38 - Justice in Contemplation - Part 3: Power
Updated: Mar 3
Where is God? I’d wager, it’s a question we’ve all asked at one time or another, for a variety of reasons. Some have asked where God is literally. Where does God exist, where is heaven, why can’t we see God in our everyday life. But most of the time what we’re really asking is, how could something so horrible happen in a world where God is present? How can bad things happen if God is good? I know that God is present in the world. I know that God is good. I know that God is a presence powerful enough to create, sustain, and love the entire created universe. But I also know that how we think about power is much different than God. When we ask the question, “where is God,” what we’re really asking is, “why isn’t God doing what I think he/she should.” When we ask the question that way, then we can begin to unlock the answers. Most of the time, when we ask that question, what we’re really asking is “why isn’t God favoring me or my group over others.” It’s an ironic position to take, because it’s both what we think makes God good and evil. When God favors us, we think that is good. But, when God favors others, we think that is evil. Whether we admit it or not, at the most basic level, we judge the goodness of God based on how he/she lines up with our personal agenda. But a God big enough to love the entire universe can’t be that small. We would expect a God who is truly good to seek the good of all things, in all things, and not just in our things. A God that big looks much different than a God who simply favors me. I think we all know that instinctively, and would agree with that idea. And yet, in the day to day struggle of a world that doesn’t always look that good, safe, or loving, we can easily doubt God’s goodness, and God’s effectiveness. I think it’s much more common to question God’s motives than we’d like to admit. But I also think it’s very natural. When we question God, what we’re really confronting is the chasm between our perspective and God’s. If we can realize that, we can give ourselves grace to question without expecting to understand. There is nothing wrong with inviting God to show us more about who God is, how God works, and why the world is the way it is. There is something unhealthy with demanding God fit within our ability to understand. If God is as vast and expansive a being as we believe, then it is a given that God’s motives will not often make sense to us. And, when we understand that God is attempting to balance our good with the good of all, we can find even greater grace for the reality that God’s perspective will hardly even makes sense within our small frame of reference. But the question still remains, and can be asked; “If God is so powerful and loving, why is the world so messed up.”
I’m going to propose an answer to that question right off the bat, and then try and walk you through it in the rest of our discussion. I’m also going to offer an answer that will, at first, sound crazy and absurd. So, don’t get turned off and give up on the conversation before I’ve had a chance to explain. The answer will be shocking at first, but it will make sense by the time we’re done (I hope). We’ve all heard this idea expressed in one way or another; “if God is good, why is the world so evil.” From a more negative stance, some have even said that if God were good, and powerful, the world would not be evil, and therefore that the reality of an evil world reveals an evil God, or no God at all. But the truth is, the world is not evil because God is evil, the world is evil because God is good. I’ll say it again, just to be clear. The world is evil because God is good. It’s not the other way around. Only a good God could allow for such an evil world; only a God of love could allow for such hate, abuse, and oppression. Does that surprise you. Does that sound foolish, even wrong. Do you think I’m crazy yet? I am crazy. Crazy enough to believe that good must allow for evil, or it is not good. The reason a good God must allow for evil is because God is not “either or,” but “both and.” If God’s goal is simply obedience to a set of perfect moral rules, then reality would be much different. If God’s desire for humanity was simply perfect obedience to a perfect set of holy morals, then wouldn’t God have simply created us to follow those perfect rules perfectly. That would be the most simple, reasonable solution. But then, what would we be? Automatons programed to simply do whatever God wanted. It’s obvious that God did not create us to be organic robots. It’s not that God doesn’t desire us to live good moral lives, but it’s just that God also designed us for love, and love cannot be programmed or forced. God created us to be free moral agents, able to choose to do right or wrong, and also able to choose love or hate. In any relationship, the freedom of choice is foundational. Any relationship where choice is not allowed is abusive