Metaphor Man…

When I taught at University High School in Urbana, IL more than 20 years ago, I once had a student who occasionally would wear a T-shirt on which were written the words “Metaphor Man.”  When I first saw it, I think I said something like “Metaphor Man?”  On later occasions, I would drop my voice an octave to issue a definitive (and superhero appropriate) “Metaphor Man!”  As I recall, every time I saw him with that shirt, he would respond as if I asked him a question about the shirt (I think he got a lot of that).  He would say: “I am a powerful locomotive!”  “I am a speeding bullet!”  “I am a tall building!”  I loved the T-shirt and I loved the student’s response.

What’s this got to do with religious development?  Well, I thought I should try, in these early posts, to state some of my beliefs and practices.  At this point in my life, I do not believe in an interventionist God — were there such a fellow, I cannot believe, if God is Love, that there would be so much hatred and violence in the world.  Hitler and Stalin wouldn’t have ever had the chance to do all the damage they did, nor would Idi Amin, or others — the whole mess in Darfur would not happen.  I can’t accept the premise of Jesus Christ as my personal savior — the concept of someone else redeeming me seems peculiar. 

Those points made, let me return to metaphor and how important a matter it is in my life and belief.  All language is metaphoric — words are not the things to which they refer, but markers or signifiers.  They take their meaning in connection with other words arranged in a meaningful pattern.  Language also enables us to speak truths (and lies) which may not be apparent.  A lot of scientific truths began as a hypotheses — powerful statements of what could be — before they became scientific laws. 

And so, let me demonstrate where this idea of metaphor can go.  Though I don’t believe in a personal or interventionist God, I find imagining a God (a metaphoric God) to be comforting, and useful.  For me, the idea of God, especially the God is Love figure, and God as Parent figure, make room in my brain for the following hypotheses — only God can judge, and so I’ll try to be less judgmental, because I am not God.  If God is Love, then at any point when we act in a hurtful way (and I’ve done plenty of that in my life), we are off the path, at least if we want to live a life that is in accord with God.  If God is our parent, then all of use are children of God, and what happens to gays and lesbians, minorities, the poor, the Muslims, pagans, or any other group that might find itself boxed in by the dominant culture is happening to those who are our brothers and sisters. 

So I don’t pray to the big guy in the sky — I never really did — I went through the motions as a kid, and when I was really scared, those motions had a certain frenetic energy to them.  But some of the metaphors of religion I find valuable and, for me, at least, they offer a way for me to sit in the larger mystery all about us with some sense of grace and gratitude.

Speaking my truth in love,


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