Recently I was speaking with some people about faith and religion, and the question that I dread, inevitably was asked, “Do you believe in God? Are you religious?”
I dread those questions, because they carry so much weight. Assumptions and judgements are unavoidably determined based on the response. If I answer “yes,” I’m a prude zealot who stands upon street corners shouting for your conversion. If I answer “no,” I’m a selfish individual concerned solely with science and the pursuit of capital gains.
Those questions, “Do you believe in God? Are you religious?”, cannot simply be answered with a straightforward “yes or no.” Our life, our faith, and our God is not that black-and-white.
Belief in God, does not necessarily mean a belief in a particular religion. Often that is confused. We devote our time to a particular church or a faith tradition. We memorize the dogmas and rituals. We recite the texts and cling to our scriptures. We argue in support of our own tradition, while at the same time walling-off another. Clearly their god cannot be our god.
But how concerned, really, have we been in pursuing God, or were we really just pursuing our faith?
I believe fully that God exists. I believe it and know it in my heart and in my veins that there is something, deep, profound, and greater than our own individual self which unites each aspect of creation. I believe that anytime we have found ourself struck with awe at the beauty of another human, or overwhelmed with joy at the laughter of a child, or amazed with endless wonder at the captivating nature of fire, or enchanted by the mesmerizing waves of the ocean that in each of those moments we are tapping into that profound greatness that permeates the nature of our reality.
I am Catholic, yes, but I believe that there are profound truths in Buddhism, Islam, the Native Traditions, and all other world religions.
Ultimately, a religion is a language.
The purpose of any language is to communicate and make connections. The primary purpose that is at the heart of the human experience is love. Each one of us across the globe is grasping at straws to discuss the nature of our personal love and to share it with others.
In Chinese it’s “我爱你.”
In Spanish it’s “Te quiero.“
In French it’s “Je t’aime”
In Arabic it’s “أحبك”
In English it’s “I love you.”
Religion is just the same.
In Christianity it is through Christ.
In Islam it is through Muhammad.
In Judaism it is through the prophets.
Each faith tradition is all reaching and searching for the correct words to speak to that profound Love that is beyond and within each person.
God is that ultimate love.
On December 25, that is what is being birthed in the perfection of the Christ child – Love. A Love that can inspire for generations. A Love that can conquer death.
On December 25, are we inspired by the renewed birth of the “God of our particular faith tradition” or the “God of Love”?
Will we cling to the identity of a singular exclusive god? Or perhaps, can we expand our belief in the all-loving, all-powerful God to include the love of all people and all faiths?
If God is the creator of all things, knower of all things, and perfection of all things. Then, perhaps God rejoices in the laughter of the Buddha, the wisdom of Muhammad, and the coming of Christ.