Saturday, December 5, 2009

God is Love?

My uncle asks, "If God is love, how does that work?" To elaborate, he means does God still act in people's lives the way God does in the Old Testament? How is a God who is love different from a God who loves? Does it mean God is all kinds of love--eros, agape, etc.--or just some?

Paul Rasor writes in Unitarian Universalist views of God, "Others may use the term God to convey very different ideas, such as the creative power of evolution in the universe, or the power that makes transformation possible in our lives, or the ongoing power of love, or simply the ultimate mystery within which we all must live" (emphasis mine). God, in Rasor's description, is not the God of the Old Testament who acts directly in people's lives, who is a larger-than-human but human-like personality who speaks and makes demands and rewards and punishes. This God who is love is more like a power, as he uses the word in the two preceding phrases about God. God is the power of love, the power that love has in the way that it transforms our lives.

Rev. Kate Braestrup said on Speaking of Faith recently, "If nothing else, and that's a big if, but if nothing else God is that force that drives us to really see each other, and to really behold each other, and care for each other, and respond to each other, and for me that is actually enough." I was very caught by Braestrup's remarks on Speaking of Faith and by her description of God. I'm not going to transcribe it, so I encourage you to listen to it. She talks about how if you base your religion on life, well, you'll be disappointed in the end. We all die. So reverence for life is a path to disappointment. But what's in life that has this amazing transformative power is love.

One important phrase to me about the way I at least try to have faith is the Rev. Theodore Parker's words: "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice." Or, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King put it more simply, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

This is something we have no proof of. The arc of the universe may bend towards chaos. It may bend towards annihilation. It may bend towards civil disorder. It may bend towards hate. But this bending towards justice is something I want, something I believe we must have faith in, despite any seeming trend towards its opposite.

Similarly, I believe saying "God is love," is saying, the ultimate force in this universe is the force for good, for love. This means that our inherent nature is loving, that the universe does want to bend towards the good, and that love is stronger than hate. It does not ignore that there is evil in this world, but it says that this goes against the Tao, the way. It goes against God.

"God is love," to me, means that this is what we must strive for, this is how we work to bend the arc. When things are right in the world, there is love. We create God through creating a more loving world around us.

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