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Woke God

by Rabbi Rami ShapiroMay 20, 2019
Mormon Temple Salt Lake

Evelyn Chavez/Getty

"Like the God who guides the Mormons, mine too instructs us 'revelation upon revelation.' My God’s revelations fall into two categories: Wow! and Play Nice!"

In 2015, God revealed to Thomas Monson, then President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, that same-sex couples are “apostates” subject to excommunication, and their children may not receive baptism or baby blessings. Hundreds of otherwise loyal Mormons resigned from the Church in protest (The Week magazine, April 19, 2019).

Four years later, God got woke. In a new revelation to Russell Nelson, the current President of the LDS Church, God has revoked the 2015 revelation. Explaining God’s change of heart, President Nelson said God leads the church “revelation upon revelation.”

I’m not one to argue with a woke (or partially woke) God, but I’m always a bit doubtful when it comes to revelations. How do we know when a revelation is from God rather than a convenient policy put in the mouth of God by a self-proclaimed prophet of God? And for that matter, how do we know there is a God or, if there is a God, whom among humanity’s thousands of Gods is God?

Taking my cue from Bill Wilson and The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, God is the “God of my understanding,” that is, God is whatever I want God to be. I’m a Jew, but the God of the Jewish understanding—the God who chose the Jews, gave us His (sic) one and only revelation, and promised us the deed to the Holy Land no matter who was living in it then or now is not the God of my understanding. My God doesn’t choose, save, damn, write books, or dabble in real estate. The God of my understanding is Reality: that in whom we live and move and have our being, as my brother Rabbi Saul of Tarsus said in Acts 17:28.

Like the God who guides the Mormons, mine too instructs us “revelation upon revelation.”

My God’s revelations fall into two categories: Wow! and Play Nice! The first category is most often revealed to scientists and helps us understand the way things are and how we can work with the way things are in service to the physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing of person and planet. The second category is open to everyone willing to receive it. Basically, it is the Law of Reciprocity or the Golden Rule. Every religion carries this revelation. Every religion violates it.

If we heed the Wow! revelations, we might salvage human life on this planet even in the midst of the environmental hell that is unfolding all around us. If we heed the Play Nice! revelations, we might make the life we salvage worth living.

Unlike President Nelson, however, I fear we will not listen to God’s revelation in time.

Read more of Rabbi Rami's digital columns here.

Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more. His latest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art: Shattering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality.

He has this to say about religion: “To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence.”

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