God In Grayson County, Virginia
I read with great interest and respect the letter written by Kathy Isom in response to an editorial in The Roanoke Times and reprinted in The Gazette on August 29, 2011. In her letter, Ms. Isom recites part of the heading to that editorial: “Religion has no place ….” Yet, she chose to delete the last few words “… in zoning dispute.” Unfortunately, these omitted words are the very crux of the Roanoke editorial. Without them, we lose the point of both the original editorial and, I believe, Ms. Isom’s response:
Roanoke Times Editorial: http://www.roanoke.com/editorials/wb/292725
Ms. Isom’s response: http://www.galaxgazette.com/content/god-cant-be-separated-our-nation#com...
I agree with the main thrust of Ms. Isom’s letter (with the exception of her unkind description of atheists as “Satan’s angels”). In the body of her letter, she logically and lovingly argues that God cannot be separated from our nation, since God “is everywhere, if the person looks with an open heart.” Truly, God is in the sunset, the thunder, the face of a child, and the hug of our elders, just as Ms. Isom describes.
Thus, I believe that Ms. Isom and I are in agreement that God cannot be separated from anything. I would add that God cannot be separated from anyone, since the Bible recites (as does many other holy texts) that we are created in God’s image and, therefore, contain a Divine spark. Of course, we may chose to separate from God in a myriad of ways often called “sin,” including violating the Eleventh Commandment brought to us by Jesus: Love thy enemy.
Recently, Archbishop Desmond Tutu published a book entitled “God is not a Christian.” In it, he strenuously argues that Christians may not claim a monopoly on God, as every culture has its own form of religious tradition. Tutu writes, “We do scant justice and honor to our God if we want, for instance, to deny that Mahatma Gandhi was a truly great soul, a holy man who walked closely with God. … Many Christians would be amazed to learn of the sublime levels of spirituality that are attained in other religions, as in the best examples of Sufism and its mysticism, or the profound knowledge of meditation and stillness found in Buddhism.”
In sum, God imbues all religious traditions, which is why our founding fathers wisely chose to protect the right of each of us to worship God in whatever way we deem appropriate. The Oracle Institute mission statement is Thomas Jefferson’s Act for Religious Freedom. And Oracle’s interfaith center is intended to be a sanctuary for comparative religious study and spiritual growth. We honor all religious paths and promote none. That is why the Grayson County Board of Supervisors was wrong to deny our zoning permit based on the fears of a few Christian ministers and laity. And that is why Ms. Isom’s omission in her description of this current controversy was unfortunate.
It is not that God is separate from anything or anyone. The point is that in our fair land, government may not dictate how or where any of us commune with God, nor show a preference for any religion.