Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Stop Searching for God

To be able to love people, what a delight and a privilege
God is love. Love is all around us. That's God! Stop searching for God and search for love. And bam, there he is. Everywhere! So close. He was there all the time. In everyone you meet.

In the love of a mother for her children, in your family. So love love. Worship love. Adore love. Love the love of your friends, love the love of your family. Hold it as sacred and precious. That's God! And when you love love, it grows! And the darkness simply cannot hold.

And fuck other people's rules, other people's ideas of what you have to do to know God. Fuck it all. Just love love.

I'm a bit hard to cope with, so full of intensity. I salute those who manage to get close, I love you all! With a fierce and passionate love if you'll let me.

God wants us to be happy. Unhappiness is not his plan. But you don't find lasting happiness by searching for it. Pleasure, happiness and certainty - none of these things do you find, in their fullness, by seeking them. They're all the side-effects of a life set on finding God and truth and pushing aside all else.

And we don't find God in other people's ideas. We don't find God in doctrine, we don't even find God in the bible. These things point us in the right direction (maybe). But the danger is, and the biggest problem with modern Christianity, is that we hold fast to an "idea of God". We believe in our idea, we harden our minds as much as we can to really believe in our idea no matter how things seem. We're willing to reject reality if it conflicts with what we're trying to believe in. And that just isn't the same thing as actually knowing God.

(Note, it's clearly more nuanced than this - God clearly speaks through people, through ideas and through the bible. But my point stands.)

Don't take anything I say too seriously, take what you can from it. Feel free to disagree with me. Always think for yourself. There's no other path that works anyway.
 In the kingdom of heaven everyone does what they want.
Enjoy life, enjoy love, do your best to help. Test all new ideas and experiences in the light of what you already know, and always be willing to be wrong. Hold  your beliefs lightly. Reality doesn't need us to believe in it. We can happily interact with reality, even learn to trust it, without having to believe anything.
Do what you want, believe what you want, think what you want, be what you want. But love, and learn to love with every fibre of strength you can muster.
The idea that faith is the same thing as certainty is another big mistake of modern Christianity. Nothing in life is certain and the only thing we really know is that we don't know anything. Not really. Faith is an ability to trust. The measure of your faith is the measure of your capacity to trust even what you're not certain of.

The kingdom of heaven is like buried treasure. If you're not engaged in a furious search then you haven't really found it. Life has to be a struggle for truth, a struggle for meaning. There's no other way. (A challenging idea for Christians, we only have the measure of the kingdom amongst us in the same measure as we have the reality of the substance of Jesus amongst us.) Let's work it out together.

And if you're concerned about potentially leading other people into error, teach them to think for themselves, to check their beliefs against reality and not to believe anything just because you say it. Haven't we had enough experience to know that "doctrinal error" is not the biggest problem we face, why are we so afraid of making mistakes? The only thing that matters is that the love amongst us is real, deep and strong. We can work everything else out from there.

So how did "the church" end up where we are now? The sweep of history, the wide arc bringing us to where we are today. (Another challenging idea for Christians; would it come as a surprise if I said that the church of Jesus and what we call church are different, but hopefully overlapping, things? By the way, to my mind a good definition of "church" is "the operational wing of the kingdom".)

For centuries, since 300AD (or so) when Christianity became a state religion and therefore a means of power, Christianity has been a tool of control and oppression. Traditional doctrine has been shaped by that. Evangelical Christianity, which began in love in the house church movement of the seventies alongside the hippie movement, was God breaking out of that. It's interesting to note that most of the old hippies are just as disappointed with the way things have gone as evangelicals who were around when the charismatic movement began.

But (my belief) is that evangelicalism is largely dead and fake now (and often awful - with many exceptions of course). Evangelicalism settles for so little yet claims it has so much. Progressive Christianity, with its focus on "only love", is a genuine new movement of love though. And God is so much in that.

There were certainly beautiful aspects of Christianity along the way though. The Christian mystics, the Christian ethic that prompted Wilberforce to abolish slavery, the foundation of hospitals and charities by Christianity. History, reality and people are complex. Much of western liberalism owes a heritage to Christianity, not that it would ever admit it!

So what about evangelism and saving souls? Oh people need saving alright, so lost, so hurting. People live in such small dark worlds, full of fear. Unfortunately that includes many Christians, they think the world is dark and doomed! They need saving into the light!

The only thing that works is love. Focus always on loving people, not "saving" them. When you do, people start to believe again (or more) in love. And you know what, I don't think it even matters whether they think they believe in God or not. If you believe in love, in the power of love then you believe in God whether you know it or not. What matters is not what you think you know with your head, but what you really find with your heart.

And when people believe in love that means they believe in God! In Jesus who is God and who is love. If your love is strong enough, different enough, or just because they love you, they'll ask about your faith. I have so many conversations about my faith and I start almost none of them. "Preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary".

Love saves. Go around loving people!

Much of this post was inspired by a conversation with my beautiful friend Nathan Britten

I don't want to argue, I just want to dance.

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