Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

An elderly lady told me this week that she still feels like a young girl in her mind; it’s just her body that’s slowing down. My grandpa used to tell me, “I feel strong in my mind. I want to go outside and build something or go fishing, but my body just won’t let me.” Apparently it also happens in our youth more subtly, as the Navy Commander warned a young Top Gun named Maverick, “Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.” 

Listening to Springsteen this morning I caught a line I hadn’t really noticed before, 

“Let your mind rest easy, sleep well my friend
It’s only our bodies that betray us in the end”

Even if we find salvation, enlightenment, athletic prowess, or just a life well-lived, our bodies will betray us in the end, if our minds don’t go first. It’s just the way of nature. None of us get out of this alive, well not clinically speaking anyway.

Call me a Christian, a mystic, a romantic or an eternal optimist, but I believe we can live and die alive to life and to every moment. Jesus said, “even though he die, yet shall he live.” Some believe that’s about the next life, but it’s definitely speaking about this life too. He said, “Whoever wants to come after me must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” When Ram Dass talked about that verse, he said, “The trick is to die before you die, then you can really live.” To die to our selfishness, our small selves, our fragile egos, our isolation, our way. To die to our deception that old age, sickness, and death comes to everyone else but us. 

When we die in that way, then shall we live. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” Rather than depress us, that simple truth wakes us up to the precious gift that life is, this day, this moment. 

Our bodies aren’t the enemy. We do what we can, when we can, and take care of them as best we can, but this is an awfully short ride in the big picture. Maybe it’s only a betrayal if you expected it to be otherwise. 

I’m not sure how to answer that question anymore. I was raised as a Christian and claimed that faith for my own when old enough to understand what I was doing. I have committed over half of my 35 years on this planet to Christian ministry as a minister. I have a weakness for this faith that makes me swoon over things like Jesus, grace, incarnation, hymns, and liturgy, but so much of what is considered “Christian” these days in America repulses me and makes me want to run away. The expression of Christianity that resonates most with me is old, simple, organic, and real. Krista Tippett’s answer to this question really reflected how I feel also:

I do consider myself to be Christian, or this is the way I would say it: that’s my mother tongue. That’s where I come from, and that’s my mother tongue. That’s my heritage.

– Krista Tippett, from an interview with Buddhist Geeks podcast, “Carving Out a Life of Meaning”

Christianity is my mother tongue. It’s what I know, who I am, and in my blood. I’m very comfortable and fluent in speaking it, even though most conversations are about what it isn’t as much as what it is.

I first began practicing mediation about two years ago in response to a health crisis I experienced. (You can read more about it here: My Journey Into Real Happiness) It was a purely secular, self-help attempt on my part because medication was not working. I didn’t even entertain the thought of Buddhist teaching for a long time. It was simply something that helped me and made me feel better. Almost a year ago I started reading more about Buddhist teaching to gain some understanding and context for what I was experiencing in meditation. The dharma, the teaching, really ignited my meditation practice and helped me to take the practice off the cushion and apply it to everyday life.

Buddhism isn’t a religion as such. There is no one to worship. There are teachings but not some universal dogma which everyone must believe or suffer for all eternity for rejecting. We’re already suffering here and now, and most of it is of our own making, Buddhism teaches. In Buddhist practice we can walk back down the path that led us into this mess. We can begin to understand it. We can make choices to be aware of our thoughts and actions. We can be kinder to ourselves and others.

Somewhere I read that Buddhism isn’t something you believe or something that you are, it’s something that you do. When one master was pressed on the question “Are you a Buddhist?,” he simply answered, “I practice Buddhist meditation.” I don’t think Buddha himself would self-identify as a Buddhist, nor would Jesus likely be able to identify with all that has been done in His name.

I think my best answer today at this point in my life  is that I am a follower of Jesus who practices Buddhist meditation. Christianity may be my mother tongue, but I’m bi-lingual. As I become more fluent in this Eastern tongue, it has informed my Christian faith and enriched my daily life. There will never be a day when I cease to follow Jesus, but I have incredible respect and appreciation for this ancient path that has at last introduced me to myself.

