by Yvonne Williams.
‘All for one and one for all; united we stand, divided we fall.’
These famous words, from the well-known book The Three Musketeers, by the French author Alexandre Dumas, are the motto of the three heroes, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, in a swashbuckling tale of chivalrous swordsmen who fight for justice.
It has occurred to me in recent weeks, while reading and contributing to the very diverse comments in this online discussion, that all who believe in any kind of deity would do well to adopt this motto for themselves. The one thing that unites us, with each other and with most of the secular world, is a social conscience and the desire for all human beings to be treated with dignity and respect.
When I was studying to be a local preacher, we were trained in theological reflection, using the Word of God to inform our thinking on our life experiences. Being of a somewhat contrary nature (some would say argumentative, but I like to put a positive slant on it!) I have a tendency to look at things from the opposite angle, so I have often reflected in reverse and used my life experiences to inform my thinking about God.
Here is an example:
My father had five children. When he died, many years ago now, my siblings and I each wanted to write our own individual tribute for the obituaries, rather than do a joint one.
The eldest daughter wrote of his unconditional love. If we were in any kind of bother, and however badly we messed up, we could always go home, and Dad would welcome us back with open arms and a shoulder to cry on.
The second daughter mentioned Dad’s passion for gardening. He loved growing vegetables, which appeared fresh on our dinner plates most evenings, even if we didn’t appreciate them much at the time!
I was the third daughter, and I recalled his spirituality. Though he rejected his Catholic faith, his spirituality shone through in his love of nature and the way he greeted everyone he met with sincere cordiality.
My younger brother, the only son, remembered their close friendship and the daft sense of humour they both shared, usually over a few beers in the local Labour Club.
My younger sister, the baby of the family and the one most like Dad in looks and in nature, simply said she had ‘treasured memories of a wonderful father’ which she chose to keep private.
My Dad was no saint. He was a product of the patriarchal and patriotic culture he grew up in. As a result, he was quite chauvinistic and even a bit racist, but the humanitarian in him over-rode his own prejudice and made him the much-loved husband and father whose spirit lives on in us all today. While protecting and providing for us as a family unit, he took time to nurture and develop a unique bond with each one of us.
So, which of his offspring could claim to have the only authentic relationship? Wouldn’t it be both ludicrous and arrogant for any of us to say “my Dad is the true Dad, and yours is a flawed version”?
I fully appreciate that not everyone has been blessed with such a loving father/child relationship, and so cannot relate to God as a father figure; all the more reason for us to allow others the freedom to seek and discover their own special connection with the Divine. We should hold loosely to our beliefs, because Almighty God is bigger than any religion and bigger than all religions combined. He is bigger than all our acts of worship and acts of mercy. There are as many facets to the nature of God as there are species of insects, flowers, birds or butterflies. Every expression of life on earth is a manifestation of God.
Chivalrous heroes we may not be, but our humanity is our God-given opportunity to know and love him in our own unique way, and to make our own small contribution to the well-being of the world and its inhabitants. One God for all people, and all people for one God. I feel a song coming on!
‘One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright.’ 😊