Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Meaning of Life, Part 3

I want to thank Doug (and others) for pushing me to be more clear on my first The Meaning of Life post. I don't pretend to know the meaning of life. I don't pretend to know anything about God. In fact, if God is supposed to be understood in metaphysical terms, then I have nothing to say. I don't find metaphysics interesting or fruitful. I do like metaphor. I am grateful to Sallie McFague's thinking about this. I do think that metaphorical language about God might be helpful in orienting our lives.

Metaphor is suggestive. Metaphor puts things together in interesting ways. Metaphor is subtle. Like a parable of Jesus it shakes our thinking. Metaphor is not literal. Metaphors about God can help us think in a different way. God is Mother. God is Father. God is not Mother. God is not Father. Earth is God's body. Earth is not God's body.

I believe that we live in a most precarious time. I believe questions need answering. These are not speculative or abstract questions. These are questions of utmost practicality. They are questions of life and death.

What do we need to do today for our descendants tomorrow?

Or to put it this way: what is our purpose? And: how might our spiritual traditions enable us to further our purpose?

If you go to most any church in my area of the country (and perhaps other places too), and ask them what is the most important question about human life and God, you will receive this kind of answer:
The most important concern is to be in right relationship with God so when this life ends you can be with him in Heaven.
That, for them, is the purpose of human life. God is out there beyond Earth in both time and space and it is there that we find our meaning and purpose. The Earth is not my home; I'm just passing through. I say no. I answer the question about what is most important about God and human life in this way:
The most important thing is to celebrate the sacredness (God-presence) of life in such a way that life flourishes for all living things now and into the future.
Life happens because species eat and reproduce. We are here today because our ancestors ate and survived long enough to reproduce. We should never forget that. We have lost touch with the basics. We don't think (or act anyway) that we are connected intimately with all of life on Earth. We have the arrogance to think we don't need other species. How else can we blithely let habitats die and species go extinct? We are dependent upon them for our survival. To extend life to future generations is in a very real, basic sense, our purpose.

If we don't think eating, surviving, and reproducing is exciting enough, thrilling enough, or meaningful enough, then what is the alternative? Death. Extinction. Game over. I don't think it is wise to trade life for a questionable prize in heaven.

We need to bring "God" into this because God has been the problem. We have imagined God as transcendent. What I mean by transcendence is not supernaturalism as much as the "location" of the sacred, the holy, our meaning, God, the real, and so forth.

What I mean when I use the word transcendent is that the location for the "God-presence" has been for the church beyond and outside our earthly-earthy functions. We think that there is another more real realm out there. Our home is in heaven not on Earth.

I am saying no. The Real is here. Here are my metaphors: God is dirt. God is bugs. God is sex. Heaven is Earth. It is here that we are in God and live and move and have our being. The transcendence, the God-presence is immanent.

Let us sing praises to God whose voice is heard in the honking of geese. Let us mourn deeply the crucifixion of Christ before our eyes as we witness the largest extinction of species in 65 million years.

Let us hope in resurrection. Where do we follow this risen Christ if not back to our own bodies, and to Earth as God's body, broken, sick, and yet being renewed as we open our eyes and ears and see who and whose we are--of Earth--where God lives and we with God.

I don't want to give up Christian language. But I do want to give it a new direction away from the transcendent and toward the immanent. As always, I appreciate your thoughts!