and oppressive. If God created us in such a way that forced our love and obedience, where we were incapable of choosing anything else, then we really would not be able to love or obey. Choice is the chaos factor. Love must allow for evil, or it would be evil itself. I call this idea the “Divine Rape.” Is God powerful enough to force us to do what he/she wants? Yes! I believe God is. Is God loving enough not to force us to do what he/she wants? Yes! I believe that too. And that is why I also believe that only a good God could create a world where evil is possible. An evil God would simply force us to do what he/she wanted. That is Divine Rape, where we are forced into love, to be in a love relationship we did not choose to be in. Forced love is not love. The freedom to choose is always inherent in love, by necessity. And God created us for love, not for automatic obedience. It is for this reason that a loving God created a world where evil is possible, in order to also create the possibility for good. For good to happen, it must be a choice. Any kind of forced action is oppressive. God forcing us to do anything would not be good, but evil. And God is not evil. When we see this kind of action in the world, in any other person, group, government, or system, we always call it out as evil. We must also do the same in our ideas of God. Any idea of God which hinges on the idea that a good God could not allow for an evil world is actually evil itself. What we have, in light of a perfectly loving God, is a world that is much more complex to understand. In light of this, when we approach the question “where is God,” we must begin from a very different place. We are no longer asking why a good God could allow for such evil. Now we must ask, how does a good God deal with such evil. The answer, as I’ve already suggested, has to do with a “both and” solution.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that if God were truly good, and truly loving, God should love everything. But it’s that very reality that we often have problems with. Namely, that God would love everything instead of just loving me. What we really want, and why we so often call God evil is because God is not loving me above everything else. It’s not even that we don’t want God to love other things, but that when it comes to what we see as conflicting energies, between us and others, we want God to always take our side, which also means that we want God to not be on whatever side we see as against our side. One thing I can say, without hesitation, is that God is always about what God is about, not what we want him/her to be about. We must learn to align ourselves with God, and stop asking God to align him/herself with us. And what God is about is the good of all things. This is a much harder reality to grasp. How can God be for us and our enemies? How can God be for the oppressed and the oppressor? How can God be for the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, the insider and the outsider, the popular and the pariah? How can God be for capitalism and socialism, democracy and dictatorships, democrats and republicans, Buddhists and Christians, the religious and the atheist? Is God big enough to balance such huge, apparently opposing energies? I hope so. A God big enough to be for me and my enemies is good, because that’s a God big enough to still love me when I am the enemy, when I am the one in the wrong. At the most basic level, a God who does not take sides or only favor the “good” and “right” person is a great relief, because at times we’ve all been the “bad” and “wrong” person; we’ve all messed up, made mistakes, and been on the wrong side of something. If God is not big enough to encompass the good and the bad, then God is not big enough to love me, because I am both good and bad. A God big enough to love us at our worst is the only God good enough to walk us into something better. If God is always running from evil, smiting “bad” people, and punishing our mistakes, then we are in for a terrible ride. If the only stance from God we can imagine as “good” is to be constantly attempting to rid the world of “bad” people then the world would be a very lonely place. The world would also be a very scary place. That kind of God creates a lot of anxiety and fear in the world, and we can see how the ideas based on that kind of God actually have. This is the epitome of unhealthy religion, which attempts to display a God of love who is also always smiting evil, but those two imagines are incompatible. That creates a schizophrenic God, who then also creates a schizophrenic people. A God loving broken people back to wholeness cannot, also, at the same time be trying to rid the world of “bad” people, because the broken and the bad are one and the same. A God powerful enough to create and sustain all life, who is also good enough to love everything, is a God who reveals a very different presence of power than what we’re used to.
