Faith, Hope, Science, Reason, Love, and Shame

I wrote an email to a friend the other day that I believe states some of my current struggles quite well, and I’ve decided to rewrite it and share it as a post on my blog.

My last year at church was not entirely constructive. I’ve taken my faith and deconstructed it to a certain extent, but what I’ve really done is quarrel with my faith when my quarrel was with people’s actions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in different places over the past ten years and thought, “Where is this hatred coming from?” I’m so tired of all the labels that slanderously get tossed about: “liberal, fag, evolutionist, abomination, pop psychologist”, etc. It’s funny that for as much as I loathe Christian pop-culture and marketing, the original idea of “What Would Jesus Do” has always rung true to me. While I’m sorry and bitter it got turned into a money making machine, I can still respect the notion. And for me, the answer has often been, not enough what has gone on around me. Or for that matter, not enough in me, either.

I have troubles with what I call all-or-nothing thinking. I guess it could labeled black or white, too. I’m not saying black and white never exists, but, I think recently our society has tried to reshape the landscape and force every possible issue into either category. Sometimes, I believe, more finesse is needed. Where this leaves me, however, is with a pattern of thinking that if I’m not a Christian exactly like some then I must be an atheist. I’ve heard so many times people say things that sounded like “if you believe in evolution, then you don’t really believe in Jesus” or “if you don’t adhere to the notion of a ‘young earth’ you are anti-Biblical” and wondered where that left me. The irony is that many spend time focused on how “the world” can have such a detrimental impact on ones faith, yet in my case, most the detriment has been from within church circles. That is not to say all of it, or that none of it is my fault, but that’s where the battle has been fought, but not yet, lost. I have been so ashamed of being a Christian much of the time, because of what I see it marketed as. And I don’t just mean how it gets twisted and turned by the media, or those opposed to it, but rather, the faithful themselves. I’ve sat through so many meals involving obscenely loud and derogatory discussions about homosexuality I’ve lost count. I felt ashamed, and then, I felt ashamed of being ashamed. Such a vicious cycle.

An even grander irony has been the efforts of some to push apologetics deeply into the ground of reason and logic, and faith into the realm of science. The impact on me, surprisingly (or maybe not) is usually the opposite. I live my life primarily by logic and reason. My decisions are pragmatic. It appeals and feels safe to me. So safe of course, it lacks balance. But that’s a whole other discussion. Anyway, when the experiences I have regarding faith wander into areas of proofs, debate and argumentation, the result is almost always unsatisfying to me. Whereas for some, picking up a book by Josh McDowell or an author from the ICR may be encouraging, I will end up spending an excess of time picking it apart, logical fallacy at a time. I will feel worse at the end of the book. So what does this mean for me? It means that for me, faith is not about science, it’s not about reason or logic, it’s not always about making sense and knowing which way is up. It’s very much about persevering through painful doubts. It’s also, personally, a choice. A process of choice much like refusing to only intellectually pursue the question, “Do I love Crista?” I will never come to a satisfactory intellectual end to a question like that. I am not saying no one can rationally answer questions like that, it’s just extremely difficult for a person of my makeup. But there’s something in me that is peaceful and still and insistent that tells me I do. It wouldn’t even take an astute atheist to point out I just compared God with the emotion of love. So then I must be saying God is an emotion? Well, logically I might be trapped there, but hey, it is one of the few things that is truly compelling to me about God.

I also want to apologize for disrespect I’ve given to my friends at times I’ve made snide comments recently. While I think there are lots of Christians out there I am afraid behave like caricatures, I don’t think they all do. And I am sorry when I lump together the ones that don’t with the ones that do. Many of my friends from our circle are people I consider authentic and respectable in their faith. Often I wish I knew and am even jealous of how you all do it. It’s really, really hard for me. I don’t know if I will ever have a peace about it like the one that many of you appear to have. But that’s OK, because you’re you and I’m me. I don’t have to agree with you all 100% of the time, but, I do need to try harder to share with, respect, and understand you all.

—Dec 23, 2005