A Question of Ownership

By: Brian Carr

There is an item that humans have been fighting over for thousands of years. It is something that has infinite value to a lot of people, even though some value it for the wrong reasons.

This item has shaped cultures and nations. It has been something that wars have been fought for in order to obtain it. Millions of people have died because various groups have wanted to own this object.

Even to this day, the item is sought after and people are killed over who can and cannot own it.

The debate over who owns this object has caused anguish, hate, and destruction.

The item I am referring to, of course, is God.

It seems ridiculous and, to some, even blasphemous, to consider God an object to be owned.

And yet that is exactly how we have treated God.

Humans have fought wars over who can rightfully stake claim to the one, true God. People have killed others because they wanted to show that only their group owned God. Hate has been issued against those who seek to wrongfully claim ownership of God.

Humans are incredibly territorial. We prove that through our desire to own things, through our individualized thinking (at least in Western cultures), and through our seemingly inherent and unquenchable greed.

Unfortunately, those qualities have led us to attempt to own God, just as we own our phones, our houses, our clothes.

How can Muslims worship God when we all know Christians own God?

Of course, we would never phrase it that way. Remember, it makes us really uncomfortable to think about owning God, so instead we say it in a different way.

“Christians are the chosen people. We believe in Jesus, who is the only way to be saved, so long as you follow and believe in him. There is simply no other way. Christians know the truth, and everyone else is wrong.”

Translation: God belongs to Christianity.  

Double translation: God is an object that we can own.

And how wrong that is.

Christianity is a religion that formed around God. God did not and does not form around Christianity. It is dangerous to confuse those two ideas.

Christianity is one way that we as humans try to make sense of the unknowable. Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism are other ways of people trying to make sense of the divine, of the spiritual, of the bigger picture.

We as Christians don’t own God any more than America owns the moon.

So why do we keep pretending we do? What are we afraid of?

God is bigger than your ideas about God. God is bigger than any theology or doctrine or dogma that Christians can come up with. God is bigger than thousands of years’ worth of collective human thought about who and what God is.

I would think by now that we have learned that God moves in way we will never predict or understand. Why is it so absurd to think that the way God has moved for us Christians is not the only way that God can be seen? Who’s to say that Muslims and Jews aren’t correct in the way they think? Maybe that is just how God has moved and shown Herself to them.

That’s the problem – we don’t know. And we never will.

Once we start talking about God using nice, neat boundaries and arguing that we alone know the truth about God, then that is the exact moment that we are no longer talking about God.

The moment we start trying to own God is the moment where we actually start owning fear and hate and pride and greed.

God cannot be owned or kept by Christians or by Muslims or by Jews or by you or by anyone.

Instead of the wars and hate and jealousy that come with ownership, we should try the freedom and love and restoration that come with sharing.

We will never know the full extent of who God is, so let’s try out inclusion and acceptance for once.

Instead of hoarding God, why not share with others in the wonderful and abundant ways in which God has appeared to them?

Besides, God’s love is too big to keep to ourselves anyways, right?