This is the best way I’ve heard it explained, which can begin to reveal how such a powerful God chooses to interact with and reveal him/herself in the world. God is about power-with, not power-over. But we almost always choose and understand power as hierarchy. Power, in our mind, is something we either have over someone, or someone has over us. When we approach God, or our ideas of God, we are also attempting to cram God into this box of power. What we really want is for God to give us power over; power over our enemies, power over our problems, power to overcome our limitations and struggles. But God is not that way. As long as we are attempting to understand God through the “power-over” paradigm, God will never make sense. If we’re honest, what we’re really asking is for God to be an abusive tyrant, and to give us the power to be the same. If we think in terms of governmental power, it can be framed in this way; a government powerful enough to force my ideals on others is also powerful enough to force others ideals on me. Both are bad. What we should really want is a government, and a God, who knows how to allow for the freedom of individuals while protecting the whole. That is a much harder balance to keep, perhaps much harder than we realize. When we see abuse and oppression, our first instinct is to simply want to take out the abuser and rescue the abused. But what if both are actually oppressed by the same thing? What if the whole system of power-over is the actual problem, and the solution God is attempting to enact is a system of power-with. If God wants to lead us to a greater reality where we all have shared power, then God must naturally approach us with that same energy. God then becomes the ultimate power of the universe inviting us into that power, and not attempting to exert that power over us. Power-with looks much different than power-over. That is why we often fail to see God in the world, because God will not fit in the “power-over” box. God is much too big. God is the passive energy of love, not the aggressive energy of anger and hate. God is inviting and calling us upwards to a higher plane, not simply trying to force us to do what he/she wants. The invitation to life with God is much different than the idea of a God attempting to control all things for his/her personal benefit. The passive energy of love is always about the good of the other, not the good of self. The simple and beautiful truth of this energy is that when we do what is good for others, and others do what is good for us, the world will be a good place for everyone. This is the reality God lives in, and why we often fail to connect with this kind of God. We live in a world where there are so many forces attempting to push us in so many different directions. We feel the awfulness of this energy all the time. It is the true essence of what is evil in the world, and what is always attempting to rob us of our humanity and freedom. Freedom is not my ability to do what ever I want, regardless what it means for others. Freedom is the wisdom to do only what is good for everyone, where no one is left out or left behind. The “good life” is life that is good for everyone. The life of God is a loving presence attempting to draw all things into what is good. The opposite of this God-energy is anything attempting to force its way upon us, or force us to do anything against our will. The great spiritual mystic Yoda once put it this way, “Beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.” The God-energy of love is always inviting and drawing us to a kind of power that operates with others, for the good of others, while also balancing what is good for us. The opposite energy is trying to control everything only for my sake, which may seem good on the surface, but isn’t even good for me.
That which I seek to control only ends up controlling me. The dark side of power seems so alluring to us. It offers us the ability to get what we want for ourselves, but at the cost of relationships. Let me put it this way, the ability to get what we want is a taking energy, but love is a giving energy. We can never get love, or be loved, by taking love from others for ourselves. Taking is a disconnecting energy. It is abusive by its very nature. The power to take what I want puts me out of the flow of being given what I need. When we look at the world, the reality of community is a giving energy, and that is the energy of love. It is a passive energy, but stronger, because it requires resistance to the temptation to simply get all I need for myself. It also denies the reality that all is given. The power and ability I use to get what I want for myself is something I have actually been given for the purpose of giving. When I stop the flow of giving, and give in to getting, I dishonor the very things given to me in order to keep the flow of giving going. Everything about life on earth speaks to the reality that all is given. When we reverse the flow of that giving, to the negative energy of taking, we step out of true reality and begin to live in opposition to it. We were born into a world that was already here before us. We were born, raised, and formed by parents, elders, and teachers who choose to give to us, instead of take from us. We live and breathe every day on a planet that sustains us. We live, move, feel, think, and have our being by the will of a God who chooses in every moment to give us life. We did not create anything we have. Even the work we do is only possible because the things we have to do that work were given to us. Our body, strength, and mind were given to us, and the resources we use all existed before us, and will exist after