A response to CRIB (Christian Response to Islam in Britain) – Do Muslims and Christians worship the same god?
When I was a child, God was in the angels that sang in carols of the birth of a child at Christmas; God was in the arms of Mary surrounding all life with love; God was in the candles my mother would fill the house with light with on Christmas Eve; God was in the spirit of giving of a Santa Claus that ensured all children everywhere were cared for and loved. God was in the magic of waking up to a midnight snowfall, in the tiny crystalline flakes and the lacey patterns on frosted panes of glass.
God was in the daffodils and crocus that erupted from the dark earth in Spring, in the loving eyes of a Jesus ready to die on the cross at the hands of ordinary people who didn’t understand the love he offered. God was in the gentle rabbit that hid eggs under tufts of grass and flowers in our garden at Easter. God was in the sunshine and clouds that floated gently across the sky in summer, in the thunder rolling across the plains and lightening that crackled around the house in August, bringing welcome rain to dry fields and mountain forests.
God was in my mother’s touch, when she warmed flannels with Vick’s vaporub to clear a chesty cough, in the love of books and music and art that she instilled me, in her love for my father. And God was in my father’s pride in my doing well in school, in my song, in my painting.
When I was a child God was in my Christian fifth grade teacher, Mrs Conyers, telling us about her Buddhist friend who believe that God sent prophets to every nation on earth, to tell of God’s love for us all in the best way the people of those nations are able to understand.
When I was a child, God was love, God was beauty, God was compassion for the poor and wounded, God was gentle and kind.
And God was God.
When I got older, God was in the child running away from napalm attack in Vietnam, God was in the freedom marches of Martin Luther King and the words of Malcom X and with Native Americans taking their stand at Wounded Knee; God was in the brave hearts of all who gave their lives for the sake of peace, for the sake of justice, for the sake of Love of one another. God was in the flight of the eagle, in the majesty of mountains, and in the eyes and touch of the one I loved.
And God was God.
At one point in my life God found new names. God became Allah, and Khoda, and Rahman and Raheem. I discovered God had many names, one hundred names in Arabic and myriad names in other languages.
And still, God was God.
I worshipped God in study. I worshipped God in service to others. I worshipped God in a voice that called for justice for the vulnerable. I worshipped God when standing. I worshipped God when bowing. I worshipped God when prostrating with my forehead on the ground. I worshipped God when fasting. I still worship God when standing, when bowing, when prostrating with my forehead on the ground, when fasting.
God remained God. God was God.
And when my children were born – God was all over the faces of my children, in their eyes, in their voices, in their running and playing and laughing and in their crying – crying that demanded the care of their mother and of their father and of humanity and of God.
And when the man who should have protected and cherished me turned, and when I witnessed war, and homelessness, and hunger, and when I watched the suffering of my children – God was in my anger. God was in my anger at God. God was in the bleakness of abandonment, holding steady until I could stop screaming and listen for the still and small and loving voice of God at the heart of my anger. And God lent strength and courage and forbearance through the faces and eyes and hearts and song of my children,
and my family,
and my friends.
And God kept me alive through them and with them and in them.
And God was God. God was always God.
And when I remembered the Jesus of the cross, put there because we didn’t understand his love – God was still God. And God understood my pain and my anger and my insides desiccated by life because God died on the cross that I might know he knows me.
And God was God. And I knew God better. But God was still God, the always God, the only God. There was no other God. There was never any other God.
And I shared my life with people of God, with lovers of God, with those who had different names for God, with those who understood God differently – but God was still the always God. There was no other God. There was never any other God.
Until one day someone asked me whether they worshipped another God, those who knew God by another name. And I didn’t understand what they were talking about. Why do they ask this question? Why do they say there is another God, when God is only God, no other God.