When one tunes in to religious discourses, the Name that comes up the most by far is “God”. And it warms the heart to think that the religions may differ about many things, but the one issue that draws them together is the fact that all of them refer to the Divine as ‘God’. Oh yes, the name ‘God’ sounds different in the different tongues, but that doesn’t worry you at first, because you think that He is ONE no matter if he is referred to as God or Allah or Eloheem or Theos or uThixo or whatever sound ‘God’ produces in the different languages. However, your awakening is rude when you fine-tune into the conversations and turn the volume up.
Because it soon become apparent that you are actually tuned into a hornets nest, with the religions the fierce hornets and their stings? The Name, GOD! Just fancy that: The Name that is supposed to unify, is actually used as a poisonous tool to sting other humans, sometimes even to death, whether physical or spiritual, forcing them to accept your way of thinking about God and thinking you are spreading the GOOD NEWS of your personal God.
Is God a personal Name? : I have discovered that one of the biggest reasons for this state of affairs is the fact that there is about no religion who regards ‘God’ as a generic name. As far and deep as I could dig most religions, but especially the ‘Faiths of the Book’, namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam’ make them guilty of this. When one read articles written by Jews, you very often come across the annoying (for me) practice of spelling ‘God’ as G-d! When I asked a Jew about this habit, his answer was that they don’t want to profane the Name! When you listen to Christian sermons they often preach about the ‘only true God’ and, the ‘other’ faiths must be brought “to God” (meaning into the Christian fold) in order to be saved, because all other gods are ‘pagan’ gods! The people of Islam call God by His Arabic Name of “Allah” in all languages and guard fiercely that other faiths don’t refer to God as Allah, because that is their personal Name for God.
What does the Bible say about the word ‘God’ being a personal or generic Name? “Then God said: let us make man (-kind) in our image, in our likeness.” (Gen1:26) If you don’t know a person (historic or foreign) and you’re shown an image (photo or statue) of the person, you will have a fair idea of what the person may look like. Now according to Gen.1:26 the human race is a live ‘photo or statue’ of God and when I look at the world’s humans I see many (7billion at the last estimates) and I see different races, colours, creeds and tongues! And I also notice that no humans are called man or mankind as a personal name. No, mankind is a generic name, while everybody has a personal name to distinguish him or her from the rest of mankind. In the very same manner ‘God’ is a generic Name, while every religion has a particular God-head with a Personal Name. The blasphemer who was stoned (Lev.24:11) swore by the personal Name of the God-head of the Israelites (JHWH), and not by the generic Name ‘God’!
Can any Religion claim ownership of God? : I grew up in a large family and I can still remember vividly that I was still a little boy when one day all our siblings were crowding around our father. Suddenly a fit of jealousy took hold of me. I pushed the others away, put my arms around the legs of our father and told the others: Go away you! He’s not your father. He’s only my pa! It was only when I matured a bit more that I realized he was our sibling’s entire father. Needless to say I’m still embarrassed by that episode nearly 60 years after it happened, but isn’t that a very descriptive analogy of what is happening between the religions in the world? We just don’t want to grow up. Everybody wants to push all the others away and claim sole ownership of God. No wonder there is so much hatred in the world and so little love lost between the different Faiths.
There is a very simple exercise the leaders of faith communities can do with their followers to rid themselves of this biggest of misconceptions about God. The Pastoral Preachers and the Imams and the Rabbis must swop their special ways of referring to God in their sermons. Let the Jews and Christians use the terms ‘Allah’, the Imams ‘God’ or ‘Eloheem’ and let them all frequently use terms like uThixo or Theos or whatever names the other religions use when they preach about God. And when we succeed in letting the religious storms of the world subside, and God’s love begin to evaporate the mist of hatred that envelopes the world, who knows we humans may just be well on our way to become the TRUE IMAGE of God. Plural, like Eloheem is plural, but ONE in the same sense that GOD IS ONE!