us. In every way we live in a world where all is given. But we can live in opposition to that reality, and step out of the flow of giving into the dark side of thinking we need to take what we need for ourselves. That’s what can be called a transactional mindset. It even makes love and relationship transactional. It is the idea that all is earned, and nothing is given. In this reality, what we have is in direction relation to what we can get, and the more powerful we are the more we can have. The sad reality of this broken flow is that it grounds us in a scarcity mindset. Yes, I have earned all I have, but I also must keep earning it. It is an exhausting reality. It breaks us down and leaves us fearful in a world where we must keep performing, and earning, or the flow of all we need will stop. It also leaves us bitter, because so often we can work hard and still not get what we were wanting. This is the reality for so many. In a world where power is about our power over others, there are few who truly succeed. Everyone must play the game in such a world, but the game only works for the few. In a paradigm where power equals thriving, where the power to take equals getting what I need, the majority never end up with any power at all. They only end up feeding and fueling the power of the few. I’ve worked many jobs, and gotten paid different amounts, but I’ve always worked as hard in all of them. The illusion of the American dream is that if you work hard enough, you can get what you want. The reality is that the few in power stay in power, and the majority only help sustain and fuel the power of the few. Power-over always works to maintain its power over. Whatever advantage I have over another, in order to better myself, I will work to maintain and improve. If all we know of power is a pyramid scheme, then all we know is how to be better by being better than others. In that scheme, the higher up we go, the smaller the space. It is a paradigm of power based on relative positioning which naturally creates and feeds competition. It does not naturally compel me to love my neighbor, or seek the good of others. It compels me to get mine first, before someone else gets it, which also means to get mine I must work to keep it from others. It just so happens that, in the first world, there’s more to go around, so we can feel like we are getting at least some of a very large pie, but when it comes to true power in that system of control, we really have very little. Everything we have is dependent on the power of others. Our job, our security, our economy; it’s all sustained by the power of others. A government that has power over its people needs those people in order to have its power. One requires the other. A CEO or business owner only makes their money as we make ours. Every system is truly based on every part doing its part. When one part stops working, so does the whole. To deny that interconnectedness is true dysfunction. Power-over always denies that reality. It is the false illusion that I have what I have because I have taken it, when in reality all has been given. In that mindset I do not change reality, but I do change my experience of it, and that can create a false reality that is still very powerful, and very real for me. When we all jump into that false reality, we all can experience that dysfunction on a grand scale. Then we can all begin to feed a reality that produces the disconnecting energy of power-over.
Me getting what I need in competition with you is the root of our human dysfunction, and it does lead to hate. It pits me against everything, even the very world in which I live. As I attempt to grind out the means of my existence, pushing against everything which is pushing against me, I find that so much is working against me, even mother nature. Everything is my enemy, and must be fought and subdued in order for me to thrive. Therefore, the power to control is the means by which I live, and survive. The power to control my environment and circumstances for the purpose of my own benefit becomes paramount. I am not a part of any larger system, I am simply a single entity attempting to create my own space in opposition to everything else. I may form alliances in this mentality, but only for the purpose of furthering my own good. I may align with like-minded people, or groups, but still only for the benefit of solidifying my own control. That is truly a “Hunger Games” mentality. In a world where we are all takers, seeking to get what we need for ourselves from others, we create and sustain an aggressive energy that saps the whole world around us. It does not lead us to create balance and synergy for the whole, but to bend the whole to the needs of the one. That is the ultimate end of this system. It is always feeding power upwards to the one at the top, and everyone else is constantly battling to work their up way by pushing others down, or toppling those above them. It’s a profoundly devastating reality to live in, and not hard to see. But we don’t see it. If we did, we would stop. Even when we do, we are faced with the reality that to begin to be a giver in a taker’s world, we are going to have to suffer a great deal to set that example. But the saving grace in all this is that there is more power in giving than taking, and it truly is better to give than receive. When we choose to step out of the system of power over, we begin to participate in a higher power where a greater power is given to us through which we can sustain and resist the “power over” paradigm. Then we can begin to see that nothing truly can be taken from us that we do not decide to give, and giving then because the joy of our reality.
