Persecution is as old as recorded history. Being right has nothing to do with being popular or accepted. You know what you know. The approval and disapproval of others, both subtly and blatantly is to be expected no matter what path our life takes. The fuller and more meaningful the life, the less likely the approval. In order not to be one of the nameless masses, you have to be different. There's nothing wrong with being one of the nameless masses, but what purpose would your life serve? E.e. Cummings said, " to be nobody but yourself, in a world which is doing its best to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight..."
Life is a remarkable experience. History is written about those who chose not to repeat the life of another, but to do what their heart tells them. Thoreau tells us that we should march to the beat of our own drummer, however measured and far away. Should we allow every incident where someone or even some large segment of society, decides that we are not living our life to suit them, cause us to doubt our existence in God? Copernicus and Galileo were both persecuted and imprisoned by the church, at that time the most powerful political body in the world, more powerful than any king or country, because of their scientific assertions, which differed from church doctrine. Namely, that the Earth was not the center of the universe. That did not change the fact that they were right.
Clearly many of the people that we encounter still believe that the universe revolves around them. All this has nothing to do with the existence of God and our relationship to Her. Knowing God is something altogether different, and completely personal, but once we have come to that knowledge, the world has no power to take it away. Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." The world has no power at all, except what we choose to give it. Sure, we may find ourselves confused about what God is doing in various lives and in the world and we may find ourselves angry with God, because of our lack of understanding, but it is difficult to be angry at something we don't believe in. I think many people say they don't believe in God, because they are angry with God and feel that by turning their back on "It" they are getting even for their hurt and disappointment. "That will show God how upset I am, I will refuse to believe He exists." They give God the silent treatment.
Faith is a word I have always had a bit of trouble with. As I heard Wayne Dyer explain it, faith is the choice to accept something we have not experienced for ourselves. Paul tells us that faith is the essence of things hoped for, the substance of things unseen. A friend tells us the food is wonderful at a new restaurant. We have faith in them and their opinion therefore, we have faith that the food is indeed good. Until we actually go there and experience the food for ourselves, we have only faith. Once we have tasted it, then we know whether or not the food is good to us, and we are no longer having faith. We now know. Paul's position also troubles me. Granted I am not a student of Greek, so I don't know what Paul actually said. I only know what has been passed down from the translators working with what was at that time, 500 year old documents, and working for that most powerful political body of 1500 years ago, tell me he said. But if the translation is close, then Paul, who had knowledge of the power of Jesus, from his appearance to him on the road to Damascus after his crucifixion, is asking the Hebrews to have faith in his knowledge. I trust that Paul then hoped that they would test that faith to have it become their knowledge. If we have never proven our faith through experience, then it can be easily undone. Another friend tells us this new place sucks. We think, "well, I wonder if it does suck?" Only after we have knowledge, does the need for faith vanish. True, the magnitude of our relationship with God leaves many areas that we may not experience in a thousand lifetimes, so these areas still fall under the category of faith. Will God catch me if I jump off a roof? Will She catch me if I fall? Will God send me money if I get in a bind? What if I just bought a new car? God is always there and God is always loving and ready to help, but what is variable, what is subject to conditions, is our end of the bargain.
After feeling the touch of God, after hearing the voice of God, after having seen the truth of the paradise, the heaven that constantly surrounds us, I have never -- I could never --doubt God and Her unconditional love. Myself however, I often have grave doubts about. I know that God does not condemn me, for anything. The only "sin" I am aware of, is the one of being unloving. Indeed, Jesus said, if you love God, your neighbor, and your enemy, you have done everything in the laws and the prophets. He doesn't say anything about money or attendance or clothing or food or drink, or anything but love.
Ignorance is not a sin, but it sure can bring us, me, a great deal of pain. When we are not sure of ourselves, when we have not taken the time to discover for ourselves whether something is right or wrong, then we will suffer for it. Not because it is wrong, but because we doubt ourselves, because we think we might be doing something wrong, and we do it anyway. And to act, to do something, without faith in our own rightness is, in my opinion, the only other sin besides being unloving. Incidentally the Greek word used in the New Testament for "sin" was a word used in archery, meaning to miss the mark, and so not to share in the prize. To sin was to miss the point.
I don't think God expects us to get everything right the first time, but He does expect us to keep trying. Even the Saints weren't perfect, but they didn't give up. God loves us, and it is His pleasure to give us His kingdom. But the kingdom of heaven lies within, and it takes some doing to find it, and keep it. But it is like a man who finds a treasure buried in a field, and covers it up and goes and sells all he has to buy the field, to posses the treasure. It is truly a treasure, not a burden, not a limit, not a restriction, but an awakening to the magnificence of all of what is. There is nothing greater, there is nothing left out. No one is excluded. So why don't we know it? Who don't we have that knowledge?
If you know how to play the piano, you had to learn. Even if you were possessed of natural ability, you still had to sit down and feel it out. I believe knowing God would come naturally, if we weren't raised in the world we live in now. The Aborigines of Australia know God by instinct. The Native Americans didn't need a missionary to tell them about God. There is a story of a missionary visiting with a Native American tribe telling them about the story of creation in Genesis. They all listened patiently to the missionary, nodding in recognition. When he finished they told him their stories of creation and how God had given them corn or maize to feed them. The missionary was incredulous. "I tell you the truth of God!" he screamed, "and you tell me fairy tales!" The chief told the missionary that their god must not be very polite, if they listened to his stories, but he would not listen to theirs.
In the book, God is Red, Deloria Vine writes about how the Hopi Indians tell of the earth being created and destroyed four times. The creation of the fourth world corresponds to the Genesis account in a startling way. In the Genesis account, on the first day God said "let there be light," and the light was separated from the darkness and the light was called "Day" and the darkness "Night." On the second day, the waters are divided between heaven and earth. On the third day, He commanded the water below the sky to come together in one place so that land would appear, and he said, "let the earth produce all kinds of plants." Now on the fourth day God made the Sun, the Moon, and the stars, but we have light on day one, and plants on day three, but no Sun until day four.
If the world had been subject to some great catastrophe, like a meteor strike, which in the early days of our solar system, much debris was still flying about. There would have been heavy cloud cover for many months or years. As the clouds thinned, the light would appear and plant life would begin to reemerge. Then after some time the clouds would thin enough to actually see the Sun again.
Several Indian tribes, the Hopi, the Navajo, the Pawnee and the Arickara, all tell of ancient people emerging from life underground to find the world of darkness returning to light.
My point is that God is evident to all people living in accordance with nature. The wonder and magnificence of nature is undeniable if you really take the time to see and understand what nature is doing. But when you are raised in a world that is presented to us from childhood on, as being "our" world, being all about "civilized" people and everything else just being casual occurrences in "our" world, and the purpose of life being to get educated so you can find a job and support "our" society, the status quo -- where is God? It takes a great deal of trying to find God in all this mess. But I assure you, He is there, and He is really cool, but we have got to get over being so damn "civilized" and "intelligent." The information that comprises our social intelligence is paltry and virtually unrelated to this life and our survival, except within the context of society. We know very little in comparison to what we can know and what God wants to show us, but we have to want to learn and spend some time going beyond our indoctrination. The truth of God is not found in textbooks. Glimpses can be read about, but we have to go searching. Only then can we know.
Copyright © 2001 by the author
All Rights Reserved
Deloria Vine, Jr
Henri J. M. Nouwen
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