Monday, April 30, 2007

assorted thoughts

Someone asked me this evening at church how I was doing. I said, "Got an hour to go for a walk? I can tell you then."

We didn't, but as I explained to him, I'm at a point in my faith where I've stopped putting off questions I've had for years. Some people enjoy the certainty of knowing and they see doubt as an evil to be avoided or as a monster to be silenced; I see faith and doubt as walking hand in hand, and I've lived for years at the point where the two mix uneasily like masses of cold and warm air.

The storm has been brewing for a long time, and the wind is starting to blow something fierce.
During the service, we had a period where people were supposed to call out something descriptive of God as an act of worship. Back in college, we would do this and say things like, "Lord, you are wonderful" or "Lord, you are gracious." Tonight, I wrote:

Lord, you are inscrutable
    an escapist fantasy?
    the personification of our hopes, our fears, and our metaphysical aspirations?
Are you the source of our meandering concepts of Truth, Beauty, Grace and Love, or our explanation of them?

It's curious, really. I've been a believer for 18 years, almost 19. I spent two years on the missions field, and though I've had moments where I've questioned God's goodness and moments where I've wondered if he even exists, I think this past week or so has been the first time in those almost 19 years that I've seriously considered the possibility for a rather extended period that it's likely -- not possible, but likely -- that God is an extrapolation by humanity from the nontangibles of our world, such as love and truth, to identify an external Prime Mover from which they come. I feel like all around me, and not just in church, that people are claiming to have all the answers, and no one's even bothering to ask any questions.

Am I making sense?

So tonight, I didn't take Communion when it was offered, and I didn't join in the prayer groups, and I didn't even really sing any of the worship songs. Instead, I wrote on the back and the inside of my bulletin and complimentary visitor's card, and when I filled those, I took one from the vacant seat beside me. Here's what I wrote, somewhat disjointed yet still an honest reflection of my thought processes at the time:

God is dead.

Was he ever alive?

Did God create us, or did we create him to inspire ourselves to be better?

Ordinary stuff happens, and we credit it to miracles or blame it on God, when it's completely ordinary in nature and easily traceable to natural causes. The credit is due to timing, good or ill, and yet we attach it to God.

What reason is there to believe? What gain? In committing to follow an inscrutable god whose very existence lies beyond the realm of proof, we bind ourselves into a lifetime of servitude to the expectations of others who claim to be following that same god. In exchange for this supreme act of self-abasement, we're promised something no one reasonably can assure us of, and yet when we break from this conformance to others' expectations, we're reprimanded, shunned or even worse. All we have to do is believe an impossibility, leap beyond any source of logic.

The canon is a fascinating collection of stories, but half are fiction and the rest differ, disagree and carry the pathologies of a score or more different authors. And that's our basis for faith?

Is this all a crock? In our hearts, do we know that we toss our prayers into an empty sky beneath an indifferent sun, yet tell ourselves otherwise to give ourselves hope and comfort?

Is the struggle between Christ and Satan nothing more than being caught between the inner burning of our personal beast and the celestial light of our aspirations to be better people and to build a better society for our children?

I do not believe in God
I do not believe in God
I do not believe in God
I do not believe in God

I see no evidence that Christ transforms us in ways that other religions or gods do not.

You know, some people feel tremendous relief when they walk away from the Christian faith, and I can understand that. The unholy pressure of the church to be match its standard of righteousness and to live a certain way, and the petty vindictiveness the church crowd can have for people who fail to match up, is so far outside the nature of Christ, that it would be a relief to leave it behind, to stop pretending to be something I'm not, and to plunge headlong into the fountain of honest self-expression.

I'm having a hard time right now seeing validity to the Christianity, not just as it's practiced in church but in what I understand its foundations to be as well. And I find no relief in that assessment.


Karen said...

Dear Marauder:

Normally I do not respond to blogs, but my son brought yours to my attention and I decided to respond based on my deep appreciation for the pain I hear in your voice.
In my understanding of my faith journey, it is not based on a church or a creed, as much as it is based on the deep seated knowing of God’s presence in my life…in all situations and places.

The first knowledge I had of God came in my need to find peace, hope and compassion in a friendless world; not a world where things were orderly or predictable. When I first encountered Christ, I found peace in His words, healings and miracles, not just as stories, but as the reality of truth and love that God gave Jesus to us to model God’s deep love for us as His beloved children.

The journey of faith is often troublesome and confusing, and while it is important to question and to challenge, I believe it is equally important to have a sense of awe and wonder. We do not create ourselves. We chose our path and that makes a great deal of difference to all those around us.

Seeking and Finding by Joyce Rupp is a marvelous example of our search and perhaps you will find it helpful to remember that God exists within us, not as an institution but as God’s love – guiding, healing and helping us to survive and to find a home within.

"I search for God,
Elusive, hidden God,
I long to dwell
In the heart of Mystery.

I search for my true self
More of who I already am
Knowing there’s so much
yet to be discovered.

I search for love,
The unconditional love
That enfolds me
And asks to be shared.

I search for vision
In the shows of my soul,
Impatiently awaiting
the moment of lighting.

I search for a quiet heart
Amid life’s harried schedule
My soul cries out
Yearning for solitude.

I search for compassion
In a world gone deaf
To the cries of the hurting
And the pleas of the powerless.

I search for Home
Always for Home
Unaware, of course
That I am already there."

This poem is found on page 81 in the book, May I have This Dance, and is an excellent resource.
I hope you will find some peace in it and know that you are surrounded with prayer at this time in your journey. You are not alone, you are God’s beloved.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. It echoes my own feelings on being a Christian in many ways.