He sees you when you're sleeping...

On the AUC chat board, the question about how members understand what/who God is came up.

I have long wrestled with this idea, especially over the past decade or so. I have gone from a relatively mainstream theistic view, to embrace the panentheism of Spong and Tillich, the overarching mystery of the Brahman, and believing God to be a force not having any personal attributes.

However, last year I finally came to some conclusions that I think are best summed up by David Burton’s response:

“I think a great deal of humility is in order when discussing God and God's attributes.

That said, I regard God as a being with intelligence and purpose that created the universe and who is simultaneously both transcendent (existing beyond or without the physical universe) and immanent (existing within and influencing the physical universe). God is neither coincident with the Universe nor entirely separate from it. Because God exists partially within, or participates in, the Universe, a relationship with or connection to God is possible. God is the source of both our freedom (will) and our moral sense. God pervades the universe and influences actual events (is a co-actor with the laws of nature) by imparting freedom and a moral sense to the universe.”

So now that I’ve defined (insofar as one can do) what/who God is, let me tell you what I think God is not.

God is not a fairy godperson or Santa Claus who grants wishes and performs other feats of magic.

Why, one asks, do I bring this up? Well I received a hilarious, and yet also sad, letter in the mail the other day from “Saint Matthew’s Churches” in which I was told in no uncertain terms that by following the enclosed instructions, I would get my wish granted. They even sent me a prayer “rug” with Jesus face on it (ooo and ahh here please). The
“rug” is made of paper, and is the first such rug I have ever seen. I was told to pray on it, or place it over my knees when I prayed for my wish. I was told to then read Philippians 4:19 (but wait-if one has no Bible ‘tis OK, simply put the magic prayer rug under your bed for the night).

After doing all of these things, I am to check off what it is that I wished for on the a form enclosed as part of the letter. I am also to return the magic prayer rug in the postage paid return envelope, so that some other lucky soul can benefit from it.

Naturally I did not comply with this silliness. I intend to return the letter and rug, with a letter of my own asking the following:

1. If this magic rug works, then why not use it to heal the sick in hospitals or repel massive hurricanes
2. If this magic rug works, why not use it to drum up money instead of asking (well you knew they had to have a little “seed gift” request in there somewhere) for it?

It amazes me that anyone has the gall to do such a thing; apparently it’s profitable:

It's just that easy

And so I am reminded of Frederick M. Eliot’s (AUA President 1937-1958) thoughts on prayer:

“Prayer is the deliberate effort to see the divine purpose more clearly, and to pledge ourselves more loyally to its fulfillment.”

Amen.

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