Namaste and Peace Be Unto You

If you are interested in the correlation of the two practices, I highly recommend:

  • Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian by Paul Knitter
  • Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Naht Hahn
  • The Enoch Factor by Steve McSwain

Theravada Buddhist meditation is feeling more and more like the path for me. That is not to say anything negative against Mahayana, Vajrayana, or Zen Buddhism. I still enjoy several teachers from those schools and continue to learn a lot from them.

Next to Theravada I have the most affinity for Soto Zen, but overall I just feel most comfortable with Theravada, in particular Vipassana and Metta. All of this has been pretty confusing for a while, but I think it comes into focus when it’s supposed to and not a moment sooner.

“Be a lamp unto yourself.” – Buddha

Article from National Catholic Reporter. An interview of Paul Knitter about his bookWithout Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian. I highly recommend the book to anyone new to Buddhism or feel a sense of “double belonging” at this time in your life.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all! I know the holiday carries a different significance for everyone or none at all. The day is important to me not for the legends of “chasing the snakes out of Ireland” or the privilege of pinching random people without prosecution. St. Patrick’s Day reminds me of the man himself and all the reasons why Celtic Christianity has kept me from abandoning the faith altogether.

I’ve written many posts about my affinity for Celtic Christianity, one such overall post is A Generous View of Life. I respect most that St. Patrick himself did not return to Ireland to enforce his way upon others. He did not banish all of the local traditions and split the people into groups of insiders/outsiders. He actually adapted many of the local customs, even pagan customs, to use them as an means of teaching Christian values. More so, he did not teach a dogmatic absolute theology. Rather he chose to live and model those values as an example before others. He focused more on being incarnational and missional rather than dogmatic and confrontational. By living your faith and modeling it before others, sermonizing becomes unnecessary.

I also appreciate that Celtic Christians were “people driven by ideas.” They were open rather than closed. They left themselves open to others. They left their faith open to mystery. Both principles are often pandered to but hard to find.

In case you’re still wondering, there were no snakes in Ireland to start with. Consider yourself pinched.

Maybe you were one of those snobby rich kids that had everything they ever wanted growing up, or maybe you were the kid who saved up every dollar and bought your own pair of designer jeans twice a year and took exquisite care of them. I was neither. I had nice things but Levi’s were the extent of my brand loyalties. Aside from the trendy things we all focus on as teenagers, there are a myriad of other mundane everyday things in our adolescent lives that we use because they are available to us. Toothpaste, ketchup, shaving cream, etc.

When you leave home for the first time, whether for college, marriage, or the working world, you are suddenly faced with more choices than you ever thought possible. You take for granted all the common utilitarian things your parents provided for you. Do you remember the first time you went out to buy toothpaste for yourself? What do you get? Do you buy what your mom had always bought for you? Do you stretch your rebellious wings in protest and go for something new? As simple and foolish as it sounds, it is a microcosm of the process we go through into adulthood. How much do we cling to? How far do we run away?

I still remember vividly walking into my first dorm room at La Tech and finding a nicely packaged shoe-sized box on my bed. Inside were Edge shaving cream, Coast soap, Crest toothpaste and several other necessities and loads of marketing flyers and coupons. Thirteen years later I’m still using those same brands. I did not consciously choose to try something different. Had I wandered down to Wal-Mart after running out of whatever I brought from home, I very well may have bought Aquafresh toothpaste because I had used it all my life, but I was given the opportunity to consider an alternative.

My trips down to the food court and cafeteria in the student center were just as life-altering. They had Bullseye BBQ sauce and Log Cabin syrup. I never had that before, and I really liked them. We always used Kraft BBQ sauce and Blackburn syrup at home. I don’t know how many kids ask their parents to try a different BBQ sauce. You just use what you have, what you’re comfortable with. To this day I still buy those brand at the grocery store. It was a conscious minute rebellious stand on my part. “This is different. I am on my own.”

