I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, and it seems to me that God has one very simple message: love one another. Everything else is an elaboration of this.
I think God is very clear in the Harry Potter books though never mentioned by name. Dumbledore could have given Harry the Big Book of Rules and told him he would go to Hell if he didn’t obey every last one, and make sure everybody else did, too, because God had given him the BBoR. That didn’t happen. And couldn’t happen. But Dumbledore could say to Harry, “you know that feeling in you that makes you know you have to protect the weak? That unites you and your friends? That makes you show mercy to your enemies when you have them in your power? That’s God – make sure you hang on to it.”
If this is the case, then we believe in God, and so does most everybody else, because most people know in their hearts what is the right thing to do, if they can put their selfishness aside for long enough. Of course, they might not call it God – probably because they’ve come to associate God with the BBoR and the Hell thing.
Humans have turned the Bible into the Big Book of Rules – even the words of Jesus, which are really the Small Book of Anti-Rules. Essentially, Moses had ten rules, Micah had 3, and Jesus had two – love God, and love each other. Everything else Jesus said was pretty much aimed at defeating anyone’s attempts to turn God into the Big Book of Rules. Unfortunately, humans seem bent on ignoring that.
I believe that God is love. The Old Testament celebrates the first god – God – who was a responsible grown-up (unlike Baal, Ishtar, Zeus, etc.). There is a lot of “chosen people” language in the Old Testament that bothers us today, and the heroes and heroines are deeply flawed, but they are human, and they love God, and God loves them despite the fact that they mess up royally, over and over, which is reassuring to us today.
I don’t know why God allows suffering, but I believe God cares about human suffering, and that we are his hands in the world. That’s a big responsibility, and I wouldn’t say I’m much of an example.
I go to church because I love the traditions and stories and the individual people in our church, and to think about something besides myself for a while, and to be reminded about the nature of love, and I think it helps – at least, I think I would be worse without it.
I don’t know about eternal life, but Jesus doesn’t strike me as someone who would make stuff up.
I was with both my parents when they died, and it was very moving. I had the feeling with each of them that they were being received in love. There is nothing provable about that, or any of this, by any “rational” sort of proof, but that doesn’t bother me. I think a lot of things are understood by something other than reason, and I think my head would be a lonely, echoing place if Reason were alone in there.
We thank Ann McMillan for sharing this piece with us, written initially for her family. She and husband Randy Hallman are parents of a grown daughter raised in our church. Ann is the author of four novels about the Civil War along with other fiction and non-fiction, and she is the first of three published writers from the congregation we’re excited to feature in our blog.