Thursday, February 11, 2010

This I believe...

Jews don’t talk enough about God…so here is a go at it - that was part of something for school but could at least set you off thinking...

This blog has been dormant for some time and its not clear if it will be entirely rejuvenated, but I would love to hear your comments in the meantime...

This I believe…

My future sister-in-law asked me over Thanksgiving if I believed in God, and I was hesitant to say yes. Something about it just didn’t seem entirely right. I felt like I needed to say “Yes, but” or “Yes, and here’s how…” But I also felt guilty saying “no.”

My classmate Kim will tell you after sharing a hotel room with me – that the first words out of my mouth at 7am in the morning were: “God hates me.” I have a humorous theology based on “serentripity,” (when the trains are in perfect sync with one another and wait for me across the platform,) weather patterns (when it rains in NYC, God truly hates me,) and a default life soundtrack that compels me to sing Avinu Malkeinu on a regular basis – which has less to do with ‘our father, our king,’ and more to do with a desire to belt out Jewish music.

I’m not really caught up enough on my theology class reading to treat this with great academic depth. Further, we do all of our work in class based on the assumption that God exists, which leads me to believe that I am required to believe in God. In a spiritual guidance course, the professor suggested to me that whenever I feel lonely or am looking for someone to talk to – try talking to God. That was a powerful suggestion and yet still assumed that I believe.

It seems that I most recognize a divine presence in my life when I’m faced with serendipitous situations that elicit a thoughtful response from me. It might be a 3 second interaction with someone or a result of intense preparation or in a moment of required learning. I don’t seem to enter the situation with God on my mind, but seem to reflect back on the experience through a lens of wonder. Every time I see my friend’s 14-week-old baby boy, I’m regularly awed by the gift of life and perplexed at how such life grew in a person who sat next to me in class. Disbelief, really.

Sitting on the porch, leading 15 nine-year-olds in Mi Chamocha, unadulterated singing right from their chubby little guts - this scene is unparalleled by most of my world travel experiences and I’ve filled my passport. What is it about that moment at camp that was godly that did not exist in my memory in all that I’ve seen in the world? Is it the distance from my travels at which I write and the proximity to camp that brings it to the forefront? Or possibly - God must have been there at camp. If so, God wasn’t present because of anything I did – but I think because of the sheer energy that the kids produced, though such energy could not be produced were it not for a divine being that creates energy in the first place.

This summer, reading “Girl Meets God" for school, I was uncomfortable with the God language used because it struck a chord in me from my childhood. Growing up Jewish in a city nicknamed “City of Churches,” at the same time in high school that my Jewish identity was developing, so were the respective identities of my Christian classmates. There were Catholics who were devout but quiet in their faith. On the flip side were the evangelical Assemblies of God Christians who were devout and the farthest from quiet about their faith. They referred to Jesus like he was sitting next to us in class and I wondered if he was there and I simply couldn’t see him, given the breadth of description they gave him. It seemed as we continued to grow up that their relationships with Jesus were stronger and more important than their friendships with me. I was drawn, unsurprisingly, to those who grew up Unitarian or in the UCC community because they prioritized other things in life over Jesus. I suppose I could reclaim for myself the language of “a relationship with God” but remembering the visceral response such language drew out of me in my youth, I cannot imagine saying it aloud to a group of congregants, lest they think I’ve gone off the theological deep end.

That aside, if I’m to address said relationship; I think I address it mostly with anger. I can’t get over the struggles of Jewish history and chalk them up to a God that loves us. Its in my nature to dwell on things so maybe it’s a bit unusual to still be mad about the Crusades in the Rhineland, but I’d say the Holocaust is in recent enough history to illicit anger. And really, why does God let people die? Who is the God who plagued the Egyptians in order to free the Israelites? Who is the God that favors one people over another? A few weeks ago, I wrote in a sermon a statement to that question – I don’t believe in that God. If my dear friend Sara never tires from taking care of her sweet baby Caleb, how could God’s holy adrenaline run low when the children of Israel were in their greatest need?

My classmate Ilene told me that all of the experiences I’m putting myself through in relation to spirituality and theology are my way of ‘crying out to God’ and that I’m just asking, waiting, impatiently as is my nature, for an answer. It’ll come, she told me, not in the form of weather patterns or the subway waiting across the platform for me, but in some fuller understanding yet to be discovered. So Blessed are you, wherever the hell you are, who gives me the energy to figure it all out.