Thursday, April 14, 2011

The God Who Winks at Us

Last night, I was part of a phone interview with the poets Luisa Igloria and Dave Bonta.  The interview meandered around to spiritual topics.  I noted that her poems seem haunted by any number of things:  regrets, lost children, ancestors.

She talked about the religion of her younger years; she was raised Catholic, but it was the kind of Catholicism that mingled with the native spiritualities of the indigenous people of the Philippines.  We talked about the animist tendencies of those religions.  Dave, who self-identified as an agnostic, asked me what I thought.

I felt like I stumbled a bit through the answer.  I am not one of those Christians who believes that everyone else is going to Hell.  I'm also not one of those Christians who believes that all religions are doing the same thing; while I believe that there are many different pathways to the Divine, I'm uncomfortable with the reductionist view that we're just all searching for the same God (and notice how often that God is a blissed-out God).  I think Brian McLaren said it best, in his book, A Generous Orthodoxy:  "Now, contrary to public opinion, it is not true that all religions say basically the same things.  They have much in common, but there are notable contradictions and incompatibilities, many of which become more significant as they go deeper.  But in many cases (again, not all), at any given moment, different religions are not always saying different things about the same subjects; rather they are often talking about different subjects entirely" (p. 255). 

Luisa talked about mystical experiences of being aware of the presence of ancestors.  I said that I hadn't had any of those kind of experiences, perhaps because I haven't lost very many loved ones to death yet.  I talked about the experiences of a friend who experienced the presence of her dead father during one of the monastery worship services and how comforting it was.

I said that I did believe in an incarnational world, one where God was often present right there with us, winking at us, trying to get our attention, trying to remind us of what a wonderful world we inhabit.  And if I believe in that vision, perhaps it isn't inconceivable that our loved ones could also return in transcendental ways to be with us again, to remind us of our heritage and that we are loved.

I don't think I was quite that clear during the interview; when the podcast becomes available, I'll let you know, and you can judge for yourself.  In the meantime, you can read my review of Luisa's Trill and Mordent here and Dave Bonta's here.

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