Sunday, December 16, 2012

Y2K, Guns, God, and Love: Part II

Part II: God and Love (Part I is here)

The following words are inscribed in the stonework behind the pulpit at The Universalist National Memorial Church in Washington DC : “God is love and he who dwells in love dwells in God and God in him.” I attended that church in the late 1990s and it was the first time I really paid attention to that New Testament verse.

And I pondered it, back then: God is love and he who dwells in love dwells in God and God in him

I like that.

I don’t believe in God. At least, not in the God I grew up with. That God died for me some time before stumbling upon the Universalist National Memorial Church and its inscription from 1 John. That God was the causality of a difficult marriage and early divorce and perhaps my own intellectual pride and the convenience of seeing God as a crutch and excuse for choices in my life and what I saw as an excuse for others living hypocritically. If God was the Crusades and Inquisition and Slavery and Bigotry, I didn’t want him anyway. And I was moving towards a mystical sense of a god. God that was Nature or Mother Earth or The Force, like in Star Wars. And then I found myself at the Universalist National Memorial Church turning those words around and around: 

He who dwells in love dwells in God. He who dwells in love dwells in God. 

And God in him.

Fast forward a dozen years and my beloved, my wife, and mother of my boys dies. Killed crossing the street by some sorry soul who made a bad left turn into the crosswalk. In the anguish and despair that followed, something rose in me. A feeling of something. Not only did I still love Amy, I felt her love for me. I felt it strongly then and feel it still. It was, and remains, as real a feeling as the feeling of gravity right now pulling me into my chair. Somehow that love force between us remains. 

I’ve been pondering this for over two years. I thought about the attractive force between two humans that we call love and that once created, continues on and on, even after one person dies. According to Newton, gravity is related to the mass of two bodies and the distance between them. You need both bodies for gravity. If the Sun were to suddenly vanish, gravity between the Sun and Earth would also vanish. Einstein described gravity differently: a perturbation in space-time. But still requiring the existence of the body in question. Love, as I have experienced it, did not end when the object of that love disappeared. It remained. It remained real as ever and more enduring that the force of gravity.

And now I have fallen in love again. Yet the love I feel for Amy remains and is separate from that I feel with Lori. And I have two boys whom I love. Greatly. There was a time when they didn’t exist and I didn’t love them. Then my oldest was born and I immediately fell in love with him. Three years later my younger son was born and I fell in love with him too! This capacity of love seems boundless. I did not have to conserve love so that I can share it equally between these two young creatures. Each love was separate and full. With each new family member, or friend, or colleague, some new measure of love is created. It is truly magical to think about the expansiveness of this force! A force more enduring even than gravity. 

He who dwells in love dwells in god.  He who dwells in love dwells in god. 

And God in him.

And God in him.

And I can create love. I create love. I am a creator of love. And you create love too. We create Love. Together. Everyday.

We can create love. So then we create God. And God in us. You and me. Together. Everyday. And God will remain after we are gone. As Love. Not like gravity which will go away. But forever.

Love is endless.

God is endless.

But love isn’t everywhere. Not yet. And it was missing in Connecticut on Friday. Which means God was missing. But not in the way Mike Huckabee suggests. 

I’m sure Mr Huckabee, like most of us, Christian or not, is familiar with Jesus’s answer when asked what is the greatest commandment of all. He replies in Matthew: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ . . . And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

And if we plug in the “God is Love” equation from 1 John into the above, a wonderful thing happens: We are commanded to “love Love with all our hearts and souls.” I like that. A lot. Love Love. Love, the verb, and Love, the object. To love Love. Perfect. Because sometimes we fear Love. Or, we ignore Love. Or we deny Love. But to love Love? That must be the greatest of all the commandments.

But then there is the 'Love your neighbor as yourself” commandment. That's more complicated, actually. Which, I believe, is why what happened on Friday happened. We may never have a complete understanding of what was going on in the troubled mind of Adam Lanza. It’s easy and convenient to assign blame to an individual. It's easy to just say, 'someone capable of unspeakable evil shot-up an elementary school. Someone sick and broken and only able to love himself such that he took his own life, stole the lives of others.' But, in fact, he did follow that commandment. He loved others as himself. Horribly so. Sadly, his damaged love did not uphold life but destroyed life. And with it the capacity for those young humans to fully create their own Love. But do any of us truly act alone? The debate is an old one, but certainly our culture and environment play a roll. 

The gun control and mental health debate is re-engaged. Perhaps this time, for real. Perhaps this time we will debate it motivated by love and compassion. But recent history leaves me concerned. The lack of love and compassion in the debates surrounding debt ceilings and fiscal cliffs are depressing. And since our elected officials are a reflection of the electorate, we seem to have replaced love and compassion with something else. It manifests in Congress, on talk shows, and in our social media. We have decided it is better to be right that happy. Fear and ignorance seem to motivate us to action more than love and compassion. So when Mr. Huckabee described the absence of God, he was right. And the farther we walk away from compassion for our fellow human being the farther from love and God we become. 

But we can change that. This morning at our church the undercurrent of sadness and grief was palpable and occasionally pushed through the surface. It also happened that today was a child dedication. In our church the new little people are brought forward to be named and blessed and welcomed. The counterpoint of new life and tragic death moved me to tears, both sad and empty tears, and happy and hopeful tears. 

With that, those happy and hopeful tears, I’d like to call us to stand up and say enough. Enough of a guiding philosophy whose highest moral purpose is to operate in our own cold self-interest at the expense of others. There is little accommodation for expansive love in such a philosophy, yet it drives much of what we do today in our culture, in our economy, in our politics. It’s time to make new choices. It’s not just mental health care and gun control policy that could use a massive infusion of compassion. It's time to design all our policies and programs around a philosophy of loving kindness rather than a hyper-individualism and distrust of help for others. I’m sure there is enough profit for all even as we set aside some to care for the least of us. 

The fear and hate and ignorance that have become our national debates on practically every issue need to end. It’s time to replace that fear and hate and ignorance with god.

By which, I mean, Love. 

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful, as usual, John! Thank you so much for your positive and inspiring words during this sad time. May all the angry debates become compassionate discussions where we really LISTEN to one another. The only thing that stands in the way of Love/God is Fear. LOVE LOVE, indeed. :)