Saturday, April 27, 2013

Christians as Aliens

I have one of those impossible questions:

Have Christians been ostracized in varying degrees in society because people are hostile to Christianity--or have Christians alienated themselves from others by being obnoxious, judgmental  anti-intellectual goons?

Which came first?

This was prompted by an article I just read in the Seattle Times about an astronomer at the UW who is also, GASP, a Christian. Here is the quote that got me:

"You could say Agol’s work puts him at the crossroads of some complex questions, which he answers with faith."

Maybe I'm being paranoid, but as a "person of faith" I find the comment very condescending.

It's like saying that scientists "do math" to solve complex problems. It's like saying that a farmer "works with dirt" for a living.

But the kicker is--maybe it's the way we've told the world to treat us. Often I hear Christians, when posed with a hard question, respond with, "that's just what I believe." Faith.

The word faith could never encompass my relationship to God. I do have a timid faith, combined with a lot of logic, reason, hope, confusion, mystery, doubt, love, community, thinking, considering, ceasing to believe in some things, trying on other beliefs for size, some to keep, some to leave where they lie.

Calling Christianity "faith" is like calling the ecosystem grass. Christians, we can do better.

Mic drop.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Bible Is Confusing


Good little Christian boy that I am, I began my morning with a reading from the Bible. I struggle mightily with this. The more I read my Bible, the more questions I have. The more questions I have, the more books I seek out to explain the answers to my questions (one of the problems with that is every single book gives me a different answer, but leave even that aside for the moment).

But I seek out these books, find them, digest them. I develop a framework. "Oh, that's how I should think of that; oh, that's what he meant by that." Then I take that rickety framework back to the Bible--where it is promptly decimated. We build theologies; great, beautiful feats of thought and logic and wonder, only to have them busted apart by the words of Scripture.

St. Paul was confusing. The Bible more than contradicts itself--this no longer bothers me. My only saving grace are little snippets of the True Truth: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55). If God is who we say he is, then this would be the order of the day. To put it in my own words, "Friend, you cannot even hope to understand who God is and how he operates--get used to it." So what we get are little note cards that flutter down to us from the heavens. We don't get the owners manual dropped into our lap. We don't get a map perfectly to scale--we don't even get to fully understand that big black book he gave us. When we gain understanding from the confusion, as we all do from time to time, that's a note card. Put it in your pocket, hold onto it if you can. You'll probably lose it, which only makes it sweeter when you find it again. More will come along, I can't say when and I can't say it won't contradict one you've received in the past.

My conclusion from 12 years of reading lots of God books and trying my best to be an armchair theologian is this: God is a mystery, and the more you can embrace mystery and unknowing, the happier you'll be. Now, the next 12 years may completely contradict that conclusion, and after everything I've just said, I guess I should sort of expect that, but this is my comfort for today.