God is Not a Christian
In the Biblical story of Pentecost, as the Twelve Apostles receive the Holy Spirit, they begin to speak in other languages. “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because every man heard them speak in his own language.”
And because everyone there – Cretans, Arabs, Medes, Jews and Romans – can understand what the Apostles are saying, they realize that that which connects them is stronger than that which divides them, that there is a reality more radiant than their small, dim definition of the world.
One of our Associate Priests, a man with a gift for progressive, challenging sermons, recently brought up this story to make a point.
“God is not a Christian,” he said. “But I am.”
He said he is a Christian because he needs to be part of a story of flesh and blood people trying their best, falling down and starting over and over again. He needs to place his understanding of the sacred into a story larger than himself. But the Pentecost narrative reminds him that the experience of God is universal and that Christianity is not the one true or only way to encounter the divine.
I have no trouble believing that our most lucid and powerful experiences of God pour forth from the unseen, unknown side of whatever doctrine we employ to describe him. God is not a Christian, or anything else restricted to one point in time and space, because God is greater than anything we can imagine.
Think of how vast the universe is. That is how large God’s mind must be. I don’t think that in all of Andromeda there is an object of worship and emulation called Jesus Christ. Or Mohammed. Or Buddha. And Andromeda is just one galaxy, our closest neighbor, another impossible sweep of gas, dust and a trillion stars.
Clearly, in a universe of 200, possibly 500, billion galaxies, we are not made in God’s image. We have made him in ours. And the more we try to reduce him to our own level, define him solely on our own terms, cram him inside the limits of our ability to comprehend, the further we get away from him. God is not a Christian. He can’t be. He is a mystery. He must be. I am a Christian because the Christ story sometimes embodies that mystery for me.
Moses may have seen the Promised Land, but he did not gaze upon the habitable planets of Alpha Centauri. If all people who subscribe to organized religion could separate their path from their truth and acknowledge their truth to be the inconceivable Source we all share, we might find enough common ground to live in peace.
If we could say God is not a Christian but I am, or God is not a Muslim but I am, or God is not a Hindu but I am, and be content with the knowledge that whatever God is, his great mind holds one galaxy for every star in the Milky Way, we might discover the missing link between the secular and the spiritual, between the hard facts of life and the attainment of an ideal.
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