The religions we grow up with are not all that different than the foods and everyday items we are comfortable with from our childhood. We all know (and you may have been) one of teens who ran away from the church of your childhood as fast and hard as you could the moment you were out the door. I wasn’t. I went deeper. I changed schools, switched my major to religion, married my high school sweetheart, and began pastoring churches by my sophomore year in college.

[Can we take an aside for just a moment and address something here? Who the hell lets a 19 year old kid pastor a church? For crying out loud, I don’t care how mature or intelligent you are. It borders on child abuse. I know now that I was no where near mentally and emotionally mature enough to be in that situation. There is a lot to be said for the Methodist system that requires training, accountability, and assignment. This Baptist free-for-all independent streak can be detremental to the emotional well being of all concerned. Okay, just had to get that off my chest.]

It was later after several years of pastoral ministry, graduating college, and lots of life experiences that I began to move away from the comfortable religion of my childhood and seriously question the tenets and methods intensively. Once I stopped going to church every Sunday, it became easier to think clearly. While we may enjoy the fellowship and worship, there is an enormous amount of direct and indirect conditioning taking place. Whenever you remove yourself from that environment and begin to think independently, you may come up with different answers than those you were taught in Sunday School.

I don’t know which label is most appropriate to describe my theological quandry. It’s like trying to hit a moving target because I’m in a constant state of evolution. Maybe I’m a very liberal Christian, but there’s more that I disagree with in the church than I agree with, so it seems disingenuous to consider myself a Christian. I personally feel somewhere in the middle of agnosticism and atheism. My simple understanding of those terms is that one says we can’t know whether or not God is and the other says he is not.

I don’t really know whether God exists or not. If there is a God, he cannot possibly be anything like the Judeo-Christian version we’ve all been brought up to believe in. I’m much more inclined to believe in a unifying field or consciousness than a divine deity. Science and theoretical physics have given me answers to who we are, how we came to be, and what we’re doing here more than any sermon I’ve ever heard. It’s not really important to me which label fits me best, but I’ve felt more and more pressure to have a “coming out.”

I have no desire to diminish the faith of others or make a spectacle of myself. I just don’t believe the same way anymore. There are reasons why I turn down invitations to preach, why I don’t read the Bible the same way as others expect me to, why I don’t care about going to church, etc. I think it’s only a matter of time before family members, friends, or peers force the issue. I’d rather avoid the shock waves and the fallout, because I know that people get angry, they get hurt, they feel the need to put your name on the prayer list. I’m not interested. I may be called an atheist, an agnostic, or a liberal, but I’m happiest just being me. In fact I’m happier being me than I have ever been in my entire life, and for the first time in my entire life I chose to be me.

So what happens when a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian get together in the South? It sounds like the beginning of a terrible joke, but it’s really happening in Central Louisiana. Tonight was the first night of the second series of Interfaith Dialogues hosted by Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim, The Islamic Society, and Emmanuel Baptist Church in Alexandria, LA. The speakers were Rabbi Arnold Task, Imam Yaser al Khooly, and Dr. Lee Weems. The first meeting tonight was held at Emmanuel, and the topic was “Our Distinctive Holy Days.” The topic of the next meeting will be “What My Faith Means To Me (A Woman’s View)” held at the Jewish Synagogue, and the last meeting of the year will be “Sacred Scripture” held at the Islamic Center.

In the South ecumenism is a rarity, but when it does surface, it usually means that either a black church and white church came together for some occasion or a few Protestants got together with some Catholics for something. Although more known for being the second notch of the Bible Belt, Central Louisiana has had a very visible and very respected Jewish community for years and has a steadily growing Islamic community most notably among healthcare professionals and business owners. My friend and I really had hoped to attend the first series of Dialogues held in the Spring, but they weren’t very well publicized, plus we were off working all over the state. I’m glad that I was able to make it tonight and look forward to the rest of the conversation.

