Where, what, and who in the world is God? The cocoons of university and suburb yield quite different answers than the cacophonies of marketplace or colonia. My own most recent theological mentors have come from the colonia, not from academia.
Where in the world is God? Where the struggle for social justice takes place: there God is both at and on the side of suffering people. And where expressions of human love take place: there God is among people in both small and large communities of concern. Words shared and rituals celebrated in contexts of struggle and in communities of loving concern mediate God’s presence in life-affirming ways.
Yet God’s presence cannot be taken for granted. God’s absence is an awful possibility and a sometime actuality. Not only can God be silent; God can also be gone. Thus it is a mistake to attribute omnipresence to God.
What in the world is God? God’s reality is not static. God changes by virtue of decisions to create and to relate. Creators impart portions of themselves to their creations. God is no longer omnipotent in the sense of holding all power. God continues to relate to creation. Relaters become vulnerable, open to inevitable though not predictable change. People primarily, though other species and even the inanimate environment secondarily, have an impact on God’s becoming.
That God is endures, eternally. But what God is proceeds to emerge as God continues to create, to impart, to relate, to change. God’s ‘whatness’ is contingent and becoming, like our own. But, unlike our own, God’s ‘thatness’ is neither contingent nor finite.
Who in the world is God? God is one who plays favorites. God favors the poor and the powerless. God, while favoring the oppressed, does not thereby exclude the rest of us. But God is most clearly present to the rest of us through those who suffer, through their humanity, and even through their lack of humanity.
God is committed to love and justice. Because of God’s dedication to non-manipulative love, God will not coerce. And because of this disavowal of coercion, coupled with a voluntary dissemination of power, God cannot, by God’s self, establish justice. To paraphrase a presidential inaugural address, God’s work – the work of love and justice – must truly be our own if that work is to move forward in this world.
Where is God? God is a sometimes-present reality, here as an affirming presence insofar as we participate in communities of love and justice. What is God? God is an always-persisting reality whose perfection is change. Who is God? God is a currently partisan reality whose love of the poor is passionate and love of the rest of us is remarkably patient. For me, a Christian, the where, what, and who of God are epitomized and embodied most fully in Jesus the Christ. And for me, a Trinitarian, that incarnation of the where, what, and who of God is rendered contemporary, concrete, and comprehensible by the Spirit.
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