Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And the land that I live in
Has God on its side.
(B. Dylan "With God On Our Side")
A friend recently confided in me that he thought my writing here is bullying and hypocritical. He suggested that my examination of faith is cruel. His theory is that deep down, no matter how mature we may be, we are all essentially children needing a Santa Claus to help buoy our hopes. He told me that my analysis of faith amounts to a mean-spirited "Humbug".
I concede that my ideas regarding belief are blunt but, I find the psychology of faith fascinating and often wonder what 14 years of Catholic education combined with 7 years of Evangelical Christianity have done to me. I like to slice open my mind and probe.
I'm not a delicate surgeon and have little bed-side manner.
This is all done because as I grow and view the world, I find I am changing my mind when it comes to belief.
I still believe in belief or, that our brains find solace in it and I think my friend is correct; we all desire to imagine a transcendent possibility beyond ourselves. And most would say this demands theology, doctrine, orthodoxy but, I don't.
I guess I am unorthodox because I don't know what I believe but admit I am awed by the love I feel for my wife as she sighs her way into consciousness every morning.
Is that God? I don't know.
I've heard the term "Agnostic Christian". Maybe that is me.
My theology was once intricate and arcane but now it is simple - to love and be loved. I no longer wish to defend exclusive claims to universal truth based upon shared cultural stories. I find that type of truth divisive. It seems stupid to me.
I admit now that the stories I claimed as truth are incoherent to me and the only reason I agreed to them was because it afforded me popularity, today I crave authenticity.
The stories of the faith I was given demand a level of self-hatred that I no longer consider sane or useful. The theological concepts of Original Sin and Atonement seem products of primitive minds living in a bloody and dangerous world. I don't know how the insistence that I am corrupt and depraved and worthy of an eternity of torture is an animating idea towards mature awareness. And I really don't want to accept that it is my fault that god sacrificed himself to himself so that I might be able to know Heaven and be released from the generational crime perpetrated by mindless innocents in a garden 6,000 years ago.
None of that makes sense and all of that is what the faithful have sought to convince me of with religion and theology.
I do believe the stories we share can help us deal with the mysteries of life but, this past year I've seen that the stories people tell can often times contradict the morality they claim. I've experienced arrogant and ugly attitudes and behaviors supported by exclusive and presupposed truth. I was afraid of it at first, then disgusted, now I am just tired.
That's not to say I don't enjoy the company of my believing friends and for the most part find them incredibly good people. I count many Evangelical Christians, Catholics, Observant Jews and at least one Buddhist as good and trusted people. They are part of my network of "go to" folks.
Unfortunately some of their doctrine is also upheld by another segment that embodies hate, and fear. These are old acquaintances who embrace a "Buddy Jesus"; a tough god with wrath in his hip-pocket; a thick muscled deity who assures them the hatred they harbor against the disobedient is a revelation into his Godhead. They are the ones who are certain that God is on their side. I fear these folks because I believe that, without our secular protections, they'd become drunk on their religious fervor and, like the Calvinists they are, would enjoy burning me, my liberal friends, and the loving homosexual couples I admire. To these people, Christ is not the Prince of Peace but is the Ultimate Fighter ready to kick the tail of those who defy inerrant Biblical theology. They anxiously await his re-arrival clothed in bloody robes at the end times slicing in half those that are disagreeable.
They are the "Prayer Warriors" who told me they were certain Barack Obama was a Muslim because in their scrupulosity God told them so.
They are the Christian Right who whooped it up with Rush Limbaugh's endorsement of Sarah Palin because she humbly upheld the sixth commandment and boldly violated the ninth.
They are the ones who lie for Jesus to ensure the supernatural trumps natural science with their endorsement of Creationism masked as Intelligent Design because it is essential to an open education that all sides are considered; all the while claiming ignorance of Howard Ahmanson, RJ Rushdooney and Dominionism.
And they are the ones who, for the sake of tradition, demand their First Amendment rights extend into every area of society including depriving homosexuals their 14th Amendment rights.
I'm stuck. I like my civilized friends who happen to hold storied faith beliefs but, I can no longer honestly identify with the darker members of their body who allow belief to justify unexamined righteousness.
wrote in his essay, "The Christian Witness in a Secular Age" that the church,
" . . .