I appreciate the spirit in which the conversations took place. I would characterize it as one of respect and genuine interest. This afternoon while weighing what I had to do versus making the effort to attend tonight, I kept thinking about why this was so important, although seemingly insignificant. If more people around the world would take the time to get together and talk, there would be far less violence and animosity in the world. Having just recently watched CNN’s three-part series God’s Warriors also freshly impressed upon me the importance of working to overcome ignorance and barriers to peace. One of the greatest delusions is that the absence of conflict is the equivalent to the presence of peace. It may be a cease-fire kind of peace, but it is not a peace based on unity and understanding without effort.

I noticed a lot of similarities in the basic underlying tenets or objectives of each faith tradition, as well as many “distinctives.” I noticed most the focus of right relationship to our Creator and the imperatives of service to others. There were a few things that stuck out most to me from each speaker.

It stuck with me most that Rabbi Task summarized Judaism as a religion of “ethical monotheism.” While speaking about charity during Ramadan, Iman al Khooly quoted a prophet that said you cannot be a believer and go to sleep at night with a full belly while your neighbor’s is empty (paraphrase mine). I also appreciated how he described everything done between prayer times as acts of worship and the various signifigances of observing the month of Ramadan. Dr. Weems emphasized the importance of Advent and Lent leading up to Christmas and Easter, which in my opinion is almost never mentioned in most Protestant circles I’ve ran in most of my life. It made me think of why that is. I think Baptists have a knee-jerk reaction against Advent and Lent as “Catholic” observances, but I think Anglicans and other Protestants have placed a higher importance on the seasons as well as the holidays.

Anyway, that’s my take on the conversation. Rabbi Task and Iman al Khooly invited everyone to attend their services some time. I told a friend of mine he’ll have to go with me to the Islamic Center one day. I have much to learn.

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Luke 14:25-33

Just when you think you’ve found a way to read the Bible that doesn’t make you pull your hair out or throw it out the window, your journey comes to an abrupt halt in front of a monolithic roadblock like this one. Where is Brian McClaren when you need him? Will somebody from the “kinder, gentler Christianity” movement please stand up and do something with this thing? Anybody from the Jesus Seminar around? Dear God! This thing is heavy! What the bleep?

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”

“anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

“any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

Ok, before everyone rushes out to get their hammer and chisel and start rounding off the edges of this thing, let me tell you that it won’t help. Save your energy. Everyone makes a mad dash to point out that Jesus didn’t really mean you have to hate your momma. It was just a figure of speech, sort of a theological “shock and awe.” This is obvious from Matthew’s version, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,” but ‘hello!’ this is not any easier to swallow.

Jesus is saying that if we’re going to follow Him we have to love Him more than our parents, our family, even our own lives. So before we all get too comfortable with this Jesus we’ve been touting on our blogs, you had better get in the Gospels and find out just which Jesus we’re talking about. Sure, it’s an easy thing to be in love with the Mr. Rogers version of Jesus, the flannel board version, the Santa Claus version, the social activist version, the Dr. Phil version, but what about the real version? Will the real Jesus please stand up?

That’s really what studying the Bible is about isn’t it? Trying to discover the authentic Jesus to enable us to live an authentic faith. The problem with a passage like this is that it demands a response. You cannot ignore it. You cannot move it. What do you do with it? You cannot explain it away. This isn’t a story about walking on water, raising the dead, or healing the blind. By all measures of scholarship this is the historical Jesus, raising the stakes for all of us in this merry band of “Christians” on the journey with Him to Jerusalem.

Some people apparently got the idea that hanging with Jesus was all about dinner parties, free hillside buffets, magic shows, witty debates, and adventure. No doubt many of those traveling with Him nearer to Jerusalem had the mentality of those that waved the palm branches and shouted “Hosanna!” when He walked into town. They thought He was launching a revolution to overthrow the Romans. Not quite.

