by Bil Aulenbach

I Found a Great Word!

i-found-a-great-wordI’ve been loath to use the word “God” since November 1958. It represents so many different meanings, ideas, and concepts, and it carries unbelievable baggage. One of those gods killed my friend Brad. Maybe it was the same one or perhaps a different one who “blessed” our middle daughter so that she is deaf, legally blind, and epileptic; has cerebral palsy; and had nystagmuses in her eyes, for starters. (My wife had rubella in the first trimester.) That god, or maybe it was two different ones, got me fired from two churches, once for being against a war.

I know that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are from Abraham and are supposed to have the same god, but that’s a stretch for me. I’m reading the Koran to enhance my interfaith work, and its god can sometimes be meaner than a junkyard dog. The Jewish god, according to the Old Testament, can also be brutal.

The fundamentalist god can be interesting. He’s a he, and he speaks to them. He designs divine plans. He wrote the Bible in English. He had a son who supposedly arose from the dead and could do unbelievable feats, defying nature, gravity, and common sense. He does not like anyone who has “chosen” the LGBTQU lifestyle. He needs to keep women as second-class citizens, and any woman who has had an abortion for any reason goes straight to hell. Some people’s god tells them to blow people up, massacre masses of innocent people, rape women, enslave children, kill anyone who is not one of them—all the while quoting from their holy writings. No thanks!

Many people believe that if you pray to their god, he will answer prayers. I used to believe in that god when I was young, and I found him useful at the end of semesters because I was not a serious student. I prayed to him like crazy before exams. He never heard or answered my prayers, so I kind of gave up on the idea of “seek and you shall find; pray and it will be given to you.” Then in college, because the Korean War was breathing down my neck, I started studying. My other option was to become a target of North Korea’s gunpowder. That’s when something strange happened: before my exam, for which I had studied hard, I also prayed for a clear head while I was taking my exam. Miraculously, God helped me pass. Had something changed?

When I graduated from seminary and was ordained to the priesthood, I did not believe in the Episcopal god, but I believed in something—I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I felt a force out there, but what could I call it?

In my first church out of seminary I was assigned to do youth work at a large parish in Honolulu. About 350 teenagers belonged to that congregation, and I wanted to share my newfound seminary knowledge with them, so I designed a weekend conference at the local Episcopal camp called “Jesus Alive.” A book called God is Dead had just been written, and though I didn’t disagree with the concept, I wanted to put a positive spin on it. As I was struggling to work around the word “God,” I had the idea to call God “Creation.” Creation has no gender. It’s in everything. It doesn’t live Up There but everywhere in the universe. It creates but doesn’t become directly involved in its creations. It’s big, so big that I can’t describe it, but I know it’s there. I am a creature of Creation. So is every blade of grass and even those mosquitoes.

What do you think of using the word “Creation” to describe what others call “God”? Let me know in the comments.

 

The image in this post is in the public domain courtesy of Reena Black.