Originally published on the Emerging Voices blog, 9/8/2014.
holy adjective\ˈhō-lē\: exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness
I don’t feel that I’m going too far outside the realm of reasonable generalizations in saying that most people of faith probably associate their respective conceptions of the Divine with a word similar to the one defined above. At least, in my experience, having attended a Christian college and two seminaries, plus a significant number of houses of worship and faith communities, this word certainly seems to make a regular appearance.
I, however, am not prone to using it. That is, unless it’s followed by an expletive of some form.
The way I see it, if this is what it means to be holy, then the Divine is far from holy.
“Holy” implies separation. In something or someone being holy, there is the tacit understanding that this holiness is in comparison to unholiness. God is holy (and we are not). God is great (and we are not). God is worthy of devotion (and we are not). And I am not okay with this.
The Divine is inherently relational. Relationships–and here I refer to healthy ones–do not divide or separate based on value. There is no room for “better than” language.
Granted, yes, we as humans have done some truly terrible things. I would like to believe that the Divine has not. But, in my mind, the fact that I have screwed up more than another being does not make me any better or worse than that being. As soon as a hierarchy of better and worse begins, we have the license to distance ourselves from other beings. This is how things like racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, lack of concern for the planet or animal welfare, and so many more awful things begin.
The Divine does not distance herself. She draws herself nearer.
When I think of holy, I think of angels and altars and hallelujah choruses and shiny things and fancy words and sobriety and solemnity and that time when I went to my friend’s very high-church church and felt like I dare not even move because I might offend someone.
When I think of the Divine, I think of that scene at the end of Dogma when Alanis Morissette plays in the grass and boops Linda Florentino on the nose. I think of a being who is messy and imminent and makes it up as she goes along.
I don’t want a god on a throne. I want a Divine who is living every moment just as fully and really as we are. I don’t want a god from without, but a Divine from within.
The Divine is not holy. Holy implies separate. The Divine is anything but.