It always amazes me when people can only recognize God in their own religion. It is as if a man could only recognize his lover when wearing certain clothes. He recognizes her in a nun’s habit, but not in the yellow robes of Buddhism. He knows her in an Islamic veil, but not in a Hindu sari. What kind of love would that be? We might conclude that he didn’t love the woman but her laundry!
We each see the universe from a different angle. For many people, religion is the consecration of one viewpoint over all others. I believe that true religion is looking at life from an angle that includes us all. Since none of us sees from that angle we introduce another character named “God”. “God” sees from an angle beyond any of us. “God” is a symbol of that unity which is so basic we cannot conceive of it. “God” is also a symbol of the mystery beyond any of us.
There is a problem when we only think of God as a large invisible person. Inevitably, we each begin to jockey to get that giant person on our side. The symbol “God” is a placeholder to keep us growing toward universality. “God” is a voice beckoning ever from beyond the known. As Tillich would say, we must always remember the “God” beyond “God”.
Christianity would be greatly served if we would return to the commandments neither to form images of God nor to speak the divine name. A comfortable image of God is an idol wreaking havoc on our personal lives and dividing us against one another. We must return periodically to the burning bush to melt down our symbols of God and recast them in ways where we are not fooled when the Lover comes to us in new clothes.