Monday, July 30, 2018

Furniture of God

Monday morning, having coffee outside on my little porch again, sitting on my new comfy chair with my new beautiful bee-&-ginko handmade mug. 

After years of not using this porch much, I realize having the right furniture makes all the difference.

I've been thinking about how we have furniture in our minds, and how much that influences how we see & interact with the world.

I'm thinking a lot about this because I work with people who have very, very different mind-furniture than I do.

Dramatic example from a couple days ago:

Twice a week, I share my workspace with a coworker––I'll call him Larry––whose section is tucked behind mine.

(Sidenote: speaking of furniture--the work flow of this space is about as awkward as you could get. I can't see anyway to rearrange it that doesn't involve moving tons of heavy things--so we just work around it.)

I like Larry--he cares about people and isn't shy about speaking up for what he thinks is right. When a coworker made a [mildly] homophobic comment, for instance, Larry told him he was wrong.

We're about the same age, but our lives have been polar opposites (as is the case with me and most of my coworkers.)

Larry's a poor, black guy from the Chicago who got his GED in prison just a few years ago. Normally we chat together pretty easily--partly because, unlike most of my coworkers, Larry takes an interest in people and asks them questions.

The other day he asked me if I believe in God.

Like most of my coworkers, Larry is a Christian––grew up Baptist, he told me––so I hesitated to go into my song and dance about being a culturally Catholic Humanist who "believes" the stories of religion contain truths, but doesn't believe in God.

I wanted to find some shared furniture to hold my answer.

Like, I thought, the Bible.

So I said, "In my way... I like what Jesus said: 'He who dwells in love dwells in God, for God is love'."

"That's bullshit!" Larry said.

I was stunned. "What?" I said. "JESUS said that."

"But do you go to CHURCH? Do you worship God?"

"No," I said. "Jesus didn't say, go to church."

Larry thought a moment. "There wasn't church then. You had to wait a while."

I laughed.
Worlds collide.

"But you don't go to church, Larry."

"No, but I'm a hypocrite," he said.

The furniture, having entirely deflated by this point, lay silently on the floor.

And––ha!––it turns out my furniture has wobbly legs. I just looked up that Bible passage, and Jesus didn't say it--John did, at 1 John 4:16.
I guess Larry doesn't know his scripture all that well either.

But another favorite passage I often quote, Jesus did say, at John 13:34 (reported by the same John who wrote "God is Love") :

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
And, in Mark 12:30, Jesus said, 
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”"

Jesus gives his stamp of approval to his questioner adding, "to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

I'm not going to get into a debate about this with Larry, but I like figuring this out and I wanted to get my mind-furniture in line.
I am confident that I can rest on this:

Jesus does [basically] say that loving one another trumps going to church.

And I'd add that it's harder to practice love than to go to church. Larry might not agree, but I think he's a better Christian because he speaks up for others than if he went to church every day.


gz said...

good for Larry. We all need people who care,whatever or whoever they believe in.
Nice Mug!

ArtSparker said...

I feel deeply uncomfortable with the
concept of worship - I don't see what it's FOR maybe. Is Humanism like just getting on with things? On the other hand, humans in general seem a little more full of themselves than is currently justified.

Frex said...

GZ: Yep, we need people who care!
I found Potter Miller, who made that mug, through your site, you know!

SPARKER: You bring up a good point: worship CAN work to give humans a sense of their relative importance/size: we are not in charge, we are not the be all and end all (not "god").
(One wishes some inflated egos would practice worshiping something other than themselves.)

Humanism as I understand it is more active than "just getting on with things"--
It's more like ... well, as Steven Pinker says, it's about recognizing that entropy is going to win in the end, but we can take reasonable steps to ameliorate its effects along the way.

Humanists might say, for instance,
"Well, tooth decay may be inevitable, but lets choose to study how it works and what we might do to prevent and treat it."