Where are the pictures of God? Have you ever wondered why there are no pictures of God?
Sure, we see pictures of how Jesus has been imagined (almost always white and male), but never God from whence he came. So how do we know when God is in the building? How do we know when we’re saved? When do we receive grace (i.e., the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings)?
Maybe, just consider God as energy or essence, never fully formed into matter, but surrounding us all the time; energy so massive it cannot be imagined. Imagine that there was God before God had a name.
From the way religion has (d)evolved over time it was race-based from its inception, because a white man and a white woman in a country of brown-skinned people rode a donkey, ended up at an inn where they delivered a white baby who was supposed to “save” us all by his death. Yet, (some) white people have become more sinister, demonic and self-centered since that happened. Perhaps they have bought into this belief that they represent God? This deception of Christianity (meaning Christ-like) was force-fed all over the world to people with no singular god by people who were full of malice and had a lot to gain—wealth.
In the beginning, indigenous people (Native Americans, (India) Indians, Africans), once scattered from their moorings in Africa, no matter which country, had no limits for God as a singular entity. There was no “puff up and pack everyone to go to a building” on Sundays, and–no finery–no church. You opened the flap on your hut and thanked the sun for rising, or the rains for falling. On the other hand, there were the white people who could only imagine a god who looked like themselves and they wanted badly to be worshiped because their “being”, their “selves” were so small only worship could make it larger than life, a central focus.
I think the indigenous people got it right in worshiping the sun, earth, water, air, trees, animals, plants, all the things that provide us life and support our living. So while white people could only imagine God in their own likeness, indigenous people respected God as a source, an energy emanating from the earth and beyond, but not a singular being. Imagining God only in your own likeness is like modern day selfies in its selfishness and vanity.
As an indigenous person I see God in an awe perspective:
the wonders of the world,
a newborn baby,
horses frolicking in meadows,
animals giving birth and immediately knowing what to do,
mountains spiraling heavenward,
clouds forming and reforming images that reflect our imaginations,
squirrels racing up trees,
the hypnotic effects of still waters,
running water creating sounds unmatched and meditative,
In so doing, I believe that there was God before little thinkers with big egos forced people, out of fear, into a building, which they then demanded a tithe for its upkeep, and the upkeep of its occupants. Anyone not giving to the church was deemed unworthy, heathen, not blessed; that’s a fear-based God and it continues to be looked at that way to this day. You got no church home—you’s a heathen, fo’ sho’.
It is no wonder that (almost) all religious denominations were instituted by white men, especially in the western world. The rules that emanated from that institution reflected each of those men’s beliefs, beginning with how he experienced life to that point, his personality, the way he wanted to control others, and at the base of each is—money, individual wealth, and the demand for unquestioned worship and loyalty. Where is the grace in that?
For years I struggled with “organized religion” without understanding why I was unquestioning it. Many of the people I knew until I understood their beliefs without question, but not me. I couldn’t understand why. I questioned whether I was a disbeliever at heart, but knew at a gut level that wasn’t true.
I saw, read about, heard, experienced inexperienced men (majority) shouting at, teaching, preaching, about faith. Yet outside of that building these “men of God(?)” took on other roles like being gossips, ill-willed, evil, adulterers, cheaters, spiteful, misogynistic, misguided, controlling, wife beaters, abusers, pedophiles, sexual deviants, perverts, and sometimes killers. Outside of that building there were people who hated others for their differences, killed girl babies because they weren’t male, killed wives because they coveted another woman, hung, raped, beat, killed under color of law. How, I wondered, is this Christianity? It just doesn’t compute to me.
Then I began to understand the difference between spirituality and man-made denominational religion. It took a long time to get there, but I made it. I find it amazing that people from churches, including the church I went to, act as if I am disrespecting THEM or my religion by not going to church regularly. I miss them, but not the church anymore. At the same time, I have never stopped believing in a higher power, NEVER. I only stopped feeling comfort in men who had such incredible shortcomings, yet stood before us on Sundays and told us how to behave while reading and quoting from a holy book, the Bible; behavior that isn’t necessarily practiced by himself either.
The Bible, I now believe, is a guide some people generations ago put together as a guide to help us understand how life was in their times, the mistakes they made, and they even took the time to spell those mistakes out, in a kinda roundabout way to show what NOT to do in order to receive grace. Later readers of that Bible began to use is as if time was stagnant, not to be changed to embrace the advances of the world. I believe we are supposed to add to it our versions of life as we live it for future generations to learn from; an ever-evolving tool.
