The only thing that would get me higher Search Engine Optimization on that head line is if I could somehow add the words “illegal immigration.” Alas, not this morning.
Today’s post is brought to you by the Letter P, for “perspective.” According to some interesting reading I’ve been doing of late, perspective has a lot to do with how people look at God (and sex, but that’s further down in the post). That perspective – or perhaps, a lack of it – is what makes some people really, really, REALLY angry at religion and/or people of faith. These people, sometimes called the “new atheists” by atheists of a more polite vein, confuse belief with religion and hop, skip and jump from a little old lady praying the rosary to lunatics killing each other in the name of a god they’ve made to fit their own political, ideological or tribal leanings. Like those in a fundamentalist religion who are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN they know what God thinks, these atheists are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN they know what all believers think. That certainty is what gets humans in trouble, in my experience.
For instance, if I say I believe in God, I am speaking from my own perspective and my own experience of the sacred, which may very well be different from yours. The God I imagine when I say that word may not be the God you imagine when you say that word. A million arguments could be avoided if we just asked each other to define our terms. As a really smart scientist I know has said, “When someone tells me he doesn’t believe in God, I ask him, ‘Tell me about the God you don’t believe in.’ Often, after hearing the description, I say, ‘Well I wouldn’t believe in that God either!’ ” It is all about perspective and experience.
Like a parent with multiple children relates differently to each of her offspring, so too it is with the Almighty – He/She reveals himself/herself to each of us differently. That truth bugs many people, including practioners in the more fervent or conservative branches of the three major monotheistic faiths, but their irritation does not negate the veracity of that claim. We would rather believe in a God who thinks like us than open our spiritual imagination to a God who is bigger than all of us and our petty little thoughts. We would rather, I’ve found, remake God in our own image than be remade in His/Her image because in that remaking, we might have to throw away some of our long-held beliefs about who is right and who is wrong and where we fit in the grand scheme of things. (And, God forbid, we might actually have to be nice to people with whom we disagree.)
Two stories: When I lived near Dallas, there was a feature that ran in the Dallas Morning News one Saturday about children’s experiences with God. These were very, very young kids, 3 and 4 years old, and the stories had a similar thread running through them regardless of the kids’ socio-economic status, race or religious upbringing. In fact, in two cases, the children were being raised without any spiritual influence by parents who were agnostic.
One story of children in an agnostic home has stayed with me for 15 years: A young mother had recently given birth and her 3-year-old son wanted to be alone with the baby, saying he needed to talk to her. He kept trying to get the mother to leave the room. She was afraid he might hurt the baby so, naturally, refused. The requests became more and more demanding and finally, when the baby was about 8 or 9 months old, the mom turned up the baby monitor microphone to full blast, put it right by the crib with the baby, and left her son in the room while she took the other part of the monitor into the room next door. She listened carefully to the monitor receiver, worried. She heard her son push a chair to the crib and climb up on it, then heard him say to his little sister: “Tell me what God looks like; I’m forgetting.”
Story number two, something that has floated around the Internet for a number of years, but was recently claimed as having happened in an elementary school run by Dominican nuns: An teacher was giving a drawing class to a group of six-year-old children. At the back of the classroom sat a little girl drawing carefully for more than twenty minutes. She was so absorbed in her work, that the teacher went and asked her what she was drawing. Without looking up, the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” Surprised, the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” The girl’s reply: “They will in a minute.”
When people talk about – or more likely, argue about – God and belief, I often think of these stories. So the question for people of faith is paramount: What does God look like to you?
And, speaking of different perspectives, what about different perspectives on sex? According to Marnia Robinson at Huffington Post, there is a “little known sacred sex technique” that involves foregoing climax in favor of “generous affection and relaxed intercourse.” While giving the names of the technique from various cultures, Robinson doesn’t actually describe the technique. Rather she describes the results of the technique, which include keeping the spark of care, attraction and affection alive in marriages by making sure the biology-driven satiation doesn’t occur. Apparently, when men (and women?) experience the “all done” feeling, they are biologically programed to look for the “new” – as in new partners. Read all about it at the link above, and if you’re interested, you might want to email Robinson and check back for when she’ll update with more information.