Jesus would have been a lousy pastor today. We spend all our time trying to draw a crowd and keep it. He spent more of His time sending them away. Maybe this is like in Batman Returns when Bruce Wayne disperses his dinner party by faking a drunken rant in order to save them from the bad guys there to kill him. No, not hardly. This is an invitation to follow Him but at your own risk.

Often times in history the most devout fall into the extremism of belief, which almost always ends in “kill or be killed.” In the movie Syriana George Clooney’s character noted, “you can’t bomb this out of them.” We’ve seen modern reinterpretations of calls to arms, which usually entail fund-raising, letter writing, screaming from the top of your lungs wearing a plywood plackard, and in some cases guns, but when Jesus launched a revolution he went on neither offense nor defense. He went to Jerusalem as a lamb to the slaughter, silent before his shearers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” It’s a revolution alright, but you don’t pick up your sword. You lay it down.

Less we get too comfortable with Jesus and rank Him among the other great spiritual teachers of history, He makes these outrageous claims, and we struggle to rationalize them. Just who does this guy think He is? Are we really prepared to follow Him? Do we have what it takes? Evangelicals spend all their energy telling people how easy it is to be “saved.” Then once you’re in, they spend the rest of your life telling you how many hoops you have to jump through to be a Christian. I’ve said for years that we’ve got to rewrite the brochures and the infomercials, because the church has no concept of “truth in advertising.”

I’m driving down the expressway and see the latest sermon series plastered on a billboard with cute graphics and catchy slogans, and I’ve got to shake my head. Is this what the gospel has become… a marketing campaign? Watered down, politically correct, culturally compatible, spoon fed mush? It may build big churches and big egos, but it’s a half gospel from a false Messiah. It’s an easy thing to be a “Christian” in America. Try doing it in Iran or China or Sudan. It’s not just about persecution. It’s about living an authentic faith in poverty. The prosperity gospel doesn’t go down so easy on an empty stomach.

I don’t know what to do with a passage like this. I don’t know what to do with a man like this. Sometimes I feel like turning around and walking off like the rich young ruler who went away sad. Other times I think myself committed, then we get to Jerusalem and before the day’s over I’ve denied Him three times. Geez.

All I know to do is in every small decision, every word, every action to choose to act on the side of love, to try to be selfless, to refuse to be owned by things and be swayed by the fickle winds of the culture. Maybe in some small way I can be subversive. Maybe, just maybe, for a moment I can follow Jesus.

I’m in love with words and dusty books,
the taste of deep red wine and salty ocean air,
drunk on a lonely tune and a sunset sky.

You might say that I am a romantic, in the classical sense. I go weak in the knees for ideas. I love nuance, symbolism, and possibilities. This makes me especially vulnerable to the seductive language of scripture.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “in love with the idea of being in love.” Dorothy Boyd’s description of her feelings for Jerry McGuire describe my affair with Christianity well, “I love him! I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost is.” One of my favorite bloggers Real Live Preacher expressed this idea succinctly in a recent post:

Christianity has already shrunk in my lifetime from being the shining center of all truth and purpose to something less than that. Even looking at things from the inside, even willing to give the benefit of every doubt, Christianity seems like a bumbling, prosaic movement which is, as often as not, violent, anti-intellectual, and xenophobic.

But I love Christianity so much. Or at least I love what it could be. I want to hug it. I want to throw my arms around the beautiful language of salvation and redemption. I want to curl up in the warmth of my faith community, the people I love so deeply in this world. Truly they are like family to me. I feel I could get drunk on our ancient symbols, myths and stories, the ones that speak in luscious tones vibrating through a million voices across the centuries.

With time and disappointment love can change and devotion can wane, but for all that I have learned and all that I question about my faith I just cannot bring myself to walk away completely. In The Painted Veil Mother Superior said:

“I fell in love when I was 17… with God. A foolish girl with romantic notions about the life of a religious, but my love was passionate. Over the years my feelings have changed. He’s disappointed me. Ignored me. We’ve settled into a life of peaceful indifference. The old husband and wife who sit side by side on the sofa, but rarely speak. He knows I’ll never leave Him. This is my duty. But when love and duty are one, then grace is within you.”

