A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a 5-year-old boy in my church who was musing about the nature of God.
(Westley and his mom have now made a video to explain his views, with a cameo appearance by his little brother.)
Westley also asked a question that some of you attempted to answer in the comment section: If God is in everyone, what makes Jesus so special?
I chimed in to say we are all equally divine, and I got this response from a reader:
“So, if I understand correctly, someone like Charles Manson is simply a divine being who behaved badly but underneath it all is equal in divinity to your own son? Is this what you believe, or is it more complicated?”
The short answer is yes, that’s what I believe. (For the record, Westley is not my son. His mom is the youth director in my church.)
So let’s talk about the divinity in all people, because I will grant you, it’s getting harder and harder to believe it, in the wake of Orlando, Turkey, Bangladesh and Baghdad, plus whatever atrocity happens next in the world.
How can we acknowledge the people we fear, blame and imprison are made in the image of God, just as we are?
Here’s how: Because the only alternative is to believe there are places where God is not, people with no divine spark, that some of us were created more holy than others.
I don’t believe God can be parsed in that way. I don’t believe God shows up by degrees, or that we pipsqueak humans have the power to block the divine Presence with our bad behavior.
(Don’t get tripped up by the word God. It’s the Universe, All That Is, the Ground of Being, Spirit, the life force. As Westley explained, it’s everything, in everyone.)
If God is omnipresent, then it is equally present in every spot. And in every person.
Could there be spots on earth where God has not penetrated? Or parts of our lives where a devil has taken charge? That would be a pretty puny God.
If God is all there is – omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent – then what could we be but God-stuff?
Here’s the thing:
Our divinity has nothing to do with personality or behavior.
Just as nothing can keep us from being human, because that’s how we were born, nothing keeps us from being divine, because that’s how we were created.
Certainly the human personality shows up in many different ways, some beneficial to humankind and others terribly destructive. We have free will. But no matter the behavior, that’s still a human being.
And humans, at their core, are divine. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
I see Charles Manson as a divine being who went terribly astray — and I do believe in mental illness – rather than a bad seed who is something less than the rest of us. (Manson has been serving a life sentence since 1971 for conspiracy to commit a series of murders. He is now 81.)
His essence is divine, not his behavior.
For me, knowing even murderers and terrorists are divine at their core helps me to be more compassionate. And reassures me they carry the capacity to love instead of hate.
So to answer Westley’s question, if God is in everyone, what makes Jesus so special?
Jesus showed us what it looks like when we are living from our divine core. He showed us what is possible for all human beings when we are fully aligned with the infinite presence of love.
Living at that level is the ultimate the goal for all of us.
And for all of us, some days we manage it better than others.