Diana Butler Bass – Where is God? (Oct 2015):
- Is this one of the most consequential questions of our time?
A question we have to answer for ourselves?
- A three tier universe with God in heaven was a cornerstone of religious life that provided untold millions through the ages with meaningful comfort.
But was God just watching; a puppet master; a judge; a disappointed parent whose love was sorely tested?
A logical response is that there is no such God!
A distant God in heaven is no longer acceptable to many who have left church, synagogue or other forms of conventional religion. People who think of themselves as Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) while rejecting a particular conception of divinity.
- God is here with us? A divine nearness – an intimate presence – in nature; the work we do; the games we watch and play; good food; good company?
The Spirit who invites us to save the planet and make peace with the whole human family – a companion and partner in creating a hope filled future?
A God of compassion and empathy who shares the life of the world?
Is this the grounded God, the presence at the centre of a spiritual revolution growing from the ground up; an earthy faith that insists on the importance of the planet and its people?
Instead of living in a disconnected three-tiered universe, we are discovering that we inhabit a dazzling sacred ecology where God dwells with us.
God is in nature and with our neighbour, whose “face” can be seen in both creation and human community.
With Rob Bell (Jan 2016):
- A horizontally constructed universe and a God who is with us – if we still believe in God!
An emphasis on the natural world and personal relationships.
There is a recognition that mankind could destroy the world.
Some have been talking about the death of God since the 1960’s.
So much cognitive dissonance.
Have we misunderstood the nature of God?
Where is the sacred located? Within a connection with creation and other human beings?
God with us? Animating the natural world and human activity in profoundly intimate ways?
- What place the mystics?
Liberals and protestants sometimes refer to them as naval gazers!
A tension between the contemplative life and the life of social justice.
Mysticism is an awareness or an awakening – seeing the connections all around us – entangled with people and God – something of the bigger picture – synchronicity.
But how many of us have the language to talk about it?
[The NONES – an erosion of the sense of religious identity?].
There are people who are not understood by the dominant tribe but who can never un-see or un-taste – who have to stand up to institutional pressures.
How many people have had mystical experiences but do not know how to talk about it – or are afraid to do so?
Everyday life as the stage where this new mysticism is arising?
There are many of us now – even if we don’t have friends – the importance of meals together?
Massive global organisations seem to be ruling the world. At the same time there is a strong counter movement of people claiming personal agency for their own lives – growing food – brewing beer – weaving and knitting – shopping locally – engaging in causes that matter to us – and doing the same in our spiritual lives?
My thoughts about village life!
What place divine presence when people run their own local businesses?
- Grounded as a big permission slip – to take back and rediscover?
Are we going to allow these things to speak to us and change our lives?
[At the time of Moses, God’s representatives on earth were slave owners, taking everything for themselves and acting as mediators].
So much now that is deep and beautiful!
But so much fear – a need to feel safe – but safety will only come from on-going love?
Encourage people to talk, explore and build – away from traditional kinds of language and theology!
Nomad Birmingham (July 2016)
- Diana found that her Methodist church wasn’t vibrant enough and joined a Fundamentalist Baptist church and remained an interdenominational evangelical for 10/15 years. As a professor at an Evangelical college she started asking questions and was fired. She became an Episcopalian – out towards new dimensions of faith.
Now known as a progressive religious thinker (but maybe that’s too narrow).
A focus on a new spiritual landscape!
Instead of Belief – Behaviour – Belonging (from Christianity After Religion) the questions are changing:
How do I believe rather than what do I believe?
What should I do instead of how do I do it?
To whom do I belong? – A deeply relational question!
The futility of so much academic questioning! How much is still based on a three tier universe?
Why do we believe what we believe?
Diana has been deeply troubled in recent years by the question of belief.
How could she still believe something called Christianity? She was still holding on to shards of a universe that was structured vertically – with the possibility of hell lurking under us.
Is it possible to have a construct of God with us in the here and now that takes the incarnation very seriously? God took human form in the body of Christ? Was Jesus both man and God?
- Diana was asked how this change in belief began to reshape her faith.
She was struggling far more with going to church.
The windows of Birmingham Cathedral all have people in the bottom third looking up to God and the angels!
Early painters and others directed our attention towards a mystical vision of the world. Where is the community that helps with this particular leg of the journey?
- The metaphor of the horizon – God with us – the transcendent God (up) v the immanent God (close) – the transcendent relocated towards the horizon where God is both close and not too far away.
Many questioned the hierarchical nature of Roman culture – colonialism (racial and cultural superiority) and the exclusion of women.
The Reformation seen as a valiant attempt to create a priesthood of all believers. 500 years later we might just be getting there!
Gender and race as the two primary legacies? What about Capitalism?
People no longer have a clear sense of identity – a lot of purposelessness – why are we even alive?
- The job of a writer is to draw attention to something that we might already know that we have not had the language to talk about. Diana has a quest to understand why she still believes, and the shape of that belief in her own life.
The horizontal heightens the sense of human responsibility – God with us – co-creators – moral responsibility back on us – agents together in this experiment called life.
What about tradition? Traditionalism as the dead faith of the living?
Tradition as the living faith of the dead – a conversation over time – taking the wisdom of the past and trying to figure out how we live that today? Tradition is always alive – unlike anything you ever find in a museum – as long as we have arguments we are being faithful to our ancestors?
- How important is liturgy – gathering and remembering allows God to manifest himself in practical and special ways?
Diana feels strongly that we must never give away the Eucharist (people gathering for bread and wine) – the importance of hospitality.
- If the church really embraced this horizontal view of spirituality we really could have a priesthood of all believers? Love and compassion for those occupying the same space – called to see the full humanity of everyone around us!
An observer and participant in everything around us? Something more than responding to a distant God!
What can we learn now from other traditions? Evangelicalism is becoming more tribal!
Will we be able to create a community with people who are so different?
Is the large table a human impossibility?
Does the future of Western civilisation hang on these questions?
Have we passed the point of no return – nowhere else to go except forward?
Are we going to have to let the old stuff die?
- Food for Thought:
The horizontal view is such a significant change from Constantine and control – or a controlling God – God with us suffering?
Communion – a meal – turned into a vertical expression of faith – it should be the symbol of horizontal spirituality?
God up there – reached through worship – generating an atmosphere or environment where people can have a spiritual experience?
The beginning of a service – “Come Holy Spirit” – through music and communal worship in a frenzy! A lot of good came through this? But how do we relate to God today?
A suggestion that the problem is not that God is too far away, but that he is too close?
We live in God – so close we don’t see him?
The need to slow down; quieten down; and tune our senses into God’s presence – trying to be aware of being “in God”?
Mindfulness again – becoming aware of the present moment – things are happening outside the church – is God using outsiders who are not part of any tradition?
The church needs to be reminded of things it has forgotten (or never knew?).
Do we spend a few minutes every day aiming to be aware of God in the moment – God with us – a thought we can carry through the day? Pause and breathe!
Examin can be so important when going through a faith shift.
If these thoughts just stay in our head faith will just slip away.
How many just give up? Experiential trust?
What of the future of the church? People are weary of institutions!
There is such a lack of trust of people in hierarchical positions.
Fresh Expressions / Emerging Church – have very flat leadership.
How many bells does all of that ring?