Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Thursday, October 09, 2014


God Again

God is a problem for most of us. Today non-believers in God like Atheists and Agnostics cry for recognition and acceptance. Their views should be looked at, received or rejected, or dismissed as irrelevant. People who are spiritual but not religious often have a wide variety of beliefs about God from Atheism to pious romanticism, like the idea of my friend Jesus.

Disbelief has always been with us in some form. My purpose in this writing is not why there is disbelief. That is an important area to be explore by others or perhaps by me in a later writing.

I have always believed in God. The definition has changed, developed and matured over the years. As a child I went to church and assumed belief in God as a protector from the fears in the night. In church and Sunday school I believed in “Our father who art in heaven.” He was the creator and protector. Then when I began to masturbate, I believed God watched over us and counted up our sins, which included sex, stealing and lying. That God never scared to me. He just tut tut-utted at me, I thought.  In Brooklyn my Italian Roman Catholic pals bragged about masturbation, told dirty stories and drew crude sexy pictures of tits, cock, pussies and cum. They would go to confession, take communion and go right on doing what pre-teen and teen boys do. Maybe girls did some of that too, but I never heard of such things.
Beside lonely masturbation, I was too afraid of getting caught, so I did not draw pictures or tell stories.

In high school I was obsessed by sports and girls. The sex fantasies of intercourse, rape and public sex never came to fruition. I went to chapel daily at school, believed in God, and said my prayers when I remembered. In summer camp as a camper and later as a counselor, I attended daily Eucharist, morning and evening prayer with psalms and Old and New Testament lessons as well as prayers each summer day. I found myself enjoying that more and more.

At New York University I encountered many students and faculty who did not believe in God. I found that fascinating and not troublesome. Head of the Philosophy Department was Sidney Hook. He took us through Thomas Aquinas’ five arguments for the existence of God. They were very convincing indeed. The he went over the arguments showing the fallacies in Thomas’ arguments. I had read about a so-called split between Science and religion. Oddly, I never felt challenged, I just believed.

Science explored the origin of the universe. Darwin’s theory of evolution and the Genesis stories of creation never seemed in conflict to me. Genesis was not scientific exploration. It told the story of how ancient people thought about who made the earth and sky and all that was in it. It was not science. It was story.

The Episcopal Chaplain at NYU was the late John Pyle, a quiet unassuming man who talked about faith as just there. One has it or one doesn’t. That seemed to be my case. The late Vernon Bodien, Chaplain to the Christian Association on campus took much the same line. I thought about the existence of god a lot, but never came close to disbelieving. I saw the problem of evil. How could and all Good and all knowing God allow the existence of evil?

Thanks to the work of Reinhold Niebuhr I saw that human kind has the capacity for enormous good and the cruelest of evil all at the same time. The writings of Paul Tillich popularized that God was not a being, but being itself. God was the ground of all being. I soon internalized those ideas as my definition of God. God simply as creator of the world as we know it, all- Good and all-knowing were too limited for understanding the universe and the human condition.

When I got in and then out of the seminary I felt I had a solid idea of God as the underpinning of my faith and ministry.

For a long lingering time I still had the notion of God totaling up my sins, especially the sexual ones. Lillian and I did everything except intercourse before we married. We felt that was the Christian way and what God wanted us to do.

As time went by I saw the deep meaning of St. Paul’s discussion of justification by faith alone. God does not count up our sins and peccadilloes to punish us. We are made whole and complete (justified, saved) by our faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ. Thus, I know I am going to sin, hurt others and myself, but I am already loved and forgiven by my faith in Jesus Christ.

Recently I find myself praying more and more. I am comfortable praying to God as father. The ground of all being and being itself it is a bit amorphous to be praying to. So I pray to God the father as the focus of my prayer to God. I know the difference between God and the image of God.

Thanks to Joseph Campbell’s work on mythology, I believe that the Jesus story is a myth. It is a story based on historical people and actions told to convince others of certain beliefs. The stories illustrate and affirm sacred ideas and truths.  There is the story that God became a man in the person of Jesus. This became the doctrine of the incarnation. Taken literally the story is absurd. However, if one asks what is the purpose of the story, what is the elemental truth of truths in the story, we can see its power. For me the meaning is that we humans are deeply human and humane and that we are forgiven for the evil we do. The power of the universe, the ground of all being enters our history to show how much we are loved and worthy of love. Therefore we should love one another and forgive each other. This is the meaning of the Christmas story, telling of the birth of Jesus.

The other great myth is that of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That is the story of Easter. We are so loved and forgiven that we live on in some manner after our bodily death.

The story of the life of Jesus is the work of Jesus; followers to explain who Jesus is and what his relationship to God is.

The gospels are the four books about the Jesus written sixty  years after his death. When I look at Jesus’ life and values I get a glance at who and what God is. God wants justice, peace, compassion, love and forgiveness for all in his creation.         That is what Jesus proclaims.

I take comfort and enjoy traditional Christian doctrine as helpers in understanding God. The Holy Spirit is the idea that god’s spirit it with us all the time in our daily lives and inside us as well. That comforts and sustains me. That is the power of love, sex, inspiration, creativity, happiness and joy. It is the spirit available to me in despair, mourning, depression, anxiety and fear.

Why do I worship in church, in the sacrament and privately? I fail to live a holy and sacred life most of the time during the week. I am glad of the Jewish and Christian tradition of keeping holy a day a week. Ann and I go to church. The focus is on God, not me for a change. The cross, altar, architecture and people gathered let me see images of the holy and sacred, something beyond myself.  I like to sing and church is one of the few public places left where singing happens. Singing and music lift me to another level of life. They can be transformative.

I love taking the bread and wine as specific bodily ways of being mystically connected to God through the images Jesus gave us.

I pray when by myself for my wife, family, friends and the sick and the dying. I believe prayer works on me, not on God. When I pray for someone, the prayer is answered when I do something to help. My constant prayer is thanksgiving for all that I have been given, most of which I did not earn.

I hope my readers will read these musings on God through my personal development. I’d love some challenges, debate and appreciations.

-Robert Warren Cromey


Anonymous Lois Gilbert said...

Second time I read this. I am really moved, challenged, inspired and comforted. Glad to read this and take this in. Glad it is a good friend of mine who wrote, and felt this. Special moment of this evening and the first time, a few evenings ago.


Lois G
.I don't know hoe to use HTML tags, or I guess I would. What do they do??

7:41 PM  

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