I have the power to give. It is an expansive power, and creates a continuing flow of ever-expanding space in the world. The very world we live in speaks of this power; the very universe is an ever-expanding flow. The energy of taking is an ever-decreasing energy, boxing us into a system that is always closing in around us. It is always pushing us back, taking away from us, drawing down and depleting us. We are expending great energy to get what we need by taking away from others, and both sides suffer the loss. But the energy of giving gives to us as we give to others. It is the great paradox of the universe. The aggressive energy of getting is always pushing its way in all things, and pushing everyone around. We feel this energy, and naturally repel it. We do not want to be pushed towards anything against our will, and yet we also willingly participate in that action, thinking we have chosen what we have actually been forced into. We have to survive, and so we submit to a system that works against our natural flow, because we think it is the only way to get what we want. But we are literally “getting what we want” by submitting to what we don’t want, giving up our freedom and will in thinking we are securing it. We are naturally giving up our power, and feeding the power of the few, in our attempt to gain power for ourselves. We are buying into this power-over pyramid scheme, and submitting to it for the change to move up the pyramid of power for ourselves. We allow others to have power over us in order to have power over others. It is the proverbial selling of our souls to the Devil. We give up the only freedom we have, that of power-with, to take our place in the power pyramid of powerlessness. What we don’t realize is it’s all a construct, an illusion. Having power over others doesn’t give us power, it takes our power away. The only power we have is to continue the flow of God’s power to us and through us. God’s power is a giving flow. It cannot be taken. As soon as we try to take it, we cut it off. It can only come to us freely, and flow through us freely to others. It is the power of love, and love is a connecting power. Hate is the disconnecting power of trying to control others for my benefit, but to get it I must give up my own control and submit to a power structure that only gives me power by taking it. In that pyramid, power comes from the top. I may have power over others, but only become others have power over me. It is always an exchange. It is transactional power. I can only have power over others by allowing others to have power over me. In gaining control I lose it. That kind of power always comes from above me, in order to give me power by putting some below me. That is the essence of pyramid power. It can only be built by putting others under my power, but only as I allow for the reality of power-over. Everyone submits to this power structure because it can work, in the hopes that it will work for them, but it only really works for the one. In this kind of power structure, there is only ever one at the top. Everyone else has power in relation to their proximity to that one person. Most Governments are structured this way, as are most Corporations, civil groups, even churches. There is always the one at the top, and everyone else vying to be as close to that one as they can, because the closer you get to the top, the more power you have. We can also, naturally view God this way. We can think God plays this game, and is out to give us power over others. We can think that God sits at the top of the ultimate power pyramid. But he/she does not. God flips the power pyramid on its head, and allows the power of the one to flow upwards to everyone. God is the ultimate power of the universe, the life-giving flow that originates and sustains all life, but it is the flow of love, and love is always the flow of power to us. God is about power-with. God desires to share his/her power with us, because God’s power is the flow of love, and love is about empowering others.
