Sunday, January 10, 2016

Story Telling as Theology (and Evangelism?)

Today, instead of going to church, I will go to be with my quilt group.  We often have interesting theological discussions, and it's not the kind I'd have at church.  My quilt group includes me (a Lutheran), a Hindu, a Wiccan, an atheist, and a Jew--can't get much more ecumenical than that.

Last month, the atheist had written an amusing piece of fiction in which she imagines she's come to consciousness in purgatory.  At our quilt group, we had a rousing discussion about our different beliefs about what happens when we die.

My atheist friend does not believe in an afterlife.  And yet she wrote a piece about purgatory, which she imagines as a place of endless shoe shopping, which she hates, and having to make small talk with people she despises.

The next morning, I wrote what is probably one of my most favorite things I wrote last year.  My friend wrote from her point of view; I wrote from the point of view of God who was dealing with my friend's wrong perceptions of where she was and what she needed to do next.

She thinks she must earn her way to Heaven.  She doesn't realize that she's already there, but it's her attitudes that hold her back.  It could be worse.  Her attitudes could make her perceive herself as being in Hell.

It was an interesting exercise, exploring theology by way of fiction.  I know that some would be shocked that I presumed to talk in the voice of God, but happily, my religious tradition does not forbid it.

It's an interesting way of explaining how I perceive God--perhaps more effective than most other ways.  My atheist friend is not very open to lengthy conversations about religion or theology, but we had a conversation of sorts that lasted across weeks.

Here's how my piece concludes (again, I'm writing in the voice of God, not me): 

Humans yammer on and on about purgatory and hell and heaven, and when they get to me, they can’t quite leave their earthly beliefs behind. The ones who had the strongest beliefs are the ones who take the longest to relax into the true nature of the universe.

I wish I could console her. I wish that I could tell her that soon she will join her friends. Maybe it will be soon—these humans continue to surprise me. 

In the meantime, she’ll continue to make her own heaven, hell, and purgatory out of these childhood beliefs which are the hardest to shake. And I’ll be here, each step of the way.

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