A friend recently recommended the rambling rants of San Francisco journalist Mark Morford. So I went and read his recent blog post decrying the weirdly-timed, backward-thinking Prop. 8, which denies gay Californians the right to marry their partners. Behind Morford’s strident and cynical voice, you can hear the pained and howling “Nooooooooooo!!!” at the stunning injustice of this move. What particularly resonated with me, however, was the way he cut to the quick in identifying the culprit:
…when you trace the line of quasi-reasoning back to its source, to the “real” reason many people voted for Prop. 8, I think the real blame lies with, well, the Almighty himself.
That’s right, I blame God.
Who stabbed marriage equality to death, again? The Mormon Church. Catholic groups. Evangelicals. Militant fundamentalists. Reclusive, sickly, notoriously right-wing billionaires like Howard Ahmanson, a guy who also funded a radical Christian theologian madman who himself endorses stoning gay people to death. The mother of Eric Prince, CEO of the notorious Blackwater thugs-for-hire company.
Behind it all, it’s God. No, not the god you and I understand as a universal, non-gendered, asexual, love-drunk energy coursing through all things at all times everywhere without the slightest wisp of prejudice or geographical preference, but that famously small, myopic version, the one that encourages a literalist interpretation of very carefully selected Bible verse (to the complete disregard of myriad others) — a version that, in short, has been drilled into the consciousness of far too many voters for far too long.
Uh huh. Morford’s touching on a big, big thing here. It’s high time that we started picking up when God creeps into the reasoning behind people’s actions. That’s God with a capital G, the guy with the rules and the judgements. He’s the nasty old-fashioned vision of God, the patriarchal Big Daddy, the guy behind guilt and shame and repression and anger. The guy with the pointed finger towards Adam, commanding him down towards earth in sin. Really. That guy needs to leave the building. He’s caused enough harm already. You don’t want him at your party; sooner or later he just turns on you – and everyone else.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the vision of an all-embracing universal Divine presence, that flows through the highest human ideals. The divine is love; the divine is universal connectedness; the divine is everywhere to be felt and received and shared and spread and known. Simplicity and mystery all. Those who dedicate themselves to cultivating consciousness, awareness, mindfulness discover constantly that the divine is always right here, present and immediate.
Increasingly, though, I am unconvinced by those that reckon these two visions of god are reconcilable. To me, they seem to be polar opposites. The first is the God of ego and retribution, the god of boundaries and divisions, that asserts wedges between self and other. The second is the god of connection and sharing, of surrender and openness. The first leads us into wars driven by angry intolerance – Crusades, Inquisitions, Jihads – and social orders designed to subjugate anyone deemed different or not godly enough. The second leads us deeply into ourselves and out again into a world where every self is valid, fully human, and indeed divine.
Perhaps this is an odd thing for an out-and-out atheist to ask, but surely I can’t be the only one with both a deep sense of the divine and an unshakeable conviction that the big guy really doesn’t exist?