The only true power we have is that of love. It is a mutual power, the power of giving. It connects us all in a system where we are all seeking the good of others, all others. The opposite, aggressive power of hate is a disconnecting power which seeks to take others power away, to give me more, but only ends up wrecking the power of everyone. The reason we fail to see God at work in our systems of power, is because God does not work in these systems. God is not about power-over. God did not create the universe in order to have things to control. So often, how we expect God to show up, how we pray, how we ask God to intervene in world affairs is within the power-over paradigm. We want God to dominate and control. We want God to move people against their will, for the benefit of our will, in order to produce some good for us no matter the evil it may cause others. Is that really how we think God works? Is that really the game we’re asking God to play? It is, because we only understand power as something we can have over others. We even want God to give us power over the earth, over the entire universe. But God is not here for my power. God is not even here for his/her power. God is here to empower the entire universe to live together in the harmony of love. If God is the life-sustaining power of the universe, then that is exactly what we should expect. God is the power of what gives life. Thus, God is the power that gives. Thus, God is about power-with. God does not give up his/her power to us, but instead invites us into his/her power, and calls us to do the same. Whatever benefit you have, whatever ability, whatever talent and resources, they have been given to you so that you can give them to others. This is the connecting flow of love. All has been given to you so you can give to others. God invites us into his/her power so that we can invite others into our power. This is a power that expands as we give it away. It does not push others to do what I want, but feeds others to do what God made them for. What the passive energy of love looks like is me working for the success of others. Love seeks the good of the other. It means that I am using all my power to help others do and become what they were meant for. And, as my power flows to others, and others power flows to me, we all experience a world where everyone is seeking the good of everyone else. This is a giving energy. This is a connecting energy. This is the energy of love. This is an upside-down pyramid, where God’s power flows through me, and I keep it flowing until everyone is connected to this flow. We get to participate in the flow of God’s love, because it is a flow of connection, which takes us to make it work. It’s not enough for me to be connected to this power, but to see it connect me to others, because that is the purpose and point of this power. It is the power of the one connecting all things as one, into that one. My desire to have power over others is a disconnecting power because it seeks my power in tension with others. It sees power as a competition. I can only have power as I take it from others. That kind of power is about the individual getting things in opposition to others. It pits us against each other, and naturally disconnects us. I am against you, and you are against me, because power is limited and my power is based on your powerlessness. To have power, in that system, is to control others for my benefit. If I could, I would control the whole world according to what pleases me, even if it destroyed the world. We can clearly see the results of this kind of power in the natural world, and how it actually is destroying the world for the benefit of this power structure. But we can also see the foolishness of this power, at least in the physical world, if nowhere else. We cannot do whatever we want to the world, whatever benefits us, with no consequences. If we destroy the world for the sake of our own pleasure, we will also destroy ourselves. This is how power-over works in every aspect. To gain power I cut you off, and am cut off myself, and so destroy myself for the sake of this power. The further up the top I go, the more people I step on, and the more disconnected I am from the flow of love. It is hard for us to even imagine a power that gives, instead of takes, because we have been so deeply steeped in a structure of power-over. To step out of that structure can seem scary. It can feel like we are losing the little power we have. It can feel like dying, losing, and giving up. It can feel like surrender. But it can also feel like freedom and love.
Jesus once said that the first will be last, and the last will be first. He also said we must become like little children to enter God’s kingdom. He told the powerful religious leaders of his day that “sinners” were getting into heaven before them, and he said that what we do to the least and lowest we do to God. In every way Jesus pointed to the outcast, the lowest, the last, the worst and said they were first in God’s view. What he was saying was that our power-pyramid was upside down to his. Jesus was saying that the most powerless were in the best position to take hold of God’s power because they already understood powerlessness in the world’s power system. To be first in God’s power we must become last in the power of the world, because they are opposite and opposing systems of power. We cannot get into the flow of God’s giving power when we are living in the flow of our taking power. We cannot take God’s power. It can only be given, and only to those who seek it in that way. When we come to God demanding, earning, thinking we have some kind of leverage over God to get him/her to do what we want, for our own benefit, then we miss the whole picture of who God is, and what God is trying to do. Jesus once said whatever we ask in God’s name