When I first launched this series, my intent was to share my thoughts and doubts about God stuff in the interest of adding to the conversation out there for those who are searching for a deeper understanding about the spiritual element to our world. I understand there are some who don’t believe there is a spiritual element to our world, that we’re all just matter that will one day turn to dust, that there’s no eternity, we’ll cease to exist—it’s that simple. As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I choose to believe otherwise, with an emphasis on choose. I have no empirical evidence to provide any certainty for my choice, that’s why it’s a choice.
This doesn’t mean I haven’t based my choice on other factors.
My choice is built on a life experience that innately bends me towards hoping for more that just matter and dust.
I want to remain open to continually evaluating my beliefs and those of the communities I’m part of. I say communities because I’m part of several different communities or movements. I have beliefs that are connected to my Roman Catholic upbringing (even though I technically left the Catholic Church twenty years ago, I still love attending Sunday mass on a regular basis), some to my time as a member and pastor in an Anabaptist church, some to my solidarity with those hoping and advocating for the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ souls within the church, and some that are part of my connection to the earth we’re to love and steward. In each of these areas I want to be continually expanding my understanding of how we can make this world a better place, how we can better love each other, how we can live in peace.
There’s diversity within the influences on my beliefs, just as there is diversity within the beliefs of my fellow beings. Far too often that diversity has led to violence and injustices because of our intolerance of accepting people who think or look differently than we do. Earlier I wrote a post where I called for more love, grace, and religious tolerance.
The recent hate and racism towards both Jewish and Palestinian groups because of the hostilities in Palestine and Israel have made me think on this need for greater religious tolerance. Long ago I mentioned I used to be quite black and white when it came to my beliefs, in particular my religious beliefs. I’m happy I’ve grown and have come to understand the nuances of our world a bit better. I’ve come to recognize is that even though someone may not have the same religious beliefs as I do about God, when they speak or pray to their God, the same God I pray and speak to hears them. We are praying to the same God, regardless if any Christian, Jewish, or Muslim orthodoxy claims otherwise.
I became convinced of this through a personal experience years ago. I was part of a group who organized a peace festival. We invited Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a multiple Noble Peace Prize nominee known internationally as the Gaza Doctor, to speak to us about his experience. Even though I had already heard this story as part of his book, I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Story, it was listening to him tell of his experience in person that convinced me that he, a devout Muslim, prayed to the same God I did. That my trinitarian God, heard Izzeldin’s prayers, heard his child’s words.
Dr. Abuelaish shared his story how in 2009 Israeli shells hit his home in the Gaza strip, killing three of his daughters and a niece. He shared how he cried to God as he was surrounded by such sorrow and hopelessness. He was the leader in his family, in his community. People counted on him. He turned to God and asked what he should do. Should he seek revenge, should he do everything in his power to retaliate. As he spoke about that moment and his conversation with God, I could see in his eyes he was transported back to that time, to that conversation with God. I knew his prayers with God were no different than mine. When he told us the message he felt deep in his heart, at that most terrifying and hopeless moment, was that he should not hate his enemies, that he should not hate the Israeli people, that hate should not be in his heart, I knew my God was his God. Even though our experience and understanding of God was different, it was the same.
That was the moment I understood to the core of my being the need for religious tolerance.
For this moment let’s pretend that neither Dr. Abuelaish or myself are correct about who God is. Let’s pretend that God’s true revelation of who she is beyond our comprehension. Let’s imagine that we are God, if our creation, our child was trying to speak to us would we deny hearing them because they called us by the wrong name or didn’t understand who we truly were, because they couldn’t possibly comprehend who we were, our fullness. No.
If God exists, I hope they are a god who is beyond refusing us because of our limitations and our sins against humanity, against nature, against all of creation.
Because God exists, we are heard.
Picture above is Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish
To read more from this series go to One Skeptic’s Thoughts About God Series