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Reclaiming the Word God



“Some would deny any legitimate use of the word God because it has been misused so much. Certainly it is the most burdened of all human words.” --Martin Buber (1878-1965)Austrian-born Jewish philosopher

About a year ago, one of my clients who is a well-established author suggested I hire her friend, an editor, to go through my book. I trusted her opinion, so I did. And I paid this editor a lot of money. Too much money.

She received the manuscript in Wednesday’s mail and called Thursday to tell me she was done. I hung up the phone and stared into space for a moment. Something's wrong. I’m not that good of a writer.

I got the edits back and the only thing she did was delete every reference to A Course in Miracles and cross out each use of the word God and replace it with heart. The only time I use the word heart is if I’m singing a Blondie song. I don’t talk like that. But I do use the word God.

She didn’t ask if it was important for me, as a writer, or for the book, to use the word God. It was. And she didn’t question whether the Course references were pertinent to my message. They were. Her mighty red pen decided it wasn’t and they weren’t.

God seems to be such a dirty word these days. In the least, it’s totally uncool. The word’s been usurped by less loaded new-agey terms like Higher Self, All-That-Is, Source, Universe, Goddess. I hear it, or rather don’t hear it, everyday in my practice. Everyone’s tiptoeing around it. No one dares utter the word God lest they be pigeonholed a religious zealot.

Somewhere along the way religion monopolized God. I don’t mean their idea of God, they can have that—no one else really wants it. I’m talking about the word God. They took it and we all let them have it. Well, not anymore. I’m here to take it back.

Atheists aside, I understand why my friends and clients shiver at the word God. It reminds them of traditional God-fearing religion or of their past church-going experiences. They’ve moved on and evolved, and now they want a word that reflects their newfound understanding of a more compassionate universe rather than some vengeful, anthropomorphic version of a Creator-Man. I get that.

You may recall from a previous post that I grew up a Transcendental Meditator. My parents shunned traditional religion. God was not a word used in our household. Ever. Not once. Unless you count “goddammit.” That was used. I'm not saying anyone needs to reintroduce the term Godback into their vocabulary. They can still use Higher Power. But the truth is, if we're not at peace with the word, we're not at peace within ourselves. It isn't the word God that repulses us, it's our past associations and unhealed wounds that flare up by its usage. That's what really bothers us.

The etymology of God is the Sanskrit word hu, which means to invoke. Buckminster Fuller was pretty right on when he said, "God is a verb." But this isn't about redefining God. God is. God always has been—before the concept of religion and after religion. There is a line in A Course in Miracles that says, “We say ‘ God is’ and then we cease to speak.” There’s nothing left to say. You try to define it and you’ve lost it.

Religion redefined God. They shoved God into a concept that doesn’t make sense to most thinking people. They’re the ones that should have to come up with a whole new vocabulary (Wrathful One. Father of Sinners. Damnator. Jealous Lover.) not those of us who see God for what God is: A source of unconditional love. And, in fact, a very lovely word. It is, after all, dog spelled backward.