Friday, May 7, 2010

"This is my Offering to You"

Christian writer Annie Lamott wisely observes that we can be pretty certain we have made God in our own image when God hates all the same people we do. No matter what their religion, cause or nationality, most people fervently believe that God is on their side. At the height of the Civil War someone commented to Abraham Lincoln that God was clearly on the side of the Union. Lincoln replied that it was entirely possible that God’s interests were different from those of either the Union or the Confederacy. I try to imagine our president, or any politician for that matter, daring to question whether God’s interests coincide with those of the United States. It would be political suicide.

I recently tossed the question “what are you pretty sure God hates?” out on Facebook. It turns out that some of the things that God hates are white zinfandel, drivers who do not use turn signals, and people who do not know the difference between “their” and “they’re.” Who knew that God was a grammarian?

It would be interesting to bring together persons from many different faith traditions and pose the same question in a serious manner. “What does God (Allah, Yahweh, etc.) hate?” Can we all agree that God hates war and violence? Then why do we attempt to resolve our differences through war and violence? Does God hate economic injustice? Then why do we tolerate greed and turn our backs upon the poor? Does God hate racism and intolerance? Then why do we allow them to persist?
It seems to me that anyone seeking to know the mind and heart of God must first (and this is no easy thing) abandon the presumption that God is on our side in order to ask the difficult question “am I on God’s side?”

The spiritual teacher Baba Ram Dass suggested that one path to aligning ourselves with God’s will is to become conscious that each word we speak and each action we take is the offering we are making to God in that moment. When we speak a word of cruelty or pass along a bit of vicious gossip, that is the offering we are making to God. If we light a cigarette, that cigarette is our offering to God. When we turn our back on someone in need while indulging ourselves with luxuries, we say to God “I do this for you.” As we become more and more conscious of each word and deed as a sacred offering, Ram Dass suggests, we will begin to change our behaviors to align them with our understanding of God’s will.

Another term for this is “mindfulness;” being fully aware of what we are doing in the present moment. I have argued that the command Jesus gave to his disciples, “stay awake,” may be second only to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Most of us are spiritually asleep much of the time; we are not mindful of the sacred dimension of each moment we live. Designating even a single hour of the day to being fully awake and mindful could be the beginning of a transformed life.

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