I don’t stay from a sense of obligation or from fear of divine retribution. I think I stay because it’s familiar. These words I’ve heard so many times bring comfort when few others have. For all that I know there is more that I don’t know. I no longer look at the Bible as a rubik’s cube waiting to be solved. It has become more like a painting to me. One that requires long gazes from an open mind to appreciate. Every time I return I see something new in something old. Faith is not having all the right answers to spiritual questions. Faith is loving the idea of what could be, and the test of faith is in making small choices that bring those possibilities to life.

Note to self: Watch encore presentation of “God’s Warriors” on CNN Saturday night

I forgot this was coming on this week and only caught the third part tonight, which focused on the struggle between fundamentalists and moderates within Christianity. Wow! Very well done. This is the kind of thing you need to watch with a small group of people and have a great discussion when it’s over.

A couple of quick observations:

  1. Ron Luce of Teen Mania is a lunatic.
  2. I think Greg Boyd‘s been inside my head or at least reading my blog. Good stuff, Greg.
  3. Richard Cizik is a class act all the way on why it is “Christian” to protect the environment.

Mostly, as of late, I am embarassed of some of the things I have believed and said in the past (even from the pulpit no less), but mostly I am glad for having my eyes as well as my mind opened to see things differently. Whether or not you agree with this documentary or someone’s opinion, for that matter, listen and be respectful. I think it’s what Jesus would do.

A Hobbit's TaleTrying to describe the personal journey that I’ve been on for the last four years is like trying to nail jello to the wall.  I’ve gone through a thorough detox from vocational and institutional Christianity, plunged headlong into the “dark night of the soul,” and am slowly emerging with my head above unchartered waters. Bilbo’s story could well be my own, “There and Back Again: A Hobbit’s Tale,” yet the place to which I’ve returned is different and familiar all the same.

For those of you that don’t know I spent roughly 10 years in pastoral ministry, or I could say that I spent 10 years in pastoral ministry roughly. I broke from full-time ministry to become self-employed in healthcare marketing, a job I still have five years later. For 18 months I tried to be bi-vocational while building this new business, but aside from preaching on Sundays, my job didn’t lend itself to be compatible with pastoral ministry.

My departure from full-time ministry was against the grain of the church-growth mentality. I was capable and expected to move on to bigger churches to continue my “ministry.” Not only did I demote myself to a smaller pastorate, but I also went “secular.” There was a lapse of 9 months before I began the bi-vocational pastorate, leaving many to circulate rumors that my last church drove me from the ministry. Beginning with leaving full-time ministry I began to contemplate ways to reinvent the wheel. I had a deep gnawing awareness that something was wrong with the way we did church. I slowly began to peel back the layers of tradition trying to find something of an authentic spirituality worth practicing.

My earliest attempts at deconstruction focused too much on models and methods. I began to see small-group/cell-driven churches as a panacea. I even started a prototype group of potential leaders with the intention of duplicating into a small network of cells that would eventually begin corporate gatherings. One of the families went back into a traditional ministry role, leaving myself and a good friend of mine to discover that the root of our problems went much deeper than having the wrong model.

The reality we came to face was that we who had spent years in the ministry were completed isolated from normal people on the outside of the four walls of the church. You cannot reach people if you’re not with people. As we began to rethink our approach to reaching people, we became acutely aware of our own hidden agendas to “win friends and influence people.” There’s a powerful quote from the movie Big Kahuna with Kevin Spacey and Danny Devito that describes this well:

It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or ‘How to Make Money in Real Estate With No Money Down.’ That doesn’t make you a human being; it makes you a marketing rep. If you want to talk to somebody honestly, as a human being, ask him about his kids. Find out what his dreams are – just to find out, for no other reason. Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it’s not a conversation anymore; it’s a pitch. And you’re not a human being; you’re a marketing rep.

