Diana Butler Bass, in "Grounded," talks of the demolishing of the three tier world in which God exists in heaven, humans exist on earth and, further down, there is an underworld that we hope to avoid.
This perspective was largely laid to rest after the first and second world wars when, in the rubble, folk were asking: "Where is God?" It was clear that only a God who would be alongside people in their suffering, not some remote being far removed from reality, would make any sense at all in a world changed beyond recognition.
This weekend, as senseless acts of terrorism were unleashed on Baghdad, Beirut and Paris, once again, we confront the question:Where is God?"and, once again,we see God in the ashes and the rubble, in emergency and relief workers, in fleeing and frightened refugees. Hell is no longer a place to be avoided. Hell stalks the lives of countless men, women and children caught up in violence perpetrated by fellow human beings, often in the name of religion. Religion itself has become a term that, rather than drawing people together in community and in a quest for God, has become largely associated with extremism and barbarity. But if Hell is no longer remote, neither is Heaven where the remote, benign God was deemed to dwell. Glimpses of heaven, too, are found among the carnage. In those who protected others. In those who opened their homes to strangers, offering a place to rest and find safety. In those who headed toward danger to rescue and comfort victims. Only a God who is present in all that afflicts our world makes any sense today. We have no use for a God who is so far removed as to be uninvolved in human suffering. Many folk, who have not already rejected any notion of God out of hand, yearn for a God whose presence can be discerned in the here and now, in the unfathomable horrors of life and, in the very ordinary routine of everyday. A God who is not far off but all around us is the God with whom humans want to connect to fill the void that many experience in their spiritual quest, a quest that pervades every day, in times of communal mourning and in the mundanity of life. Those who seek to find meaning in Spiritual things are employing very different questions and means of discovery, searching for an intimacy with God that was previously largely unimagined or reserved for a few. Today, those who seek God, seek a God who is within reach, intimately involved in the experience of human life. And as the quest for God and for spiritual connectedness is changing, so too, must our language about this God shift and change and connect with the questions that folk are now asking. Unless we are to leave God inert in the carnage of human tragedy, we must find a new way to speak of and reveal a God who is closer than our breathing, a God who leaks out in our tears, a God who surprises us with glimpses of light in our darkness, a God who weeps with us.