Or, Why We May Want to Convert to Reformed Omnianism
In the end, my heart settled on this little jade turtle.
Now, turtles get mixed reviews. Some call them slow, fearful, anti-social, perhaps even too intellectual. Or, turtles are strong, patient, hard-working, and hold the wisdom of the ages.
When I look at my turtle, I think of the blessing of the turtle and all chelonians, for that matter. You see, wherever a chelonian goes, it is at home.
We can all choose that blessing; wherever we go in this world, whatever we do or say, we can be at home. We can make peace with this world, and accept all of it, ugly and beautiful, and be at home in it. We can make peace with our God, and trust that no matter what, no matter where, we are in Those strong and loving hands. We can make peace with our selves, and live out our authentic and integral selves because we are at home with us.
Looking at my ring, I am reminded of Terry Pratchett’s book, Small Gods [http://www.amazon.com/Small-Gods-Discworld-Terry-Pratchett/dp/0062237373]. In this novel, an illiterate Omnian novice called Brutha meets his god, Om, who is mysteriously incarnated in the shape of a tortoise. Through this story, Pratchett divulges his view on how gods are created, grown, and eventually die (shudder).
I’m not here to judge his theology. Having said that, it is his image of the deitific dying process that hit my gut as to why church (or any other religious institutions, for that matter) piss me off to high hell sometimes. Here is the excerpt:
[Om speaking] “...Belief, he says. Belief shifts. People start out believing in the god and end up believing in the structure.”
“I don’t understand,”said Brutha.
“Let me put it another way,” said the tortoise. “I am your God, right?”
“And you’ll obey me.”
“Good. Now take a rock and go and kill Vorbis.”
Brutha didn’t move.
“I’m sure you heard me,” said Om.
“But he’ll...he’s...the Quisition would-“
“Now you know what I mean,” said the tortoise. “You’re more afraid of him that you are of me, now. Abraxas says here: ‘Around the Godde there forms a Shelle of prayers and Ceremonies and Buildings and Priestes and Authority, until at Last the Godde Dies. Ande this maye notte be noticed.’”
Is the solution to go and find a church who has better rules, prayers, ceremonies, buildings and priests? Not in Pratchett’s mind. To crack the shell, you need a real prophet. A real prophet is someone who can listen and speak to his God, who, in return, listens and speaks to him. A prophet thinks with, not about, God, and lives out those beliefs as the individuals God made us.
Will all prophets look or sound the same? Not so much. In the Bible, we have all kinds of prophetic lifestyle choices: eating shit-smoked flatbreads, marrying a sex-addicted prostitute, living an ultra-minimalist free-range organic lifestyle in the wilderness on a locust and honey diet, to name a few.
The thing is, if we wait for a prophet to come and break the shell of the institution to renew our belief and faith, we are passively watching the shell thicken and harden, and we allow our God to wilt away from our end of the relationship. It is up to each and every one of us to think for ourselves, and live out our lives for God in our unique situations.
So that is my challenge to all of us. And please excuse my inability to resist the pun, but the question I have to ask is this:
What does it prophet our God, to lose our faith, but to gain an institution?