Mysticism put me in touch with God, that golden thread running roughshod through the energy of the cosmos.
Theology didn’t do that.
Theology isn’t the study of God, but rather the unveiling of gods.
And what are our gods? You know them. We bow to them daily.
A popular god is money. Mammon, if you want to use an older term. It invites you to cherish it, promising you fulfillment, but then continually moves the goalpost. This god is insatiable, delightful, and cruel.
Another popular god is conformity. Most churches are built around this god. Oh, sure, the cross may be front and center, but if you look past the cross to the people in the pew you’ll see their clean shoes and spotless teeth, a thin lacquer covering rotting insides intending to keep up with the Jones’s. You know quickly if you don’t fit in here because you’ll sit in the wrong pew, suggest the wrong hymn at the hymn-sing, clap to that one song, or bring your boyfriend to church and suffer the stares when he doesn’t fit in (and, now, neither do you).
Nationalism is a popular god. American-Christians (in that order) are found in every congregation. They complain when you don’t play a patriotic hymn on the Sunday closest to the 4th of July, or when you don’t adequately honor 9/11 somehow. They’re not interested in singing a song in Spanish, but will insist on having Veterans stand up on Veterans Day.
Community is a god. A benevolent god, usually, but a god nonetheless. Community is a god who takes care of the flock, but doesn’t really like any feathers to ruffle in the nest. Community will encourage people to bow, especially when they have a controversial idea. Community will send you a casserole if you’re sick, but sometimes will question in hushed voices what you did to deserve the illness. Community tries to love the followers, but often can’t meet all the needs, and so people will worship for a while, and then stop, if this is their god.
Right Answers is such a popular god that everyone has their own depiction of it! People usually worship this god in quiet, assuming that everyone else is worshiping this god, too. Until you show that your depiction isn’t the same as theirs, and then they take their god and leave. People who pride themsleves as “free thinkers” usually are strong adherents to this god, and you’ll know it because, well, they’ll tell you about it…
Some people think Science is a popular god, but Science is not a very good god because Science changes its mind as it gets more details. This frustrates humans, because they like their gods to be largely immutable (and also largely mute). When people say their god is Science, what they’re usually referring to is Right Answers (see above). Interestingly enough, people who trust Science usually don’t equate it as being a god at all because, well, as I said, science doesn’t really work like that.
The Bible is a very popular god, especially among Christians. But it is a god of mixed-messages, and so is not very reliable when it comes to rule-making and order. Plus, no one can really agree on what the Bible is or says, so really anyone who bows to this God bows to a tailored version of their own preferences, and that quickly becomes the god of Right Answers (see above).
I know we talk about God as a who, but really we need to talk honestly about gods with the word “what.”
Theology is not the study of God, but of gods, and how we worship them. Theology exposed me to what god, is.
And, oddly, those who trust their faith is the purest are usually the most pantheistic.
Feel free to add a god that you know…there are thousands.