An Unspeakable Name
Monday, September 21, 2020
Remember what God said to Moses: “I AM Who I AM” (Exodus 3:14). God is clearly not tied to a name, nor does God seem to want us to tie Divinity to any one name. Which is why, in Judaism, God’s statement to Moses became God’s unspeakable and unnamable identity. Some would say that the name of God literally cannot be “spoken,” only breathed.  Now that was very wise, and sometimes I wish we had kept it up. This tradition alone should tell us to practice profound humility in regard to God, who gives us not a name, but only pure presence—no handle that could allow us to think we “know” who God is or have the divine as our private possession.
The Christ is always far too much for us, larger than any one era, culture, empire, or religion. Its radical inclusivity is a threat to any power structure and any form of arrogant thinking. Jesus by himself has usually been limited by the evolution of human consciousness in these first two thousand years, and held captive by culture, nationalism, and Western Christianity’s own cultural captivity to a white, bourgeois, and Eurocentric worldview. We have often missed the ways Jesus reveals himself, because “there stood among us one we did not recognize” (John 1:26). He came in mid-tone skin, from the underclass, a male body with a female soul, from an often-hated religion, and living on the very cusp between East and West. No one owns him, and no one ever will.
Jesus clearly says naming God correctly is not the priority, “Do not believe those who say ‘Lord, Lord’” (Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46. Italics added). It is those who “do it right” that matter, he says, not those who “say it right.” Yet verbal orthodoxy has been Christianity’s preoccupation, at times even allowing us to burn people at the stake for not “saying it right.” We ended up spreading national cultures under the rubric of Jesus, instead of a universally liberating message under the name of Christ. What I call an incarnational worldview is the profound recognition of the presence of the divine in literally “every thing” and “every one.”
I would go so far as to say that the proof that you are a mature Christian is that you can see Christ everywhere else. Authentic God experience always expands your seeing and never constricts it. What else would be worthy of God? In God you do not include less and less; you always see and love more and more. And it is from this place that we lose any fear we have about entering into discussion, prayer, and friendship with people of other faith traditions.
 Richard Rohr, The Naked Now (Crossroad Publishing: 2009), 25-26. In fact, the holy name YHWH is most appropriately breathed rather than spoken, and we all breathe the same way.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 17-18, 33, 35.