How Big is Your God?
As mentioned countless times, the purpose of this blog is to start a conversation about living, about finding ways to be humanitarians in our daily actions, about living that which we profess to believe. I don’t expect everyone to be in total agreement with what they read here and I welcome your comments and questions. One reader asked why I have spent the entire months of August on the names of the one deity known as the God or Lord of the three Abrahamic faiths of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
Since the last full week of May, we have been discussing the mythologies of mankind. Most have their beginning and purpose in explaining the creation of all we see and of which we know. We began with the really old ones, the stories of the Norse gods and goddesses, the Celtic nature spirits and that led us to the Greek and Roman mythologies.
We will, in September, return to antiquity and discuss the spiritualities and mythologies of Egypt and India. In October we will cross the globe to Africa and then to the Far East. We will have a conversation about the beliefs that are probably some of the oldest organized mythologies about the spirits that we have, those of China and Japan. In November we will go “down under” to Australia and then finish with the South Pacific Islands and finally, the Americas.
All of these stories have commonalities, just as all of mankind has commonalities. I opted to not take these stories in a timeline because…well, quite honestly, we cannot be completely assured of their timing. There are crossovers in stories that have appeared in different parts of the globe at about the same time and yet, it would have been impossible for these cultures to “share” their legends and beliefs.
I will leave it to the archaeologists and anthropologists to explains, discover, and verify the timing of these stories. I would rather burrow under their existence into their meaning and how they can relate to us. I believe they still have impact and, if Hollywood is any indication, so do many others. These myths, these stories that we often scoff at in their incredulity, still entertain and make us think.
While the Greeks and Romans shared many of their deities, changing only the names, it is the one deity of the monotheistic credos of the Abrahamic faiths that had the most names. We will, by the end of August, have discussed over eighty-five names for this god, this spirit that boasts more followers than any other known to mankind. We should not discount the important of what we believe. It has been the basis for wars, the founding of nations, and even the horrors of ethnic cleansing. The Greek and Roman mythologies gave rise to the monotheistic deity and so, I believe it worthy of our conversation.
My question to you today is this: How big is your deity, if you believe in the one God of the Abrahamic faiths? An adjective often associated with these religions and this deity is “majesty”. With the spread of the Roman Empire across Europe came the advent of five languages known as the Romance Languages. English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Romanian have given the world some if not most of the words that are most commonly used today and are usually listed as the five Romance Languages. However, in older times, these five Romance Languages were known to be Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Romanian.
In reality, there are over twenty-three languages or dialects that can trace their origin to the language of the common man who lived in the Roman Empire. These include Portuguese, Galician, Mirandese, Asturian-Leonese, Spanish, Aragonese, Catalan, Occitan, French, Franco-Provencal, Romansh, Ladin, Friulian, Venetian, Corsican, Italian, Neapolitan, Sicilian, Sardinian, Dalmatian, Daco-Romanian, Istro-Romanian, Aromanian, and Megleno-Romanian.
Romance in the name Romance Language has nothing to do with that warm, fuzzy feeling of affection and/or love, in this instance. It refers to the Roman language spoken rather than the Latin language of the scholars and religious leaders. Most of us live in areas that have their own slang. This was also true in ancient times and the Roman people usually spoke Roman rather than the more scholarly Latin. As the Roman Empire spread, so did the slang of its people, which in turn gave rise to the Romance Langauges.
The word “majesty” is a great example of how mankind evolved and appeared different while being much the same. Majesty is an English word with its roots in the French word “majeste” which meant grandeur or nobility. The French word evolved from the Latin “maiestaten” or “maiestas” with the letter “I” evolving into the letter “j”. The Latin words all referred to greatness, dignity, honor, excellence, or…elevation, not of actually standing on top of a mountain but having achieved a higher status than others. An even older Latin word is that root of not only majesty but also the modern word “major”, both originating in the old Latin word “maior”, a close cousin to the Latin “magnus”.
This leads us to our question for today: How big is your God? All three Abrahamic faiths were in agreement in believing their deity was to be revered, was holy. They also believed this deity was the highest ruler of all, the king of mankind and those who believed. Hence, we have two names reflecting these postulated ideals: “Elohim Kedoshim”, the holy God; “Eli Maelekhi”, God my king. Another name revealed the immortality of this deity, “Elohenu Olam”, the everlasting god.
I do not go into great detail with the names Islam had and has because Muslim prefer those not of their faith do not fully understand it and while I have read the Qur’an in English, I have not read it in its original Arabic and agree that some things have probably gotten lost. I also do not wish to disrespect. I am also not fully translating the history behind the Hebrew names because, like many languages, it also evolved and changed based upon the period of history and the dialects. As an English speaker, I am more comfortable with the etymologies of the English words, having studied both Latin and Greek. I also am varying the capitalization of the names of this deity based upon personal and/or interactive natures of the names.
It is much like what happens when someone goes to a cake tasting in preparation for a large event or wedding. The caterer or baker will list the available varieties of cakes in a long list with none of the options capitalized. As the list is narrowed down to favorites, though, preferences become apparent and names of the most favored are often capitalized. Those favored few remaining have a personal connection. Rather than just being a dessert, they become personal, a part of a very important event. In other words, a carrot cake with cream cheese icing might be delicious but the spice cake with raspberry filling and a French vanilla bean icing, the cake known as the Harvest Delight…well, that one will be capitalized. (And no, the spice cake is not my favorite. That would be the Romantic Red Velvet, although honestly, I am not that big on sweets, preferring grapes and cheese.)
Back to our question: How big is your god? Is your god majestic and everlasting? Do you honor his/her holiness by your actions? Tell someone you write a blog that might be considered religious and, trust me, they will usually take several steps back and roll their eyes. Tell them you write a blog about embracing life with the occasional recipe thrown in and – wham, you have their attention!
Religion is seen by many people are a tinder box and sure path to disagreement. It is blamed for many evils wrought by mankind. While some are more attributable to mankind’s personal greed, many have been committed under the guise of being faithful. So….How big is your God that you must commit acts of atrocities rather than acts of kindness and charity?
The truth is, I am not going to fight anyone over their choice of cake. I know what I like. I am secure in my decision to like Red Velvet Cake and dislike coconut cream cake. And yes, I capitalized my favorite because I think of it as important while the other, the coconut cake, has no connection with me. First of all, I am allergic to coconut but also, I prefer my icing smooth and coconut cake has coconut icing which is, by definition, flaky. My appetite for cake may not be that big but my preference is strong enough to allow others to have their own choices.
My God, the personal deity of my own faith is very big, as is my faith. My convictions are strong enough, believe deeply enough, to have a really big God. I am not bothered by people who don’t look just like me, wear the same clothes as I do, or even speak like I do because my God is a really big God. His virtual arms can hug us all. I am not bothered by people calling this one deity by another name, different than what I use, because, my Lord has been around for a really long time. I prefer they speak with respect, but…respect is what this blog is really about, the purpose of our conversations.
It is a really big world out there. Just try walking from one continent to another if you don’t believe me. It is an even bigger universe, known and unknown. Is you belief strong enough to allow others the right to be themselves? To explore their potential? To live in peace? What you do today, how you treat others, and how you leave where you have walked will answer the question: How big is your God?