Ironically, my only conscious prayer — the prayer I offer ritualistically at sunrise — is taken from a Psalm of David (143:8): “Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.”

I say “ironically” because the power to which I pray is not the assumed rewarding/punishing image of God described in the Old Testament that remains as a role model for our rewarding/punishing authorities in our competitive system.

The power to which I pray is a feeling. It is the feeling of the very beginning of everything, including my favorite species, humanity. I call that feeling “God.” I love us and believe we all deserve to experience that feeling of unconditional love.

How can I love humanity when there are so many people I dislike? It’s easy — I don’t like myself sometimes. I forgive us all everything even when I’m mad as hell at somebody. How can I love my enemies? I don’t have any; I just have people who don’t understand. We’re damaged products of a spiritually limited system.

We have learned the value of “positive role models” to guide self-destructive young people toward a better way to live — we often witness the power of compassion. We deserve an image of our beginning that is appropriate for our stage of development as a species.

We have developed beyond the image of a fearsome master who judges and condemns certain members of his family for behaving as products of a dysfunctional family. We have developed beyond the image of a self-serving master, seeking praise and rewarding blind loyalty. We have developed beyond an archaic, fearsome image of God.

We are in the process of developing beyond our fear of the unknown, the unfamiliar; we are developing toward the dramatic change that will rescue us from a worn-out system programmed to destroy itself. We are growing up.

Those of us who celebrate the tradition of Christmas are preparing to celebrate the birth of a prophet who told us more than 2,000 years ago that “God is love.” It is time to help love to change the world.

Gretchen

Nielsen is a published poet and a preacher without a church.