Love is God

Quite commonly people toss out the phrase, “God is love.”  Some important people in my life are devout Southern Baptists and me, well I’m spiritually liberal,  I suppose.  A lot of the stuff that feels like truth to me is downright blasphemy to them.  But if we sat down and had a conversation about religion, God and spirituality the one thing we might agree on is that “God is love.”

I have a couple of blogger friends that are “nonbelievers.”  At one point in their lives each of them were very devout…one Baptist (I think) and the other Pentecostal.  Each of them for various reasons began to question their faith and ultimately left religion and “God” behind.  One of them wrote a series of posts the other day with the title “Your God is a Monster.” He was writing about Hell and how really sick and twisted the concept of Hell is.  He mentioned God and love and how nonsensical it is that a God who is supposedly so loving would send those who don’t accept his love (or his son’s) to be tortured eternally.

It is quite a conundrum.  How can God be all loving and yet have such violent tendencies?  So I had a little click.  What if we switch the phrase around:  LOVE IS GOD!

When love is God there is no room for torture and punishment.  Love can’t change it’s mind and stop being love.  Love will not judge you.  Love sees itself in everything and extends compassion.  Love is open and expansive.  Love will never use fear to control people.

My atheist friends believe in love.  My Southern Baptist family members believe in love.  I’d be willing to bet that everyone, no matter what religion, believes in or has experienced love.  Love is universal.  Love is one thing we all have in common.

There is a lot of debate about the Bible.  Many people believe that the Bible is absolute and is to be taken very literally.  Some people believe it is poetry and literature left up to each individual’s interpretation.  Some believe it was written solely to control the masses and has no foundation in truth at all.  I’ve never read the Bible all the way through.  I have read bits and pieces, some of which I found hard to accept and some that made my heart sing.  The following is one of those “heart-singing” excerpts:

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy.
Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude;
It is not self-seeking, nor easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongdoing.
It does not delight in evil,
But rejoices in the truth.
It always protects, trusts, hopes, and preserves.
There is nothing love cannot face;
There is no limit to its faith, hope, and endurance.
In a word, there are three things that last forever:
Faith, hope, and love;
But the greatest of them all is love.

— 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
So what if we’ve had it backwards all this time and instead of saying “God is Love” we should be saying “Love is God?”
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Authority

This week I watched Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and of course it caused me to start analyzing human behavior again.  There was one line in the movie that really got me thinking.  One of the soldiers said something to the effect that we all have this darkness in us and once you let it out it’s easy to get caught up in it.  Basically once you get the green light from some form of authority that it is OK to do something harmful or hateful you are inclined to do it and when any doubts arise you can remind yourself you have permission.  This is what happened to the soldiers that were working at Abu Ghraib.  They engaged in horrendous acts of torture and humiliation of prisoners.  On their own accord they would not have thought to act in this manner, but the chain of command permitted them to.  Once they pushed through the initial fight put up by their consciences it became just a part of the job.  Eventually they documented it on film just like they would any other normal aspect of life.  As we all know the photos were their downfall.  In the end it was the men and women at the bottom of that chain that took the heat for committing these acts.  And of course they were the ones who did it, but they were only responding to a command placed before them by the highest authority.  (It was Rumsfield who signed the first order that ultimately resulted in the photos we’ve seen of Abu Ghraib.)

At the intro and conclusion of the documentary they showed footage of an experiment done in the 50s (I believe).  Average citizens were instructed to administer shocks to people (who were actually actors).  The people would press a button and hear the actor screaming on the other side of a wall.  The “authority” would tell them to give a stronger shock.  A few argued but ultimately they all administered the shocks despite the cries and screams from the “victim.”

The lesson I learned from watching this documentary was that it really is vital that we teach our children and ourselves to listen to our inner guidance.  I believe that within us all is a connection to something divine and loving.  I believe that something speaks to us and inspires or encourages us to do no harm.  If we follow it we will be at peace.  If we do not we will be out of integrity with ourselves.

In some cases authority dangles a carrot of power in front of us.  A leader may make demands on his/her followers using the threat of losing something valuable in order to maintain power.  An organization or establishment may promise power to an individual in exchange for cooperation in some manner.  Where ever it is, whether on the elementary school playground or the military battlefield, it is all about defending or acquiring power.

So the next time a demand is made of you get quiet and ask your inner guidance what you should do.  If it feels terribly wrong it probably is.  Don’t discount your instincts, they’re there for a reason!  In the end the outer power will probably not be worth the inner conflict of selling out…