The One God

“I am in love

with every church

and mosque

and temple

and any kind of shrine

because I know it is there

that people say the different names

of the one God.”

These beautifully inclusive words are the work of Hafiz, a 14th century Persian poet and spiritual teacher. They were as radical in his day as they are in ours, and just as important to embrace. Our theologies may differ, and our religions may be diverse, but there is only one ultimate, intimate reality at their core, one Spirit that weaves through their diversity and our humanity.

Hafiz is not only the name of a person, for it is also a word that refers to one who has memorized the Koran; this could, of course apply to any scripture. There is a difference between memorization and knowing something “by heart.” The former is a matter of the mind, it is about remembering, while the latter is a matter of the whole person, and is about re-membering; this is the meaning to which the word ‘hafiz’ applies.

When we re-member, we open ourselves to a relationship with the truth of the words we read, and are impacted by them. There is a story about a student who went to his rabbi saying excitedly “Rabbi, I have gone through the Torah” (first five books of the Old Testament). When the rabbi ignored him, the student again said with even more emotion, “Rabbi, I’ve gone through the Torah,” and again the rabbi was dismissive. After being approached a third time by his eager student, the rabbi simply said “Yes, I know, you’ve gone through the Torah, but has the Torah gone through you?”

Hafiz says “Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.” If we re-member the words of holy books, if we allow them to go through us, we move beyond the fear that often prevents us from recognizing the truth celebrated in every church, mosque, temple, and shrine – that there are different names for the one God.

2 thoughts on “The One God

  1. There is a controversy about whether people of different religions venerate the same God. One way to look at it would be to agree that there are many books on Lincoln. Smith’s research may indicate that Abe was sullen & crass. Jones write of him as gentle & compassionate. Either account could be right or wrong; but we don’t argue about there being 2 LIncolns, even though scholars may refer to “Smith’s Lincoln” or “Jones’ Lincoln” when comparing their takes.

    Similarly, there can be significant differences among the various accounts of who or what God is. But if we agree that there is only one absolute, transcendental, divinity, then we should not debate the matter, claiming that one is “true” & the others are “false.” This does not take away the option of discussing which religion might have the most precise understanding of who God is, or what relationship we might have.

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