Our heads in the sand and God in a box

We can no longer afford to live with our heads in the sand. Like the proverbial ostrich, we have as a society, by failing to deal with issues, wilfully let the status quo continue for far too long.

Whether it’s about issues of politics, the environment, or faith, we are lazy, distracted by our daily grind, overwhelmed by the scale of the problems, or just plain don’t care because it doesn’t immediately affect us.

If we don’t get involved in politics we will continue to be led by leaders who are either incompetent, corrupt, or both.

In the environmental sphere, unless we stop burning fossil fuels, curb deforestation, eradicate single-use plastic, and reduce the extent of exploitative agriculture, climate change, pollution and wildlife extinction, will continue to devastate our planet.

When it comes to our faith, we have to speak out and get involved. For too long, the clerical culture of the church has stifled growth, involvement and inclusion.

In some ways, the development of a comprehensive theology over the last 2000 years has helped us to more effectively understand God and our relationship with God. In other ways, however, it has committed what I view as one of the greatest heresies – it has put God in a box.

All of us do this subconsciously – it’s called our image of God, and this is necessary for us to visualise God, and therefore have a relationship with God. The problem comes when we don’t interrogate our image of God, and when we don’t realise the inherent inadequacies of ANY image of God.

No matter how large the box is, trying to contain (read: exhaustively define, constrain, etc.) an infinite, omnipotent God is at best misguided, and at the worst, actually manipulating religion’s influence over people to further one’s own ends, or to maintain power.

Less insidious, and more obviously morally indefensible examples of people putting God in a box are fairly common and can illustrate how ridiculous it is to attempt this. I.e. I’m racist so God must hate black people, I believe women are inferior so God must have created them this way.

People who are racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic and/or bigoted, often attribute their same worldview to their God.

“Faith minus vulnerability and mystery equals extremism…” (Brené Brown) struck me as pertinent. Our limited human brains cannot comprehend enough of God to be certain of anything, therefore certainty (or lack of mystery) is by definition impossible. Proclaiming certainty could, therefore, be considered heretical. Furthermore, the hierarchy’s terror of vulnerability was clearly exposed by the sex-abuse and cover-up scandal.

We need to take a long hard look at our perceptions of, and involvement in, politics, environmental issues, and our church. We will never be able to do this if our heads are still buried in the sand.

Mr Francis Tuson

Francis John Tuson grew up in Johannesburg and was exposed to Ignatian themes from a young age through his family’s involvement with Christian Life Communities (CLC). He attended De La Salle Holy Cross College for his initial schooling and then was home schooled before returning to De La Salle for his matric year. After trying both Music and Law at the University of the Witwatersrand, he studied Post-Production sound engineering at the Academy of Sound Engineering. Before joining the Jesuit Institute, Francis worked variously, as a dubbing engineer, a sound designer, and a final mix engineer – working on a variety of projects, with a many different languages from around the world including; Mandarin, Kiswahili, Portuguese, Hindi, Hausa, French and Zulu. Francis is working on as much of the Jesuit Institute’s media as possible, attempting to drag the Jesuit institute, and ultimately the Catholic Church into the 21st century. In his free time, Francis enjoys extreme sports,hiking, and playing music.

f.tuson@jesuitinstitute.org.za @frank_tuson
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