What would the world look like if we held the view that God is Love? I've been pondering this question since reading the Baylor Institute study, "American Piety in the 21st Century," released last month.
This assessment of values, practices, and behaviors delves deeply into the American religious psyche. With fieldwork conducted by the Gallup Organization, this sensitive study of religious mores, in its own words, "plumbs all facets of American religion and spirituality."
My interest in this quest stems from an idea that Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, put forth in her turn-of-the-century sermon, "The People's Idea of God – Its Effect on Health and Christianity," where she stated simply, "...our ideas of divinity form our models of humanity" (p. 14).
This made sense to me because the nature of Creator and creation are necessarily linked. Since God is Love, as the Bible states, His creation is inherently loving.
So I got to thinking as I pray daily about world affairs, of the harsh mental environment surrounding today's youth, and the declining state in which we care for the global environment. Could these be affected positively by improving my ideal of God?
The Baylor/Gallup survey identified four distinct views Americans hold of the qualities of God: Type A: Authoritarian – 31 percent believe God is highly involved in their daily lives and world affairs and is angry and capable of punishing the unfaithful. Type B: Benevolent – 23 percent also believe God is very active in our daily lives but less likely to be angry or wrathful, more of a force of positive influence in the world. Type C: Critical – 16 percent believe God does not interact with the world but observes and views the current state unfavorably, and Type D: Distant – 24 percent believe God is neither active nor angry, but a cosmic force setting the laws of nature in motion.
The findings also reveal clearly that the type of God Americans believe in influences their moral mind-set, weighing heavily on attitudes relating to abortion, divorce, premarital sex, and gay unions; surpassing even the influence that denominational affiliation bears on such positions. Not surprisingly, our views of God also influence our support of political agendas.
I can't help wondering what would happen if we held the model of an all-loving God in our thought. Could we find more practical inspired solutions for a world of problems? If we consider God to be perfect Love, would it be easier to love our neighbor as ourselves? To promote tolerance and respect, thwart terrorism, and aid in finding solutions to global warming?
In the study, under the category, "What it means to be a good person," the most commonly held value was taking care of the sick and needy, where a majority of respondents of each category said it is very important (62.9 percent).
Our inclination and ability to care for one another is natural. As God's creation, we reflect His character, and we possess the capacity to unite with others in universal brotherhood. The Bible puts it this way: "I will make a covenant of peace with them ... and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them forevermore.... yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Ezek. 37:26, 27).
Seeing God as our Father-Mother reveals that as His children we all have a relationship to one another. However we view Deity, we can see the effects of the ever- present God that Mary Baker Eddy described: "One infinite God, good, unites men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfills the Scripture, 'love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, – whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 340).