small god

Charles Isaac Gunderson Wolfe enjoys the view out the door.

The marble we live on is too small for small gods. The first job of any religious person now is to make their own religion safe for the rest of us. People are shredded to the shouts of Alla Akbar while others pray Jesus’ blessings on  drones. Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Buddah and all the deified founders would puke.

There is no space for tribes and tribal spirits encouraging the  sacred difference or distance; no possible zone where the Jesus people can go off to themselves and whoop it up stoking their fears and fires. And no possible zone—even one with hardly any trees—where those that walk in the name of Mohammed (yes, his name should be blessed) can stoke their bitterness and bile, either. 

I write from San Francisco watching my grandson play amid the preparations for his first birthday party later in the afternoon. It makes me think about his 10th and 50th and that of his sons when I just a picture on the wall and the world is even smaller.

Any god small enough to fit into any tribal scheme is too small for this world, no matter their name, creed,  kind of hat or where they wear shoes or not. If it’s not for us all, it’s not safe for any. 

If the faith doesn’t call us all to humility and release of unjustified privilege—especially over the stranger—it is not safe for our melting earth. If you are a Christian and you think that Jesus loves you more than Jihadi John, you don’t know Jesus. And, it follows, you probably don’t know much about John, either.

Charlie grabs the reins–or the closest he can find.

Today any person of faith must suspect their own faith, go into our own sacred space and look around asking how and who we exclude, what stuff we stole and thanked our little god for, what parade of mean and violent jerks successfully used our hymns to cover their path. I am a Christian, which gives me quite a lot of complicities to consider. 

I notice that the largest and longest violence is not of radicalized christianity—and its obviously miniaturized Jesus—but of the banal moralized version that rides like a Dalmatian on the fire truck chosen for its spots and failure to hear the siren. Beware a faith that fits quietly around the fist.

Paris could be the end of faith blaming faith for what is actually nihlism. But Paris has been the end of faith before in earlier revulsions from the perversions of radical Christianity (radical in its subservience to armed priviledge). 

Paris could also be another beginning. It depends on what we hope for and on what we are willing to give away. And it depends on who we hope for. If it is not a hope for us all, it is a hope too small for any of us.


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Professor, Faith and the Health of the Public, Wake Forest University School of Divinity. NC Certified Beekeeper Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. God and the People: Prayers for a Newer New Awakening. Secretary Stakeholder Health. Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative

One thought on “small god”

  1. Very thoughtful piece, Gary. Thank you. Every parent an grandparent wishes for a more peaceful, inclusive,and just world for the next generations. In times of such inexplicable violence, it is hard to hold hope as the prevalent emotion. But, we must. And for me, being a carrier of peace within my own, small sphere of living is the best I can do. I pray to the God of my understanding that this is so.

    Enjoy your time in SF. Celebrate life, Love,

    Ron Sent from my iPad


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