Garth Rattray | Leave me out of ‘heaven’ if ...
Spirituality and religiosity don't necessarily coincide. Someone can love God, believe in a spiritual life after physical death, and not adhere to any discipline of worship (religion). On the other hand, a number of religious people appear to be far from spiritual. Some focus on the philosophy and ceremony of their religion, forgetting that kind thoughts, humility and placidity invite the Spirit of God to dwell within them.
Some people don't realise that being religious and worshipping in groups only provide a road map that points a way to the beginning of the path that leads to the spiritual place from which we can glimpse the Pearly Gates. Being religious does not ensure eternal peace.
The preoccupation with fundamental religiosity has produced single-minded, extremist fanatics who have besieged the entire world. They misinterpret their religion's values and teachings and end up committing violent acts in the name of their cause. This is nothing new; religious people have been persecuting and slaughtering others deemed to be non-believers for centuries.
Their fervour is fuelled by their staunch belief that their oxymoronic holy war is the will of the Almighty and that their (murderous) deeds assure them a place in heaven. I don't know which heaven those misguided zealots are going to, but I don't want to be there with them. If that's heaven, leave me out of it; my God must have another place for me.
Then, there are innumerable Christians who eschew violence but are staunchly intolerant of other religious beliefs, and even of those within their denomination who hold variant opinions on certain matters. They are steeped in their faith and, therefore, feel assured of a place in heaven.
Some burrow into the study of Judaeo-Christianity. They guard their interpretations jealously and defend their opinions so arrogantly that their actions run contrary to the very teachings that they are supposed to hold dear. They become so sure of their righteousness that they are completely filled up. I often wonder how much room is left for the Holy Spirit.
But then again, a friend of mine recently scolded me for being judgemental. Only God knows their soul, but, from my vantage point, religious though they may be, things don't look good for them spiritually. I'm genuinely confused by the behaviour of such individuals because I can't imagine that they are emulating our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that, although God is obviously pure spirit, we refer to Him as 'Father'. We attribute purely male characteristics to God. I further opined that, whereas that was probably necessary at that time when 'modern religion' was evolving, doing so has unintentionally relegated females to a position of subordination.
Besides, God should not be confined to any gender. In fact, the creative and nurturing aspects of God seem very feminine. I expressed that acknowledging the feminine manifestations of God would bode well for all women.
TRESPASSING ON THEOLOGY
I received many emails expressing gratitude and even one from a theologian who lectures in a seminary. He was elated about the piece and announced his plans to discuss it with his students. Females were happy that someone saw it fit to use the media to highlight the need to view God as genderless or else attribute both male and female characteristics to the Almighty.
However, an online Gleaner blog was posted sternly, reprimanding me and suggesting that I was trespassing on theology. Obviously, the blogger didn't read the piece properly. He claimed that I asserted that God is male when, in fact, I emphasised that God is pure spirit but we assign masculine attributes. He closed with, "The good doctor owes it to his readers to bone up on the subject." I'm still trying to fathom the reason for his unnecessary and very un-Christian rant.
If that's the kind of thinking that gets someone into paradise, surely our Heavenly Father or Mother will provide someplace else in His or Her Kingdom for His or Her regular, ordinary, untutored children who love Him or Her and their brothers and sisters.
• Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice.