23 November

So God Is Not Santa Claus? But What Is He/She/It?” Practice-Based Religion- My Divine Flow

by Jon Katz

I’ve taken time to be alone and think this week, which always stirs my spiritual life. I hope for more silence in the next few days.

My daily meditation reading today was from the Christian Mystic and author Richard Rohr; his book is titled “Yes, And…” and the chapter that caught my attention is called “God Is Not Santa Claus.”

I’ve never thought of my God as someone or something who will give me anything I pray or ask for, as I once thought Santa might. That doesn’t work for me.

“Both God as Trinity and Jesus as the image of the invisible God reveals a God quite different than the Santa Claus god who made “naughty and nice” lists or an “I will torture you if you do not love me” God (worse than our worst enemy…)” wrote Rohr.

He said we must be honest and admit that this is the God to which most people still pray.  I recently saw a painting of God in a museum; I thought he looked like a powerful dark storm.

Such images, Rohr wrote, are an unworkable basis for any real spirituality.

I do not know if there is a God, and if so, what they might look like. When I was younger, I was taught that God was a powerful and muscular figure with a long white beard and flowing hair; he was always holding a harp or surrounded by angels. He was formidable and had no sense of humor.

But I don’t embrace God as an older man sitting on a throne, deciding how many people will read my blog.

We all have ideas about what a  God might look or be like; I don’t think any particular faith has ever persuaded me they know for sure. In Judaism, God can’t even be mentioned, let alone seen.

But I like Rohr’s idea of God as the divine flow around and through all things.

I would add that God is the joy and excitement, and wonder we feel at being alive in this world for all its difficulties.

For me, God is a beautiful flower, a person you love, a dog who loves you, a donkey’s eyes, the sky after a storm, beautiful clouds, a creative spark, the morning sun, a healing refugee child,  the love of humanity, small acts of great kindness, a beautiful photo,  the wind in the meadow, the birds in the sky, the sounds of waves crashing on the shore.

God is hope and the ability to have faith in something bigger than I am. I don’t have a single image in mind. My God is certainly not Santa Claus or somebody I can ask to put more money in my bank account and make me live forever. My God is life itself, the crisis and mystery, the joy and the sorrow, the pain and the grief.

I also like Jesus’s idea of God as a loving parent who runs toward us while we are “still a long way off” and then clasps and kisses us — Luke 25:20. That’s a lovely idea, but it doesn’t quite work for me. I can’t picture it.

Organizing religion can’t work for me until I experience a way to see or feel what I might call God. I am struck by what some spiritual people call “practice-based religion. For me, this is faith that comes out of our individual lives and from inside of us, not from dogma we are taught from the outside.

When I take the time to be alone and go deep inside of myself, I sometimes find my God. I feel that divine glow running through me that Rohr writes about as a mystic. It is invisible.

I think that’s my God; I have no face or throne to see.




  1. Thank you for this, Jon. Everything you wrote here is beautiful, but I am especially struck by this sentence: “God is the joy and excitement, and wonder we feel at being alive in this world for all its difficulties.” This touched my heart, thank you.

  2. Very inspiring.
    Walt Whitman wrote when he saw leaves on the forest floor, that they were love letters from God.
    Thank you Jon.

  3. God is truth and love. Love is prior.

    Love of another is feeling their joy as one’s own. .

    Don’t know about your love but You still need to work on truth. That will take giving up the narcissus ghost which makes you falsify.

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