When We Talk About God

Rob Bell:  What We Talk about When We Talk About God
This book was given to me by my recovering alcoholic brother, who has just done an extraordinary thing by turning his life completely around.  What he’s done is so inspirational and gives me hope that people can make radical changes in their lives.  I started reading the book and couldn’t put it down.  I read it a second time, and this third time more slowly, copying out passages that really resonate for me.  Most of what Bell says is something I’ve already thought, but never put together the way he has.  I’ve agreed with these ideas intellectually for a long time, but it has been harder to actually experience them as real for me.  I like what he says about “choosing” to trust.  Yes, that’s what I’ve done and work every day to make the experience more solid in my life.

I disagree with what Bell has to say about science — I do not believe in the “big bang” — AND I have a degree in Astronomy from an Ivy League College.  And I disagree with what he has to say about anthropology, to me there’s no question that the first god was female, and she reigned for a long time.  But those things don’t change his basic thesis.  YES, I believe that “god” is with us (Bell’s word), that “god” is in all things, that “god” is an unbelievably creative power, fountaining out galaxies and stars and planets and whales and hummingbirds, that how the universe created itself (for lack of better words, certainly call this process “God” if you want) is amazing, beautiful, interconnected, and way beyond our power to understand.  This is the piece I feel so wonderfully comfortable with — I used to be really concerned about which theory was “right” — now it doesn’t matter any more.  Watching the progress of science through many “paradigm shifts,” I see that the newest answer is usually more integrative and beautiful than we could ever have imagined, and I trust that it continues that way.  “God” in the process of creating the universe created me, how could he, she, it or they not be for me  (Bell’s word), not be supporting my best use of the being I am.  “God” ahead of me (Bell’s word) — YES, this god whose creativity I see in the universe, is reaching out through me to more and more connection and compassion.  YES, there is a “moral arc” of the universe and YES, it “bends toward justice.”

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” was Martin Luther King’s own succinct summation of sentiments echoing those of Theodore Parker.

“They [the Hebrews] believed that this divine ruach flows from God because …  the whole earth is God’s, all of it infused with ruach, crammed with restless, creative energy, full of unquenchable life force and unending divine vitality, undergirded and electrified by the God who continually renews the face of the earth.

“When the Hebrews talked about the world …  what they talked about was all of this life and vitality and creativity and stars and rocks and talking and pasta and whales having a singular, common, creative, sustaining source — whom they called God — who powers and energizes and sustains it all.”    pp106-7

“Choosing to trust that this life matters and we’re all connected and this is all headed somewhere has made my life way, way better.”   p125

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