GOD IS IN THE DETAILS
by Greg Moody
My faith ebbs and flows like a summer cold.
I walk outside every morning, look to the sky and say, “Thank you,” even though about 40% of the time I’m pretty sure I’m only saying thank you to the people flying the LA to NYC route on United. The rest of the time, I’m sincerely thanking whomever or whatever got me to this place in time, with these people in my life and kept it all in one piece, relatively speaking.
It may be God, in one or more of his or her many forms, it may be nature, it could be luck and, then again, it could be a canopy of my dead ancestors, hovering over me like a protective Gardol ™ shield, watching me, guiding me and telling me not to shave like that because I’ll get little pimples on my neck.
In the Mexican tradition, I try to let them all know they’re being remembered, so their spirits can stay in the colorful Place of the Remembered, rather than the black and white Land of the Forgotten. (As per usual, I’m basing my entire knowledge of Mexican tradition on a cartoon I really enjoyed.)
I’ve dug up family ancestors all the way back to Peter Moody in New Hampshire in 1770. He and the majority of the Moody forebears, Thomas and Henry and Robert and Caleb, were either farmers or itinerant preachers, and as such, they were likely on the same search in life as I am — who is God, where is God and how can I get him to help with the tomatoes?
For years, I’ve been searching for a way to make sense of my own spirituality, to come to grips with my own soul. Is it a divine spark, a continuation of all that has come before, or, some sublime accident of the universe?
I don’t know.
And, so, the search goes on.
I’ve investigated Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Confucianism, Hinduism, Jainism, Shinto, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Baha’i, Buddhism, the major religions of the world, along with Mithraism, Gnosticism, Greek Mythology (discovering it only becomes “mythology” once another religion moves in and tells you that Zeus was a piker who would sleep with ANYTHING), Transcendentalism and Wiccan.
(I was asked to leave a Wicca gathering in Wisconsin after I kept guessing on which seasonal festival The Wheel of the Year would land on if I spun it. Tossed out, I looked to the sky, and thanked the people on North Central Flight 740 for getting me out of yet another one.)
At the moment, I figure I follow the tenets of Buddhism more than anything else, but I can never quite put away the twenty some years of indoctrination I got as a kid.
As always, it starts with the start.
I was born, I was raised, and, according to my mother, no matter what I do, or how far I run or how much I sin, I will remain forever and ever — amen — a Catholic.
I know, a bunch of you were thinking I was Jewish, weren’t you? Go ahead, admit it.
I look it. I sound it. My favorite restaurant is a deli across town. My sainted mother, despite her rabid Catholicism, was molded out of the very same clay from which came all Jewish mothers and The Golem.
It is such an easy jump to see me as Jewish that a friend once asked me to fill in for him at a speaking engagement, as African American Pastors and Jewish Rabbis were trying to get the young people of their congregations to work and live together in peace and harmony.
When the program came out, it featured, in bold letters, FEATURING GREG MOODY, ONE OF DENVER’S MOST PROMINENT JEWS! I was thrilled, not only was I suddenly Jewish, without having to go through a lifetime of religious training and rigmarole, but I was prominent as well! Sadly, I did have to ‘fess up that, no, I was not Jewish, nor, on the other hand, was I black, so what I was doing there was anyone’s guess.
My prominence went out the window right along with my bris.
So, no, I am not one of God’s chosen people.
I was raised Catholic.
(And somewhere in a little Assisted Living Facility in Michigan, my mother is whispering, “And so he remains.”)
I’ve been through all but two of the sacraments:
1) Baptism (Uncle Al dropped me in the font.)
2) Confession (With no good sins, I lied in the confessional and faced The Wrath of Mother)
3) Communion (I closed my eyes at the altar and fell over a chair.)
4) Confirmation (I wanted to be called Stanislaus. Mom insisted on Francis.)
5) Marriage (Did the whole Catholic bit. Lasted 23 months.)
6) Ordination (Won’t be adding that to the resume.)
7) Extreme Unction (Sounds like an ointment. Just another name for The Last Rites. I figure it’s coming, if Mom has anything to say.)
Sadly, the church never drew me in as it had my mother.
