This Fall 2013 semester I find myself teaching a group of Improving Writing students who are adamant about God’s existence. Students refer to God as “He.” They seem to believe “He” lives in the sky–in heaven. And although I haven’t asked them yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if they imagine God a white man . . . with dirty blonde hair, blue eyes, and doves flying around “His” head–maybe even a glowing halo. I’m not trippin’ though. That’s the God I use to know. “He’s” the God I prayed to at night–when I use to get down on my knees in prayer. (I haven’t done that in 11 years though–since my father passed. I prayed to God to give me the strength to accept “His” will.) But that God I use to gaze at every Sunday morning on my church walls was white–white skin, white gown, white cherubs. But I see God so differently now–and I think only because I was reared to believe in God is my mind still attached to God’s existence–in the institutionalized ideology of God’s being. I mean, I know there is a higher power–& maybe that power’s name is God. But since reading Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Sue Monk Kidd’s Dance of the Dissident Daughter, along with various texts by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chödrön, I prefer to call God “Universe” or “Love.” Such renaming allows me to detach from the idea that God is outside of me, that God is a white man–a member of a group of people who have historically enslaved, dehumanized, and degraded African American people–and that God is some power I will meet only after I die.
But my students think I don’t believe in “God,” cause I don’t believe in their “God.” And ohhhmyyyyyGOD, they become judgmental about my disbelief. Lol. But isn’t that what happens when human beings get attached to certain ideas? If others don’t prescribe to particular beliefs, they are “othered” and pushed to the margins. Blackballed. Blacklisted. Blacksheeped.
In The Color Purple, Shug Avery (the blacksheep character, of sorts) taught Celie to see God beyond her image of a white man. Shug told Celie that God is everywhere–in the trees, in the gardens, in love making. She taught Celie that we are not separate from God or each other, human and non-human. If a tree gets cut, her arm will bleed, she says. Shug claims that God lives inside of us and that we manifest God in our ability to create, to love, to forgive, and to understand ourselves and each other. How awesome is that? Isn’t that God–which Shug calls “It”–actually ALL mighty? ALL knowing? ALL powerful?