Surely the Lord is in This Place

Although this isn’t a doctrinal post, it is a theological one. I’d like to say it makes a rather pedestrian point, but its thrust isn’t as widespread as I’d like it to be. In any event, you’ve been warned.

I do not possess a super power, but I do have a smattering of knacks. And one thing I’m occasionally able to do is sense holy energy. Look. Maybe you can too. This sensitivity isn’t all that unusual. People go into a church, say, and they feel sort of buzzy weight to the air. Sometimes it’s strong enough to be slightly less pleasant than they’d expect. I don’t feel this sort of thing in every church; in fact, I don’t feel it in places I regularly visit—which makes me think some of this sensitivity gets muddled by anticipation. And speaking of that: the most interesting—and perhaps most ratifying—thing about this energy is that it appears in places I don’t expect. As a Christian, I wasn’t so surprised when I found it in a Catholic chapel in San Diego. But I was entirely confused when I found it in an Asian antique store in downtown St. Pete. There I was, looking at the carp carvings and snuff bottles, and I was like, “that’s funny—and really strong.” And it wasn’t until I later talked to my mother that I learned how the store displays pieces from temples all over China and India. I am not Buddhist. I am not Hindu or Confucian. But there I was. And it was there too.

So. Although my sense of grace has always left me irritated with those dogmatic folks who warn that salvation is their way or the hot-hell highway, my experience leaves me better armed than with just my intuition. Holy energy would not exist among people who are damned, or even ignored. It certainly wouldn’t linger on their artifacts. Dogmatic preachers will quote the Bible verse about nobody reaching salvation except through the being we call Christ, and I’m left asking how we possibly have the ability to recognize that being whenever it appears in any form that is even slightly different than what we might expect. It’s not like we did so hot the first time.

Last night, James mentioned how all religious history freights itself with the error of making divinity smaller than it is—by making it less expansive. Karl Barth once said that we have no right to remove universal salvation either from God’s will or her capabilities. I just have my experiences in the temples and the artifact rooms, in the house of the reiki therapist who prays over her clients. And I’ve lately come to the conclusion that if a theology doesn’t resonate in the human soul as something truly good, its thinking is probably wrong. As extremists become more certain of themselves, I believe it’s important to say that dogma frequently constrains the very truth it once endeavored to portray. Experience refutes bad teaching. It removes what you know (savoir) about divinity and puts you in the state of knowing (connaitre) divinity itself. And really, all this is to say that if you find yourself on holy ground, you best take off your sandals–even if you don’t feel comfortable with what you’re standing on.

(Originally posted September 21, 2016)

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