and will, He will do for us. Many have tried to unlock the secret of this asking, not understanding the true nature of God and his/her power. It is a power that can only be unlocked as we begin to understand that the power of God is the giving flow of love. When I ask God for something in contradiction to that giving flow, I am asking God to be something other than what God is, and to do something other than what God is doing. A God who is for the good of everyone will never do anything that is good for some, and bad for others. When most of what we ask God for is only good for us, we do not get most of what we ask God for. God’s will is to draw all things together into Divine love. God’s desire is for all things to thrive, to be loved, to have the space of dignity and value. All things. Not just all people. When we ask God for things which may benefit us, or our group, but will harm others, we will be sorely disappointed. And yet, time and time again we do not understand just how self-centered we are in our asking, and how much our asking is actually harmful to the world at large. God is not interested in promoting our petty self-interest at the cost of others. God is not about to deface the entire planet so we can feel comfortable and affirmed in our ego needs. A God who is for all things will only do what is good for all things, for all people, for the earth, for the entire cosmos. That is a big picture to balance, when it comes to our tiny little needs. The secret to asking in the name and will of God is to understand the difference between power-over and power-with, and to understand that we are all called to live for the good of all, not just the good of ourselves and our own little world. Thank goodness God does not answer our petty prayers for personal advancement at the cost of the entire world. And thank goodness God does not bend to the powerful elite who would only use that power to oppress the world even more. God does not bend to anyone, but humbly seeks to walk with those who humbly seek to walk with him/her, because those are the ones who understand the upside-down power of God. It is the lowly, the small, the vulnerable, the kind, the loving, the big hearted, those who seem the most powerless who are poised to become the most powerful in God’s upside-down pyramid of power. Those are the ones who understand best God’s desire for all things to thrive and live in the harmony of love.
Why is the world evil? The sad reality is that most of humanity has adopted the wrong power structure, and has helped create a world in opposition to what God intended. Many have even used the idea of God to enforce that power structure, claiming that God is for them and not for others. Any religion which divides between the insider and the outcast is actually placing itself outside of God, because God is for the outsider. God is for the ones who understand that love is a giving flow which cannot be bought, sold, earned, or controlled. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble, because no one can enter into the power of God until they surrender their own. It is in surrendering our attempt to be powerful, to have power over others, that we learn how to become powerful for the sake of others. This is the essence of justice. Justice is not taking power away from some only to give it to others. Justice is not simply flipping the power of the current power structure to create new oppressors and newly oppressed. It is not bringing the powerful down and raising the powerless up. That would merely keep the same bad cycle going. Justice is bringing everyone into an entirely different power structure where everyone has the same power, and no one is left behind. That is the power structure God has established, and why we miss it so much of the time. Most of the time, we are asking God to give us power over others. We are asking God to act within the wrong power structure, to promote us and put others down. God will never do that. God will never play favorites. God loves everyone, and everything. Everything God creates is good. When we are able to step into a space where we can also lean in and live in that reality, then we can begin to see and work towards a world where everyone is loved, and everything belongs. The world is evil because God is love, and is attempting to draw all things back into that love. Love is not punitive, but corrective, as it seeks to draw all things back into that love. That means that God is for the oppressed and the oppressor, the weak and the strong, the lowest and the highest, because in God’s view we are all oppressed, weak and low when we are caught up in the devastation of the power-over pyramid. God does not see the rich, powerful, elite as the big guys, and the bum on the street as the lowest. God does not value things as we do. God values everything in its proper place. We all have different abilities, and we’ve all been given a different path to walk, but we all have the same place of prominence in the world of God’s making. God knows how to balance the value of all things. God knows how to create a space big enough for all our differences, because God made us all to be different, and yet still unified under the only umbrella big enough to encompass all things. There is no competition in God’s view. Only as we step out of that competitive system can we step into the place God has created for each of us. God never offers up a path we must compete for, or power we must take from others. What kind of cruel God would that be? Injustice is what happens when we step out of that paradigm, and into a world where all is taken by us, instead of being given by God. Injustice is the gap between the world we have made, and the world God desires. In God’s world, no one is unimportant, no one gets left behind. In God’s world everyone is empowered by love.
