Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Thanks for your brevity and reminding me of the thread. Paradoxically it prompted a recall of the superfluity of the Names of God. Apparently Judaism has 72 and Islam aims higher with 99 (I do not know what all these are except I am certain none is rude), though the early Hebrews were more economical, making do with seven
My favourite detail is that the first mention of God in the Hebrew Old Testament is a plural noun, Elohim, though some insist that it is single for this occasion (but no other).
1 John 4:8. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love
The word 'God' carries with it a LOT of baggage. The intolerance of fundamentalists, the perfidy of wars committed in God's name, inquisitions, crusades, hatred and more. Sometimes it is easier to talk of love and of acceptance than it is to use such a loaded word.
Myself I talk about the 'Really Real', the 'Founder of the firm' and the Ground of our being but rarely about God per se.
Four (& sometimes 3)-letter words have more oomph! Euphemism... is not supposed to be a Quaker thing; we're supposed to be plain in our speech. (I know, committeespeak has replaced Plain Speech as the new Quaker language, but not for poets! We waste away, we suffer miseries under its pollution!)
Sometimes a metaphor will help understanding better than a word, especially one that (as you say) has been subject to a certain amount of misreading. But "Founder of the firm"? "Founder of the Firmament," if we want to get archaic about this, but I don't think we get far using a business as a model for the universe and its workings, not nearly as much mileage as considering the universe a garden or a pasture.... "Ground of our being" makes sense if you already understand what it means... but I don't expect it works on anyone who doesn't already understand 'existence' as a side-effect of the nature of God.
"Love" and "acceptance" are nice things... but pretty wimpy, pretty thin as foundations for the intensely real life in us and for the universe we find ourselves inhabiting.
Unfortunately the word "God" brings all kinds of baggage with it. St. Francis of Assisi told his monks to speak of God by their lives first and their words last. People need to see compassion and caring in action rather than someone talking to them 'about God.'
People need a world fit to live in... and they don't get that from materialist scientism, no matter how compassionately it might be conveyed to them. What it takes to help a person actually know that they're living within God's compassion, well, that's an open question.
"Baggage?" That would be 'the Gotcha God' of various Christian (& some Islamic) orthodoxies...? Definitely an impediment to faith, but can be distinguished from the God We've Got.
"Compassion & caring" probably does help, in terms of convincing people that "I'd like to be like those people"-- but when it turns out to be all "those people" have to offer, it's pretty thin stuff.
Very few of those religions, Karen, carry quite the burden that it does in Christian circles. Need I remind followers of the Prince of Peace of the wars started in His name? Who told the rich young ruler to "give all he had to the poor", how much damage has been done to nations and peoples under the guise of Christianity-endorsed rampant capitalism?
I don't find many people eager to explore the "complexities" of "what people mean by the word "God";
I find people who:
a) Know God and are usually willing to share what we've learned from God.
b) Don't know God, but do have a concept of God which they may think ought to be imposed on people, for one well-intentioned purpose or another
c) Find themselves, for now, knowing God "through a glass darkly" while still partially captive to their initial "ideas about" God.
d) Don't know that reality we call "God," and seem scared to death that the word "God", despite it's misuses, really does point to something beyond 'reality' as they know it, something more powerful than them which may not care about "what they think" , but only about "how things are."
I haven't read all the thoughtful responses, but will respond directly to the question Forrest. I have to admit, I am one who has a "knee jerk" reaction to God, Jesus, and Christian. It's largely because of the context in which I learned them. "God" was usually followed by some variant of "you/these people are wrong and going to hell." "Jesus" tended to mean "if you were a real Christian", and Christian- was used most and loudest by the most hypocritical people.
So I suppose I'm dealing with a sort of spiritual PTSD. I respond to those things I learned before, even though they are not now being said. It is *my* struggle, and I think I am on the road to recovery. But I still am a bit leary of folks who use those words often. They still sound exclusive and judgemental to my ears, but my brain and heart can step in.
There were many years-- after I'd first become acquainted with God via funny pills and an overly-interesting life-- when I literally couldn't stand to read most "Christian" books.
Other religions sometimes fit what I was experiencing. And Jesus, in the occasional "historical Jesus" book-- because I very much wanted to know what was "really going on" with the world, and knew he fit in there somehow!
It was after some years, and being quite sure of the answer, that I could timidly ask-- "Hey, You don't really do that to people, do you?" Way too much human politics in religion, from the very beginning. It's meant to be the other way around, whenever we get there!