“Love, and do what you will.” St. Augustine
Today I saw a bumper sticker that provoked a fair level of reflection for me. Now, I kind of like bumper stickers; I may have mentioned this before. Not everyone likes them of course, but I like them, and I find them generally to be a quick way to get to know a little about the strangers with whom we are surrounded in this racing world. They are a short hand, a quick glimpse, a way of sorting everyone out on the road. Today’s notable bit of high-speed wisdom said, “God is just too big to fit in one religion.” “Well, duh,” one might say in jaded response, “of course God won’t fit in just the one.” Yet what began to run through my mind was a laundry list of ways in which our behavior suggests otherwise.
There are, to begin with, plenty of religious communities that seem to believe precisely that. God fits within the confines of their religious perspective fully and comfortably, as though it were custom tailored for the divine. None of God ever splits a seam or bulges out into the rest of the world. We anticipate, quite substantially, that all the other religious practitioners in the world will one day find out that we were right and they were wrong. We all do this to one degree or another, it is a consequence of living in a world that is explicitly diverse, but where this becomes especially evident is among religious institutions that are particularly rule bound. XY and Z pleases God, DE and F breaks the deal. We may imagine that we are primarily shaping our lives to suit the divine, but it is quite the other way around.
And this accentuates for me, what made that bumper sticker worthy of contemplation. Our spiritual lives may be approached as an exercise in obedience to a set of rules that, no matter how broadly drawn, are intended to build a bulwark against God’s escaping the confines of our religious territory. It may, for a time, be an effective way of orienting ourselves in the world, but it is intensely limiting in spiritual power, and too often darkly unhealthy for the rest of creation as well. One of the hallmarks of a Progressive spirituality, I believe, is the insistence on being one perspective among many. It is more than an acknowledgement that we are not alone in the theological universe, it is the understanding of complexity and depth that this lends to our spiritual reflections as well.
With this shift in perspective comes an important shift in divine relationship. We are free to move from being a community bounded by rules and behavioral limitations to one that begins from the other end, from God’s limitless heart. The divine desire that we come to accept this essential freedom, and then learn to extend it through our own hearts and out into the world in general, is a far different engine of motivation. God is indeed just too “big” to fit, and that is a very, very great thing for it not only has the power to cross any set of boundaries we might erect, it has the power to turn strangers into neighbors, and neighbors into friends.
All the Blessings,