Love is a giving power. Love can only be gained when we stop trying to get it, and let it flow to us. Love is also a passive power. It is not abusive, controlling, manipulative, or self-seeking. Love flows to us, but never forces its way in. Love waits outside the door, knocking gently, calling, crying, desperate to get in, yet never pushing or forcing its way in. Love comes in by invitation only. Anything else is not love. We must learn to flip the power paradigm we’ve grown up in, if we are to step into this kind of love. We must stop thinking God plays the same power games we do. If God is love, and God is good, then God is a subtle energy in the universe, quietly flowing to only those quiet enough to receive it. To receive this love, we must learn to stop pushing, shouting, and screaming for our way and give in to the way of love. Love seeks the good of all. Anything less is not truly good. Love never seeks the good of some. Love never desires to leave anyone out the cold. A God big enough to love everyone is a God much bigger than our petty self-interest and tribal group belonging. This is a God who loves the Atheist the same as the Theist. Who loves Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Capitalist, Socialists, Homosexuals, and Heterosexuals all the same, and never favors one individual or group over another. That is a God we can hardly accept in the game of trying to prove we are better, and our group is the best. It is only in accepting that we all are in the same sorry state, playing the wrong power game, that we can even being to step into that kind of love. It is a love that requires nothing more than being loved. But that can be a hard sell in a world where nothing is free, where everything we get is earned in competition with our neighbor. It can be hard to see that injustice is simply the result of loving myself more than my neighbor, a distorted love which actually necessitates hating my neighbor for having more than me. Love seeks the good of the other, even at the cost of myself. A God of love gives to us without requirement, and knows that love itself is all the change we need to become all we were meant to be. This kind of love transforms us by that giving flow into the flow of that same giving. As the hippie prophet John Lennon once said, “Love is all you need,” and the band Blessid Union of Souls once sang, “I believe Love is the answer.” Love is the answer to injustice, a love big enough to encompass us all. A love big enough that we can call it by the name “God.”
God is not evil. We are not evil. The only evil in the world is a system which trades the power we have for a power we are trying to get, which only robs us of our power. To step out of that power-over system we must die to that idea of power and be resurrected into a new way of being. It can feel pretty awful at first. That’s why it’s described as a death, burial, and resurrection. At first, it will feel like losing everything, but It is only losing everything in a system that has already taken everything from us. But I don’t think we’ll even be able to understand that until we do it. This is the way of Jesus, and the way of love. To give up our place in the wrong power system, and to begin learning what our true power is like within the context of love. To start learning how to love all things, and make space for all things. This is what the deeply spiritual call mystical union, what my spiritual teacher Richard Rohr calls unitive consciousness. There is a flow to life which draws us into a space where we can begin to see how everything belongs, and live in a way that gives space for everything. But getting to that space takes a long journey, and a lot of surrender. It takes giving up every ounce of power we have or could have in the wrong power system and becoming, for a time, as nothing, like a helpless little child. This is the way of life that Jesus taught, and lived. It is the way of life that he died for, going to the extreme to reveal the contrast between God’s power and the world apart from God. He let that wrong power structure kill him, resisting even unto death the urge to participate in it. When he was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, and his followers tried to defend him with swords, he rebuked them and said, “If I wanted, I could call legions of angles to defend me.” Jesus was saying, “I could play that power game, and win, but I won’t, because that would actually be losing.” Jesus calls us to that same sacrifice too. It’s a hard invitation. But it’s also the only way we’ll get to anything better than what we currently have. Can you imagine a world where we are all working for the good of the whole, where no one is left behind, abused, oppressed, starving, poor, or needy? The only thing standing in the way of that is us. We can’t wait for someone else to show the way. We must show the way. We must do it first. Can we? Can we work our way back out of this mess, and back into the place of love? Only time will tell. But I will do it, and keep doing it, even if no one else will. I hope you will do that too, even when you don’t see anyone else doing it either. That’s how the world will change. And even if it doesn’t, we can know that we did our part, and lived a life of love.