In the beginning the Bible was just a mass of miscellaneous writings found in caves that someone decided to compile and give a singular name to—Bible, then the writings were split up into chapters and verse. Of course, not all the writings were to be included in that final edition because some of the writings didn’t conform to what they wanted to convey. Yet some writings have much less meaning than others such as the book of Numbers, which is about a trip a group of people made across the desert (again—in the land of brown people), two censuses taken, death and destruction, how ungrateful the people were no matter how much they were given, and punishments for being unfaithful and disobedient. Again, lessons to be learned, but while the Book of Numbers most likely could have been lessons about how we should be grateful, the writings, in toto, became politicized and used as a weapon to control people. Where is the grace in that?
And a virgin birth? Neither have I ever heard a believable story of how a woman was impregnated to carry a savior child, when some scholarly research of the writings show that Mary had four other sons which were determined by Catholic doctrine to be Joseph’s by a previous marriage, but no writings to support that; the Catholic version only acknowledges James as being a brother of Jesus.
Virgin means “a person who is naïve, innocent or inexperienced.” It also means a female who produces fertilized eggs without male fertilization, so it can be that Mary WAS a virgin in her naivety, just not defined as we’ve understood it all these generations; especially because she was so young, so I can get that. Females even today can be very naïve about childbirth, sex, and pregnancy.
So how do we know when God is in the building? When we’re saved? When we receive grace (the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings)?
Grace is in how we treat others, how we use the Bible as a “tool”, a “guide” to see how behaviors need to be changed, or improved in order to be bestowed with such blessings. And, in that blessing is that saving, that saving grace.
When you look at another person, place, thing, animal, vegetable, mineral, and see the workings of God, you know that the God essence is around you. When you work to improve yourself you are following the tenents of the writings in the Bible. When you are using those writings to control, damage in some way, or marginalize others you are not seeking Godship, or God worthiness, and you have definitely not learned the lessons so clearly defined in that book.
We’ve learned from the Bible that the earthly Jesus was flawed when made man. It seems to follow that our journey, therefore, should not be so much to focused on wanting to be a follower of Christ (as imperfect as he was), as to be a seeker of Godship, which cannot be contained in a building, or bound within the covers of a book, or molded and described to fit our limited words.
We have reached that Godship level when we take the lessons we’ve learned from the Bible into the world and treat each other with respect, honor, dignity, and thoughtfulness while we are fully present in another’s presence. It is beyond being Christ-like or Christian (since Christianity has become much too flawed).
Still, I have no disagreement with organized religions as they are, nor do I have an aversion to going to church. That is not a contradiction to me. I’m still mesmerized by how The Word is delivered, still moved by good preaching, still hypnotized by watching a person showing true grace in their interactions with others.
But now I view what “church” means differently, because all definitions refer to “church” as a building; a limitation of where God can be. If that is the only place God can be, and there is no one in your life who treats you with Godship, how can the unconverted be converted? Where does your hope come from?
Instead, I see churches as a means of discussion about those chapters and verses in that book, and held in various gatherings to dialogue and remind us of how we need to remember and pass on the stories to future generations while fellowshipping with current generations; an oral transmission of written words. It’s been difficult, but I’m still moving past the shaming I’ve felt from people who think I need to be in a pew in order to prove to them I still believe in a higher power. I know many people of high moral standards who have no defined organized religion, and they treat others as if they’ve discovered their own Godship. It’s a work that continues to be in progress.
But the most benefit of such gatherings is the music of worship because I believe song, music, instrumentation (in some cases), travels to reach God’s essence further, faster than spoken word; a musical ministry. The right interpretative dancer can make you jump to your feet in applause. The right singer can bring the worst sinner to his knees, it can make even the staunches, the most prideful, break into tears and surrender. This kind of music you don’t hear on street corners, or parking lots, rapped lyrically, or in the parks, but now it’s mostly contained, shut away, theologically banished, to be housed in those church buildings. And, depending on the people who walk through the church doors, if you watch carefully with your heart, you can pretty much feel if God is in the building.
[NOTE: I am in constant editing mode, so the words may change over time as I develop.]