Good evening, friends and neighbors! Sorry this blog is a day late- I was a little tied up for the same reason there wasn’t a “Whiskey and Jellybeans” yesterday. Namely, finally celebrating Passover with my family!
I did take the opportunity to do a little writing and thinking on the subject though. So let’s start with a seriously impolitic question today.
What god do you worship?
Those of you who belong to a monotheistic religion, Abrahamic or otherwise, might just answer with “God,” or whatever other name your refer to Them with. Jesus, Allah, Ahura Mazda, and so on.
If you are polytheistic, you might give a litany of names or just the couple main ones you personally pray to. One of my friends is Asatru and specifically worships Odin, Frigg, and Thor- but recognizes the others in the Norse pantheon exist. Then there’s those who don’t believe gods, those who believe but don’t worship, those who aren’t sure. It’s all a deeply personal thing, and a rabbit hole I have neither time or space to dive down here.
I am a Jew, and this week saw the start of Passover. I joined my family on a cross-country video Seder- the ceremonial dinner where we recount the story of the Exodus. It’s the “Feast of Unleavened Bread,” the “Festival of Freedom,” and possibly my favorite combination of food-as-storytelling and Jewish dinner theater. Everything from the specific foods eaten to the order of the meal itself (“Seder” literally means “order”) is meant to be a mnemonic for the Exodus story and, metaphorically, the quest for freedom itself.
Throughout Jewish prayers, we refer to God with a series of epithets. Not the online troll, name-calling kind, though. I’m talking about the ones that get attached to names in classic poetry and worship to highlight the context a deity is being invoked for. Greek mythology is rife with them (Pallas Athena, Phoebus Apollo, Zeus Xenios, etc.) In Judaism, we use ones that recall what a given prayer is for:
• “God of (insert list of partriarchs/matriarchs)” recalls history and tradition.
• “Shield of Abraham” implies protection from evil
• “Rock of Israel” implies foundation and stalwartness.
With that in mind, let me ask the question again especially to my monotheistic readers- what god do you worship?
Lately, I’ve seen a series of Tumblr posts make the rounds again about a farmer and the “god of small pleasures” he worships. I’ll link it here for you to read. You might need some tissues.
Reading it again and the presence of Passover got me thinking, what God DO I worship?
I’ve always been of the conviction that religion’s main purpose is to give people reasons. Good or bad, that’s on the person- but religion will give them a reason to be whatever it is they already wanted to be. It’s why trying to claim “Religion X is evil” or “Faith Z is good” is always going to fly back in your face, and the “religion is stupid” argument of angry atheists really just wastes time.
(For the record, the two words that anyone making these arguments hates to hear are “so what?”)
When I think about it, the moments that I really feel connected with God in the stories aren’t the ones where miracles happen, or when the Israelite armies march to glory. It’s the parts where God recognizes the quiet, small gestures of kindness.
I suppose in that way, when I sit down to at the Seder or go to synagogue, I am worshiping the God of Storytelling and Hospitality.
I really love the god that decided that Abraham should found a nation because of his kindness to three strangers in the wilderness. The god that requires “hachnasat orchim” of his followers, and commands all of us to “love our neighbor.” Mine is the god of warm food, cold drinks, comfortable chairs, open doors, and friendly halls. The god that seeks the contemplative sages over the bloodthirsty zealots.
They’re also the god that, when creating the laws for people to follow, gave them in the form of a story. A god whose prophets teach in parables. They are the god of stories that entertain, inspire, teach, and create world. A creator for creators.
Given the option, I’d choose a god that promised me joy and peace over victory and kinship over conquest any day.
Something to mull over while I munch on matzah for the next week. It’ll be a miracle if I don’t get sick of tuna salad or PB+J by the end. Happy Passover to all who celebrate, and Happy Easter to all who observe as well.
Just because I can’t eat all the remaindered jelly beans yet doesn’t mean I won’t go out and buy them.
P.S. If you’re feeling my vibe here about hospitality, storytelling, and quietude, tune in every week on the Black Hat Baker Facebook page for The Whiskey and Jellybeans Hour! It’s roughly an hour of good interactive(!) talk, stories, and tasty beverages. Follow me on FB to hear when I go live!