This divine life force is found again in a story in the Book of Ezekiel. The Jewish nation has been conquered, and its people have been carried off into a Babylonian exile, ending its life. Ezekiel, in a dream, sees his now-deceased nation as a valley filled with dead dry bones. The question is asked, "Will these bones ever live again?" Then, in the dream, God blows the wind over the mountain and into that valley until it touches the dry bones. At that moment, the toe bone gets connected to the foot bone, the foot bone to the ankle bone, the ankle bone to the leg bone until all those bones stand up and come to life again. The life we possess, our vitality itself, reflects the vital life of God, this narrative says. God is the source of life.
God, as wind, is seen once more in the Book of Acts where the gathered Christian community waits in the upper room. Suddenly, that room is filled with a mighty rushing wind that calls these Christians into an inclusive vision not limited by tribal identity. This new humanity cannot be bounded. The God who is the source of life, this story says, does not stop at human security barriers. That wind, rather, creates a new God image, a life force flowing through the universe, embracing Parthians, Medes, Elamites and dwellers in Mesopotamia. When human beings live fully, this God becomes visible and real.
The Epistle of John says that God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God. Love comes to consciousness in the human experience. Love makes life possible. Love creates wholeness. When love is shared, life is enhanced, but when hatred replaces love, life is diminished. An even keener insight emerges when we reverse those biblical words. For if we can say that God is love, then surely we can say that love is God. This biblical insight proclaims that love is what God is. We thus make God visible, not by receiving an external revelation from on high, but by the human act of loving wastefully.
Once again, this minority voice is saying that God is not an external, supernatural being, ruling over human history. God is rather the power of love, which flows through each of us, calling us to life, inviting us to step beyond whatever binds our humanity, even if it is the old images of God.
In the rubble of the World Trade Center, we see the results when lives are lived in hatred--but we also see lives willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of other people, opening to us the wonder and awe that comes when the love of God is seen in human form.
Finally, this minority voice in the Bible describes God as a cold, hard, lifeless, impersonal rock. "God is our rock," the psalmist says. "There is no rock like our God." In this image, once again, God is not a being, but the unwavering foundation under our feet. As the late Harvard theologian, Paul Tillich, would say, God is experienced as "the Ground of Being," when we "have the courage to be all that each of us can be."
This is the God I confront when the theistic images of the past crumble and fall apart amid the irrationalities of life, with its violence and pain. Neither we nor the theistic God can control our fate or make secure our fragile world. All we or the God within us can do is to grasp our moment and commit ourselves to live fully and thus reveal the Source of Life, to love wastefully and thus reveal the Source of Love, and to be all that we can be and thus reveal the Ground of Being. In that way, we enter, experience and reveal the reality of God. Here, we touch transcendence, welcome the emerging world, and by conscious act of our mature wills, we discover ourselves entering into the deepest mystery of both life and God.
The terrorist tragedy becomes an opportunity to step self-consciously beyond the God of yesterday, that promised us a protection theism has never been able to deliver. It calls us away from pious delusions. That is a frightening conclusion, but that is where we live.
The worship of this God, who is life, love and being, will never be a magic potion, which exists to keep us safe. It will, however, call us to move toward universalism, to move beyond the need to find acts of revenge that only expand the cycle of violence. It will build in us the commitment to live our lives in such a way as to create a new world in which everyone has a better chance to experience God by living fully, loving wastefully, and being all that they are capable of being in the infinite variety of the human family.
That is, in my opinion, the only way religious people can finally and appropriately respond to the madness of human life that occurred on Sept. ll.