God votes for democracy

Recently I won Best Original Column for weekly newspapers in the Illinois Press Association contest. It was my fifth win (but who’s counting?). The judges decide based on three submissions. To celebrate, as I have in the past, I’m reprinting one of the three. The other two were “Ten years later, little has changed” (marking the 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook School massacre) and “Good job not dying … and hopefully living.”

Watching the midterm elections unfold … in … super … slow … motion, it’s tempting to believe in divine intervention — if you voted Democratic. Defying projections and predictions, common sense and conventional wisdom. It has all seemed a little miraculous.

But I don’t believe god is a Democrat — or a Republican, Libertarian or Green.

I don’t believe in a god that takes sides.

I do believe god approves of democracy … and being green. Definitely being green.

I don’t believe god intervened in the 2022 elections, of course. I believe the American people intervened … and sent a message to the anti-democracy minority in this country.

I believe in small “d” democracy and a small “g” god, the small “g” an acknowledgment that my humble guess about god isn’t any more accurate than anyone else’s — believer or non-believer.

The god I can believe in is not locked in any faith’s bible, is not held hostage by theologians, is not a security blanket in a chaotic cosmos, is not the god that atheists don’t believe in.

The god I can believe in hides in the book of poems my eye is drawn to on my bookshelf, that practically leaps into my hand though I can’t quite remember how it got there, and opens to a poem that makes me question the meaning of the word “random,” a poem that suddenly opens its door as if it were awaiting me all these years.

The god I can believe in looks like the outline of leafless trees against the afterglow of a November sunset; lives in the moment before I realize it’s a moment, just before it is engraved forever in the soft stone of memory; lives in the metaphors that exceed our grasp (Browning) and beckon us to keep reaching.

The god I can believe in is alive in the “enormous littleness” of the ordinary (Patchen); in what draws the falcon to the dawn (Hopkins); is alive in the mysterious alchemy of meaning; in the tingle left behind by an idea that inspires; in what is wondrous, before we clothe it in ill-fitting words; in the contentment of companionship, the thirst that drives the search, the finding beyond the seeking; alive in leaves scattered in peaceful repose, aglow in the late fall twilight; alive in the order that undergirds disorder, in the calm following the storm, in the still life after the living, the origin of desire, the saga behind the siren in the night; alive in the landscape’s silent witness as a train glides beneath the stars; alive in the now/then/to be and the fine threads connecting all three; in everywhere and nowhere; in contradiction and benediction; in the soft steps above, where my ceiling is someone’s floor; in sympathy that salves the ache; in grace that follows loss; in sense that pursues the senseless; is alive in the endings that birth beginnings; in the love that is tested.

The god I can believe in cannot be tamed or contained, reckoned or recognized; cannot be owned or disowned, honored or dishonored, voted out or voted in, comprehended or apprehended, defined or refined; and can never be leashed, only unleashed.

The god I can believe in lives at the end of my rope, when I am most vulnerable and therefore most human.

The god I can believe in is more verb than noun, slips through my fingers when I try to hold on, can only be spied out of the corner of the soul’s eye, in the flutter of leaves as the trees let go, in the snow as it falls, but not after it has fallen.

The god I can believe in exists between the glance and the double-take, the glimmer and the afterthought.

The Nazarene knew it all along: god is yeast; god is living water.

The god I can believe in makes the living come to life.

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