Dear Tony,

You asked us to say something definitive about god.

I heard about this Jewish guy who said God is love.  It got him in a bunch of trouble with authorities, so that’s probably a good place to start.

After all, those moments of vulnerable openness when we encounter what we thought was other and find him/her/it to be lovable (and perhaps even love us) are among the most divine we experience.  Think of the release and thrill and growth of those moments- how could they not be connected to whatever is sacred.  So there’s something substantive: God is love.


What about all those moments that aren’t so Pollyanna-ish?  What about those moments of fear that can override our lives?  Not scary movie fear, but that insidious fear that makes us shut down, the fear that separates us from our true selves and turns loved ones into others…  are we really going to say that God is absent from those moments?  If you believe in God, then that absence would be cruelty on top of abuse.  So there’s something else substantive: God is fear.

Or imagine something so primordial and large that it could give birth to both fear and love, along with spontaneity and laughter and strange ferns that live off the moisture in the air.  God would have to be at least that big.  So there’s my final substantive claim: the sacred is beyond conception.

And by definition, that’s about where my imagination fails me, so I’ll stop this hack theology and ask the real question:

Is an unwillingness to make definitive claims about god really a problem?  In fact, haven’t those claims caused plenty of problems already?  Perhaps dwelling in ambiguity doesn’t enliven the masses the same way self-assured, confident statements do.  But is the goal to enliven the masses or is the goal to model a proper response to whatever is True and Beautiful and Good in our cosmos?

I’d rather choose the later and trust than quicken with a false idol.  Besides, the people who want the comfort and surety of definitive statements about God- they are already going to where those statements are a dime a dozen.

It’s not that the rest of us want ambiguity, we want truth.  We accept ambiguity because of the movement it inspires.  We accept the ineffability of the sacred because then we are drawn to seek it.  Quite frankly, we accept the unknown because it’s a hell of a lot more fun than dwelling in a comfort zone built from sure, definitive statements.

What’s wrong with the progressive church isn’t a lack of god-talk.  What’s wrong with the progressive church is the inability (unwillingness) to guide us on that journey.  The church is unwilling because it’s more concerned with its own perpetuity.  The spiritual journey inherently transcends these domestic boundaries and is therefore unsafe for an institution upheld by doctrine and belief.

So we go elsewhere.  God talk isn’t going to bring us back.  Life and value would bring us back.

Sincerely yours,

The secular seeker

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I'm a post-doc studying the psychology of meaning-making systems.

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