If you can abide in this moment, you will here your name being called…
Beloved. Beloved. Beloved.