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!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Breaking Up With God, Part 2

I spent the afternoon finishing Sarah Sentilles, Breaking Up With God: A Love Story. It is well-crafted, funny, sad, and beautiful. She tells her story of her breakup with God:

I broke up with God that night. I broke up with the priesthood. I broke up with the river and the sky opening and the dove calling me beloved. I broke up with chosenness and salvation and belonging. And I imagined God held me when I cried.
I can't do this anymore, I said. I'm not happy.
I know, I heard him say. I know. p. 170
She broke up with the Creator of Universe just when she was about to be ordained as a priest in The Episcopal Church. She had her M. Div. from Harvard and was working toward her doctorate in theology when she decided that she could no longer be in love with God. It is a love story. After she lets go of God she is able to love herself. She is able to leave the cage.

I enjoyed the snippets of theological wisdom she includes in the book from a wide variety of theologians including James Cone, Mary Daly, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Paul Tillich, Sallie McFague, Ludwig Feurbach, Karen King, and especially the late Gordon Kaufman. She addresses him in the acknowledgements:

Thanks to Gordon Kaufman--please know this book is a love letter to you, a thank you note.
Through her story I heard echoes of my own. My guess is that many clergy will find their stories reflected in hers. I heard in her story the disconnect between a great Harvard education and the reality of a church that has no interest. It wasn't just the people as much as the language of the liturgy and the tradition itself that proved too small and too inadequate to converse with the faith she was deconstructing and developing.
God is gone--but not completely. When I close my eyes I still see a bearded white man. A decade of study can't wipe him out. I feel him there, hovering. But that version of God has become ethically untenable for me. Too many terrible things done in his name. Too much suffering in the world. Too much violence. Too many disasters. I let go of a personal God. I let go of all of it. p. 214

I found her story compelling and important for our culture, for churches, and for all of us. Whether we are part of the church, are rebelling against it, have left it, or are indifferent, we are all God-haunted. This book can help open up discussion and allow folks to take on what may have been taboo, to open the door that has been locked and labelled "blasphemy" and see what is really behind it.

What is behind that door is a mirror. Near the end of the book, she mixes her words with those of Ludwig Feurbach:

Ludwig Feurbach called his book The Essence of Christianity, but he wanted to call it Know Thyself. In that book he writes, you imagine the best version of yourself, but then you pretend it doesn't belong to you, and you name it God. Christianity alienated human beings from what is theirs. All that's good it gave away.

But what you think of as united, you unite. What you think of as distinct, you separate. What you think of as destroyed, you destroy. What you think of as loved, you love.

Can you see? You can save your life. You can save others' lives.

Imagine a screen. Project goodness. Project strength. Project holiness. Kindness. Mercy. Love. Watch the screen. Long for what it shows. Bow down. Worship.

Now imagine a mirror. See goodness. See strength. See holiness. Kindness. Mercy. Love. See they belong to us. pp. 221-2.
Whether that is enough to retain the label "God" is an individual choice I suppose.

I posted a couple of longer quotes
here and here. I am interested in your thoughts.