The Pew Research Center has recently reported on the “Nones,” that demographic segment that states that they have no preference for any religious affiliation. Some of these Nones, however, state that they are still concerned about some form of spirituality. Perhaps, then, there is still a good possibility that we can engage them on a conversation about God.
Perhaps, the notion of God being too “big” for any one religious tradition to understand might be this starting point, which ironically was passed on to me by my father who was an early “None” himself. At best he was a deist who had fallen away from his Roman Catholic beginnings. But I remember him saying in Spanish, “M
ijito, Dios es muy grande para entender.” In fact, this was probably the only religious instruction that he ever taught me during my growing up years in the Mexican “Westside” of San Antonio. Later as I moved away from this cultural and religious cocoon, my cultural lens began to give way to the understanding that God’s reality is perhaps filtered through the prism of humanity.
I have always been fascinated by how an octagonal glass prism can separate a beam of white light into a spectrum of colors, similar to that of a rainbow. It was proven long ago that a white beam of light hitting such a prism already contains the constituent array of colors, and it is the glass prism that refracts the variety of colors that are dispersed at various angles.
Now, I’m sure that my simple explanation does not even begin to meet a rigorous scientific description of how the various and different prims work. But what does work for me is the image of God’s Light beaming on the whole of humanity and God’s Truth and reality being refracted and dispersed into all of God’s different colors and angles. Thus, depending on where we stand we discern God’s Light from different angles and see God’s reality in different shades of color. Therefore it takes all of humanity and the array of the great religious traditions to see the totality of God’s Light.
More importantly, this prism metaphor also gives me solace in knowing that each of our disparate religious traditions doesn’t have to carry the awesome responsibility of explaining the totality of God, much less explain how God’s Truth can be perceived in so many different ways. We have to humbly rely on the prism of humanity to help us fill in the blanks, and to perceive the angles and the various shades of color that God represents.
Assuming that this metaphor is a starting point for a discussion, how can we enter into rational conversation with a “None” in explaining and reconciling our biblical assertion that Jesus Christ is our Way, our Truth and our Life?
The Rev. Al Rodriguez, a graduate of the Seminary of the Southwest, was ordained in June 1996, serving in various parishes, including St. John’s Episcopal Church in Austin where he ministered as Rector for 15 years. He currently serves as Assisting Priest at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Austin and is an Adjunct Faculty instructor at Southwest teaching in the Hispanic Church Studies Concentration, where he focuses on cultural and linguistic nuances of ministering to the multi-generational, U.S. born Latinos who are bilingual or English dominant.