This realization has forever changed the way I interact with people and what I think of evangelism. I want to know people and value them for who they are and what they can teach me through their stories regardless of whether they agree with me or not.

It was about this time that I began trying to focus on being incarnational and became sympathetic to Celtic Christianity, in particular Celtic Daily Prayer of the Northumbria Community. I appreciate their focus on incarnation, prayer, contemplation, and service. It was a different, gentler form of Christianity that touched me deeply and sort of nourished me back to wholeness as a person, leaving one last link in my life to Christianity.

Aside from serving twice as an interim pastor for a few months following my bi-vocational pastorate, my wife and I quit going to church altogether. We felt no guilt whatsoever. We actually felt relieved and much happier. We didn’t disavow church for all time, but we were too well acquainted with the churches, parishoners, and pulpit personalities in our area to want to attend any of them. It was not long before a year had passed without darkening the door of a sanctuary.

In the process of deconstructing tradition and trying to be an honest broker of my motivations and convictions I became obsessed with trying to find answers to questions. Every answer yielded only more questions but better questions. It was not long before every truth I tried to stand on felt like mush beneath my feet. I found the most compelling answers not in theology but in the realm of science and reasoning. In particular my study of astrophysics and eventually quantum mechanics opened my eyes to a whole new way of seeing the world and my place in it. The Matrix is a definitive movie of our time for expressing the dynamic shift in worldviews taking place.

When your eyes are opened to see the world in a new way, there is a mixture of emotions ranging from anger for being hoodwinked to wide-eyed wonder in a new way of engaging life. Perhaps mainly for comfort I continued to come back to Celtic Daily Prayer and continually tried to rethink my way through all that I had been taught about God, the world, and who I am. I sort of came to a place where I was prepared to leave behind everything I had professed to believe in and go my own way. I realized that if I was willing to forsake it all, before I did I might as well try to start with a blank slate trying to reconstruct some semblance of a real world, liveable faith that worked for me. Demythologizing became a pathway out of the dark night of the soul for me. I began to find far more power and truth in looking through the lens of metaphor and symbolism than I ever did through literalism.

I suppose I’ve become theologically liberal. Although I never thought that was possible, I’m completely comfortable in my own skin for the first time in a long time. In no way do I consider to have to come to the end of my journey. I’m not dead yet. I find myself in a familiar place again. We’ve been visiting a few churches and found a church and a pastor with whom I can identify. I don’t have to agree with everything to find value in something. So I find myself retracing old steps but going in a new direction with a new way of seeing the road ahead. So I say with humility that I’ve been “there,” and I’ve come “back again.” There’s nothing to say I won’t end up “there” again before the journey’s over, but I’m sure it would not be the same as last I found it. I’ve discovered that I haven’t been wandering aimlessly in circles after all. I’m winding up A Spiral Staircase and though each turn around feels familiar I hope I’m gaining ground.

From The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong:

I remembered a Jesuit telling us once during a retreat that faith was not really an intellectual assent but an act of will. Christians could accept their essentially incredible tradition only by making a deliberate choice to believe. You could not prove or disprove these doctrines, but you could consciously decide to take them on trust. They might even turn out to be true. But somewhere along the line, I had given up. I could no longer summon up the emotional or spiritual energy to make that choice. I felt tired out, drained, and slightly repelled by it all. I was finished with God; and God – if he existed at all – had long ago finished with me.

For years faith for me was an “intellectual assent” held loosely together by the “infallibility” of scripture and a willful ignorance of an alternative. Once I stopped suppressing my questions and exposed myself to the world of possibilities, faith would have to be a choice made against the grain of reason or abandoned altogether. I’m standing now somewhere near the crossroads trying to find a middle ground between self-induced delusion and apostasy. Karen Armstrong has become a new found friend on this road to find the middle way.

We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.

“Ode: Intimations of Immortality,” William Wordsworth