An Existentialist Christian's View of God
IMAGE: PHOTO OF CAT
Faith is sometimes thought of as the seed for comfort in our lives. Yet often it is more comforting to turn to evidence rather than faith, to be assured that decisions and policy are sound. Science provides light into the mysteries of disease. At its best, it brings us to the root causes of suffering and helps us look in the right direction for solutions. Knowledge can bring us to compassion, it moves us away from superstition, and ideally away from stigma. Belief in the power of prayer isn't rational. Neither is believing in God. Who needs a puppeteer in the sky when we can travel into the heavens ourselves and witness the birth and death of distant stars?
But it is that very ability to stretch our reach into the cosmos that connects me to awe.
For me, belief in God is not a choice of the mind, but rather a calling from the heart. God simply is. God is in the connection with those I love, both alive and dead. Indeed, God is in the connection to those with whom I have little in common, even those who irritate or seek to harm me. God is in the awareness that our fates are bound together. God is understanding that everyone has a lesson to teach, if we are but willing and able to listen and learn.
A primary metaphor for God is light because God is that which brightens our world. God is in the moments of irrational joy, unanticipated peace. God is the promise that a better tomorrow, even a better world, is possible. To pray for apocalypse is the very abandonment of God, because it is the abandonment of light and of hope.
For me, as an existentialist, a Christian and a Universalist, God is not a being, but rather a way of being. God does not intervene or decide our fates, but God is in the actions of those who do. God does not cause disease and disaster, but God exists in the kindness and gentleness and support of those who are present at bedside and landslide and graveside. God is undeserved mercy, unearned kindness. Science and engineering, artists and poets, custodians and nurses, community organizers and gardeners all contribute to the effort.
To believe in God is to believe that each of us, no matter our intelligence nor skill, our wealth nor poverty, has value and contributes to the shape and movement of the whole. God exists because God is called into being in our interactions. Each of us, after all, influences others every day, whether by intent or isolation. Often, kindness, gentleness, love and peace are not rational choices and often, if not always, they matter. Sometimes, especially during the worst of times, they may be the only things that have value.
I believe, too, in prayer. Prayer allows me to join in support of others who may be sick or hurting. I volunteer at a hospital and see the heartache of those who stare death in the eye. I am powerless to change the situation, unable to “do” anything. Yet prayer connects me to those strangers, both the dying and the families. It is often the only gift I can offer. Prayer keeps others in my heart, reminding me that I am not single, alone, apart but rather among, conjoined and a part of humanity itself.
I do not believe that a being in space hears my pleas and grants (or does not grant) my wishes. But with prayer, my pain is bearable, my hope restored. Prayer allows me to hear, in the voices and actions of others, how to grow. It helps me, in silence and stillness, to listen to my own soul. It gives me access to intuition. It reassures me that it is safe and necessary to feel my emotions.
Awe abounds in the transhuman age. It comes in the form of being able to read our evolutionary history in our DNA. It comes when we begin to peel back the inevitability of disease and aging, and it is in the promise that suffering may be alleviated. I cannot but gasp in wonder at neuromorphic computing and with it the hope that the ravages of dementia may one day be treatable. I cannot help but be amazed when the science fiction of mind-uploading begins to give way to the reality of creating a virtual mouse brain and connecting it to a virtual mouse body.
And awe comes with the realization that light, itself, is a particle and a wave. When I stand alone, I am no more than a speck of dust in a chaotic universe, but when I join my soul with others – through being, action and intent – I am part of the wave of humanity, part of the heart and mind and soul of the universe, and ultimately, a part of God.