In Your Neighborhood/Opinion

In God we trust

Do you believe that the presence of God is everywhere and in every person?

Image courtesy of Steve Klamkin Twitter feed

The front page of The New York Times on Sunday, May 24, 2020.

By Mary Ann Sorrentino
Posted 5/25/20
What we believe and how and where we pray are matters of religious freedom, not enforced gatherings that could put your life at risk amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
On this Memorial Day, what is the appropriate way to mourn the loss of 100,000 deaths of Americans in three months to the coronavirus pandemic? How can we effectively not get drawn into taking the bait around efforts to provoke culture war divisions around wearing a mask and respecting social distancing? What is the best strategy to confront outright lies and distortions by the Trump administration when it comes to health care policies? What is the best way to invest more faith in scientific fact and not political misinformation?
The idea that President Trump can invoke his authority to bypass the rule of law and order churches to be opened, despite the ever-present threat of the coronavirus, is a strange concept, more like an order to be given by a king, not a President.
What makes it even stranger is that the one place where we are likely to find President Trump is not in a church praying but on a golf course playing.
In Micah, when asked what the Adonai is seeking from you, the reply is: “Only to practice justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

PROVIDENCE – It is s a rare day when newspapers are not reporting on some religious leader’s clamoring for a house of worship to be re-opened for services. These clergy resent the intrusion of the coronavirus that months ago forced congregations to avoid religious gatherings as contagion threatened every house of whatever Lord you worship.

All this noise [and even angry threats from some] confuses me: I was taught [and still believe] God is everywhere.

Though not a churchgoer, I still have conversations with my God and I see His responses in daily scenes that are proof enough for me that He exists for those who wish to approach Him.

I saw Him outside the market just the other day disguised as a young teenager watching over his baby sister in a carriage as they both waited for their mother. She was inside the store trying to get some needed supplies for her family at a time when even grocery shopping can be life challenging.

The teen-man wore a mandated mask but was still able to make comforting sounds that the baby in the carriage responded to with gurgles of delight. When the mother exited the automatic doors of the market, she quickly checked her infant and then gratefully tussled the hair of the young sitter-guardian before planting a kiss of pride on his cheek. God hovered over this scene of love protecting infantile vulnerability, illuminated by a mother’s appreciation wrapped in relief and love.

Divine overtones
God is standing behind the homeless man who routinely begs on an intersection near my home. I hand the man a bag containing a sandwich and coffee: his thanks and the smile with which he delivers it surely have divine overtones.

Raised in a “God is everywhere” ethic, I am confused by clergy blind to His presence, demanding worshipers risk their lives to stand elbow to elbow, singing hymns, shaking hands at a “sign of peace,” or praying kaddish aloud for their dead while elevating the death threat in God’s house where – medical experts warned – proximity is deadly.

My complicated relationship with religion may be unique to my personal experience, but I still know God when I see Him – in the eyes of masked ER staff risking their lives to care for critically ill patients and, when medicine fails, comforting grieving loved ones.

God routinely drives fire trucks and rescue wagons to save the rest of us from the perils of this plague we are all battling. He speaks in the voices of digital educators on computer screens teaching homebound children, in the patient whispers of parents in lockdown reassuring their little ones, and in the selfless assurances of those with bedridden elders they bathe, feed, comfort and entertain in these times threatening everyone’s serenity.

No impatience
I don’t see God tapping his foot in impatience, waiting for the doors of churches, temples, and mosques to reopen. He doesn’t raise his voice or lose sleep over the empty collection baskets not being passed. He’s too busy being everywhere in case he is needed.

In fact I thought I saw him just a minute ago outside my kitchen window, helping to lift a patient into an ambulance that would speed toward the local hospital.

So I said a short prayer for the people in that ambulance, just as the rain was stopping and a late afternoon sun – peeking from behind a cloud –provided a silent, “Amen.”

Mary Ann Sorrentino is an occasional contributor to ConvergenceRI.

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