I’d sit in 8 o’clock mass on a Sunday morning, not contemplating my relationship with the Lord, but wondering what movies had been rated “Condemned” in “Our Sunday Visitor” back in the vestibule, or, if I’d be able to catch the last few minutes of “Rocky and Bullwinkle” when we got home.
I did enjoy the Latin Mass, I will admit that. The whole thing was pleasantly mysterious and ethereal when spoken in a dead language.
Best of all was listening to Dad as he mangled the language of Suetonius, Caesar and Pliny the Younger.
When called upon to say, “Dominus vobiscum, et cum spiritu tuo,” Dad always responded, “Dominos Francisco, Edward Spiro two-two-oh,” like it was some New York City phone number.
Whenever I tried to go off script, (“Domino Nabisco, Give a Cookie To Us All”) Mom would slap the back of my head. That never happened to Dad. Then again, he was always smart enough to sit at least 3 spots down the pew from her.
Strangely enough, after years of sitting through Mass, the notion of spirituality somehow did take root in my soul, even if the ritual and dogma of The Church never did.
I kept trying to come back, visiting new churches, new priests, new styles of the Mass. Every time, though, we’d get to some spot in the service and the priest would get up in the pulpit and start preaching, not the word of God, but the opinion of the Diocese: Think Our Way or Go To Hell.
As always, with that door closing quickly behind me, I began a frantic search for the window God is always supposed to leave open in its place.
Zoroastrianism? It’s bad when you can’t spell the name of your own religion without spell check.
Hinduism? I’m sorry. I like cows, but they are just so darned tasty.
Christianity? That whole Council of Nicaea thing in 325 still trips me up.
What is Jesus? Is he Prophet or God?
Now, though, that question has become: What is Jesus? Is he Prophet or Profit Center?
While covering a story for a Denver TV station a few years ago, I wound up in one of those Christian Mega-Churches, where thousands of people sat in a huge auditorium. The preacher knew I was there to do a story on one of their singers, and, while pitching the miraculous healing properties of a brightly colored holy oil he was selling for ten bucks, he broke away from his commercial to tell the crowd, “Now, there is a reporter here today who may not see the healing properties in this bottle of anointing oil …”
A thousand people turned to look at the one guy in the place who resembled the anti-Christ.
I nodded politely, wondering if I should mention that, in point of fact, I had not really been listening to the pitch for $10 Holy Anointing Oil, but had once again been wondering if I could make it home in time for the end of “Rocky and Bullwinkle.”
And, so, I continued to search.
Shinto? Interesting, but a lot of kami, even more than the endless parade of Catholic saints.
Confucianism? Social order and ethics, neither of which I possess in abundance.
Judaism? Islam? Both are Abrahamic, but study them at the same time and you’ll likely wind up punching yourself out in the backyard.
And, so, the search goes on.
The other evening, while channel surfing, I came across a silver haired televangelist, who, between pleas for dollars from little old ladies who could ill afford it, kept singing about going to the Lord, going to his reward, doing it today, and, doing it with a huge smile on his freshly manicured face.
“Oh, I’m going to the Lord!
“I’m going today!
“And I’m going right NOW!
So, he’s singing about shedding this mortal coil, going off to meet God and immediately dropping dead to do it. Somehow, though, I’ll bet if he really was in danger of kicking right now, the right Reverend Evangelist would be fighting like hell to stay here with the forever young and perky Mrs. Evangelist — Take 3, their big house and ample stock portfolio.
And then, it hit me.
What if this is heaven?
Even if this is a world of death and disease, unfairness and crime, harsh words, hatred and Ann Coulter, what if this is our heaven — or our hell? Whatever we make it to be?
What if this is heaven, and we’ve spent our lives, rather than trying to improve our world or that of those around us, in preparing ourselves for a world that is never to come, or, from which we’ll simply be sent back to try again?
As I ponder the imponderables, I walk outside and sit next to the butterfly garden, a wonderful, peaceful accident we made out of a bare patch of lawn, a vague idea and a few packets of seeds. I watch the bees and butterflies work tirelessly to add to the world.
And, then, if only for a moment, I find God.
And I say, “Thank you.”