Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Love and power

I once made the mistake of attending the Craigville Theological Colloquy on Cape Cod. It's a weeklong summer conference of theological conversation, guest speakers, worship, and relaxation. Persons are invited to submit a paper to be presented at the colloquy based on the theme question of the week. The one I grappled with was: "How does the confession 'Christ will come again' affect the way the church lives and worships now?". At the time I attended (2002), three papers were to be selected for presentation. Mine was one of them. My 'prize' was free accomdations, meals, and registration.

The mistake I made was believing this conference to be comprised of open-minded, theologically-expansive Christians. Not so. My paper, entitled "...that they may all be one: The Physics of the Body of Christ" was applauded by some and ripped to shreds by others. I was even declared a heretic! I was also too green in my burgeoning process faith and so did not possess enough fortitude to defend myself properly.

Every year since they have sent me a brochure for the current year's colloquy. There's no way I'm going back but this year's question is worth struggling over, especially since it bumps right into process thought: "In a world of violence and suffering, how can we believe in an Almighty and all-loving God?"

Simply put, we can't. An all-powerful God who chooses not to use that power hardly seems all-loving. But then, that's too easy as well, too easy to dismiss a God like that and just give up all together.
"...it seems pretty obvious that if words like good or loving apply to people, then God must want to prevent broken arms, cancer, and rape as much as we do--indeed, far more because God's love is greater." (C. Robert Mesle, Process Theology: A Basic Introduction)

God wants to prevent suffering but cannot. Indeed, God suffers the pain of all creation, in every molecule, fiber, and emotion. But God's role is persuasive rather than coercive. God has no hands but ours, to quote Theresa of Avila. God does everything within divine power to ease suffering and prevent evil, but then there's us with free will and the consequences of that will. We cannot expect God to be the only one who is all-loving and exclude ourselves from that equation. Jesus gave us the command to love: love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. If love is limited, it is limited by our weakness and fear. If for no other reason, we need to believe in an all-loving God to help us to love all, by being in relationship with God and with one another and the creation.

As for power:

"If God has perfect unilateral power, then God is utterly unaffected by the world--perfectly unchangeable. ...If God cannot suffer, cannot be affected in any way, then God cannot love. To love is to be affected. But perfect unilateral power is the power not to be affected. ...To love is to feel all the passions of joy, sorrow, grief, fear, hope, and triumph that bind us to each other, that make life so dynamic and changeable. But perfect unilateral power is the power to be unaffected by such changing passions. A God with perfect unilateral power cannot love in the sense in which we love." (ibid.)

It's a different conception of power. It's power with rather than power over. It's solidarity and relationship and creativity and imagination and persuasiveness--all that relegated-to-the-feminine stuff (OMG!).

When I was a young mother to an energetic toddler, I needed a God who was going to keep me sane and keep me company. I wrote this out of my need:

A new creed

She sits with me
at the kitchen table
Her eyes brighter than mine
She drinks tea, listens, waits
for me to speak
She is in the oven
in the juices, the rising bread
Her heat under the boiling water
When I burn my hand
we both say “Damn!”
She is in the dirty bath water
the soiled sheets
and the bottom of the diaper pail
When my child whines, cries “Mommy”
for the umpteenth time that hour
She becomes the strong steady nerve
I didn’t know I had
She understands when I lose it—
she soothes my guilt
She’s in the whisper, my daughter’s

warm hair smell, the squeal of delight,
the “hopping frog” through the kitchen
that rattles the cupboards

She is Mother
full and empty
silence and clamor
peace and fury
sweetness and shit
She is not too much God for all this
to be beneath her
Oh no. She is beneath me
further descending beyond

anything I dare
She has saved me more times than I can number

That is power, that is love.


Mystical Seeker said...

Wonderfully well put.

Andy said...

Another GREAT entry, Cindy. Well done, indeed.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for reading, guys.

Rev.Tom said...

>>>The mistake I made was believing this conference to be comprised of open-minded, theologically-expansive Christians. Not so. My paper, entitled "...that they may all be one: The Physics of the Body of Christ" was applauded by some and ripped to shreds by others. I was even declared a heretic!<<<

Congratulations on being a heretic! Your in with a great group of people. I'll always remember the day a raving, Fundamentalist said that my Father was the Devil. I told him that my Father was a Postal Worker. He flipped out and threw his Bible on the ground and starting jumping up and down on it. What a nutter!

And,I loved your New Creed. Would it be OK to share on my blog? Many Blessings.

Cynthia said...

Welcome, Rev. Tom.

As I recall, Jesus was a heretic as well...isn't that convenient?!

By all means, share on your blog. That's what all this conversation is about.

Share Cropper said...

Ah, you speak words that comfort my heart! Thanks for the reflection.

Cynthia said...

Ah, Share Cropper, I have another poem about the Holy Spirit being a crazy farmer that I will post just for you!

Andy said...

"Isn't that convenient?" How wonderful that one Church Lady can quote another!

Cynthia said...

Wait 'till you see the next Church Lady to be featured on this blog...