God is a big God.
Poppy knew from when he was a boy there must be a kernel of truth on every avenue. “Does it make sense,” Poppy said, “that any God would choose some people and leave the others out? If only Christians or Jews are right, what about most of Asia and the Middle East? All these millions of people are just–extras? Ridiculous! God’s bigger than that!”
Why would God want to be only large enough to fit inside a certain group of hearts? God was a Big God. Once Liyana answered someone that way, but it didn’t work very well.
“What religion are you?”
–From Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye
This quote always makes me happy. It makes me realize how mortal I am. It makes me think that even though I can’t make sense of the battles around me that somehow, somehow God is bigger than I can even imagine and so many times we humans try to limit God to Protestant ideas.
When I think about how big God is, I also think about the fact that we are all operating on faith here and that most of us hope for some kind of afterlife to give us all the clarification that our journey on earth was not in vain and we really were on the “right” path…and then, of course, we’ll get a big reward.
When I was younger, I had a hard time wrapping my brain around heaven. I continuously asked the questions:
Is there really only one truth?
One truth for everyone in the world to accept?
If that is the case, how could everyone be happy?
Is Christianity, as I know it, the only truth? Most Christians seem to believe this idea. They believe that the world needs to be converted to Jesus as much as the Muslim believes that the Christian needs to be converted to Muhammad. Christians also claim that in the afterlife people will be taught the “truth” and decide whether or not to “accept” it. But, these same Christians also believe that we are the same person once we die. So, if that is the case, then, honestly, not many Muslims or Jews are going to be “saved” according to Christian standards. How sane is it to believe that everyone is going to have to convert to Christianity AND be happy about it? …especially if they are the same person in heaven that they were on earth? If you die, and were then taught that some other faith had it all right, and you were wrong– could you then so easily forget about your relationship with your Savior? (I’m simplifying the argument here, obviously, but just think about it for a second).
As the world exists right now, the current religious breakdown is:
Christians 33.32% (of which Roman Catholics 16.99%, Protestants 5.78%, Orthodox 3.53%, Anglicans 1.25%), Muslims 21.01%, Hindus 13.26%, Buddhists 5.84%, Sikhs 0.35%, Jews 0.23%, Baha’is 0.12%, other religions 11.78%, non-religious 11.77%, atheists 2.32% (2007 est.)…..so really, all of these people are supposed to find joy (understanding that my premise for the afterlife is that there might be some semblance of joy and contentment) …. all of these people are supposed to find joy in the exact same Kingdom as this white girl from Utah might? Hmmmm, I just don’t think so anymore…it seems a bit absurd.
I recently finished The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan. It was a beautiful tale of spirituality, awakening, life and afterlife. The Chinese afterlife is so different from mine, and so lovely. Tan created an unforgettable character in Kwan.
“My sister Kwan believes she has Yin eyes. She sees those who have died and now dwell in the World of Yin…It was Kwan who taught me, if people we love die, then they are lost only to our ordinary senses. If we remember, we can find them anytime with our hundred secret senses.” When Kwan is asked by her sister about the afterlife, she gives such a beautiful explanation that resonated with me. She explains that all those who love Jesus, will be with Jesus. Those who love Allah will go to “Allahland” (as Kwan called it!), and everyone will be where their truth resides, and it will be heaven for them.
So, my question–can heaven be as diverse as earth? Or, to truly be heaven, must we all be alike? I rather relish in differences, so I kind of hope it’s the former…just maybe in heaven we will all learn how to love each other for our differences, instead of trying to change everyone to see the truth as we see it.