Thursday, February 14, 2008

Branding God?

I've finished Liz Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, and found the author to be one of the best contemporary writers I've enjoyed in a while. Her prose is smart, deep, funny and engaging, and her memoir spoke to me on many levels. Frankly, I found Gilbert's spiritual search to be more honest and gritty--and probably quite relevant to most people who have more questions than answers and can't seem to embrace neat-and-tidy religion.

Reading Gilbert's book and Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz has been a great one-two punch for my spirit. I've also thrown Wayne Dyer's There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem into the mix on audio CD, and even after a few listens Dyer's concepts are a little harder for me to get my arms around. So much talk about "energy." Maybe I'm better at books I can hold than ones I hear; everyone learns differently.

Still, Dyer's broader themes resonate with Gilbert's in that they promote the spiritual longings and approaches that can unite us more than the doctrinal ones that divide us. Miller is the only one of the three who pointedly promotes Jesus Christ, which is the person through whom I best understand God, and he is refreshingly less about Christianity and religion than he is about authentic relationships.

I wonder when I will get past something. I wonder when I will stop worrying about what my rank-and-file Christian friends will think if they read these blog entries. It's been so drilled into our heads that Jesus is the only path to God that one can feel tremendous guilt for even thinking about acknowledging the merits of other approaches. I long for the freedom to love Jesus and appreciate spiritual people in general without feeling conflicted by the way some of his words are translated in such exclusive language. Christianity feels so often characterized by what it is against as what it is for, and that seems to leave many of its practitioners conflicted, reactionary and often joy-less. At least that's what I've noticed, and certainly what I have been like in times past when I was so steeped in its institutions. The all-or-nothing approach; you either take Jesus and all the doctrine and theology that has been hammered out across the centuries, or you can't really have the Jesus part because you'd be disingenuous.

I have a hard time believing that Jesus doesn't respect my mind enough to encourage this search for larger truths I've been on since around June of last year, when I first read The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers. I think we limit Jesus and box him in through our fears, insecurities, need for control, power and prestige. The religion business doesn't thrive nearly as well if there's not a specific brand that can attract supporters. We've been so marketed by religion that we may not realize we are often giving our devotion to a branding of God rather than God himself.

Thank God I am free to love and serve his people without having to promote a brand anymore. My God is not a marketing scheme. Even through I relate to him through Jesus, there is so much I don't know. And that increases my faith.


At 4:08 AM , Blogger Bryan Allain said...

"you either take Jesus and all the doctrine and theology that has been hammered out across the centuries"

I'm at the point where I'll just take Jesus...the doctrine and theology I'm not nearly as concerned with.

THe tough thing about Jesus is that he did say no one got to the Father but through Him. That's some tough stuff.

Butt good on you for thinking out loud on the blog. Most of your Christian friends are working through similar or different issues, but should appreciate the transparency.

At 11:03 AM , Blogger John Michael De Marco said...

Thanks, Bryan, I appreciate this kind of dialogue very much.

At 11:03 AM , Blogger John Michael De Marco said...

Thanks, Bryan, I appreciate this kind of dialogue very much.

At 2:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Jesus' statement wasn't about making people fit through the key hole but about letting anyone and everyone through the door to have access to the father. The key holder is obviously not happy about loosing control but I'm not sure he was trying to make it hard. I think maybe he blew the door off it's hinges so there was equal, uninhibited access because he did that. I don't see that as tuff stuff but as a "yes, we're open" invitation to anyone to come to the Father - because of the fact of Jesus' for thought


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