With vacations, entertaining relatives and various other summer distractions including a worship service I wrote and presented earlier this month I’ve been absent for a while, but all the time collecting fodder for future posts here at DPS.
As I mentioned in an earlier piece I follow a number of blogs including Stuff That Needs To Be Said by John Pavlovitz, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who is out of a rather different mold than most who hold that identity. Yesterday he posted a piece called, “We’re All Really Just Agnostics With Suspicions” in which he wrote . . .
“A few years ago I was talking to a good friend about faith and doubt, and about the constant, annoying tension between what we believe and what we know. The subject of organized religion ( more specifically, pastors) came up and my friend offered the following critique:
“Boy, it takes a lot of guts to get up there every Sunday and preach at people!”
Only she didn’t say guts.
She used a decidedly more colorful word, one that much more aptly captured her feelings about a religious leader (or for that matter anyone) who claims spiritual things with any sort of absolute certainty.
The idea that anyone would be so bold and arrogant and brazen as to stand before a group of their peers on a given day and dare to say, in essence, “What I am about to say? This is exactly what God is like, this is exactly what God says, and this is exactly how you should live and believe in light of it”, seemed to her to be the very epitome of “gutsy”.
I’ve come to agree with her.”
My response on John’s Blog is below. You may want to read his excellent article in full first.
Yes John . . . “Gutsy” indeed . . . and spot on, even though it will be too “gutsy” for those who cling to a need for certainty.
My journey to agnosticism began at an early age. Raised as a Roman Catholic I was taught in Catechism class that only good Catholics would get into heaven, a notion that I quickly rejected as nonsensical when I was eight or nine years old. In the small, rather WASPy New Hampshire town where I grew up us Catholics were a decided minority – and it made no sense to me that my best friend Robbie would be excluded just because he was Protestant. Even as a young child I had figured out that I was Catholic because my Dad was Catholic . . . and I knew that Robbie was a Congregationalist because his parents were. That Robbie and my mom (a non-practicing Baptist) were to be excluded from heaven was . . . well . . . so nonsensical as to call the entire notion of selective salvation into question.
And question I did . . . and question I still do.
There is, as you say, little that we can really “know” for sure, and each one of us develops our own understanding of God (or whatever word or notions one may choose to describe the Ultimate Source) as well as the specific paradigm that makes some sense of that notion be it scientific, theological, mystical, mythical . . . or some combination of the above.
What takes a great deal of “guts” (or the more masculine-oriented colloquialism your friend used) is to insist that others accept my understanding of God and my path to getting there.
Yet, there are a few things I think I do know with a significant level of certainty, at least as much certainty as is possible to us mere mortals.
I know, for instance, that you and me, and all of those reading this blog . . . and the people next door . . . and the homeless guy who stands at the Interstate onramp every day at 5:00 . . . and the undocumented immigrant . . . and his kid . . . and the CEO of the mega-corporation . . . and the starving child in Somalia . . . and the angry Muslim youth who has been told that we are his enemy . . . and every other human soul on this little blue ball floating around the sun . . .
All of us are made of the same stuff.
All of us came from the same source.
As did the bright-eyed golden retriever standing in front of me wondering why I would rather play with this silly iPad instead of the ball she is holding expectantly . . . as did the butterfly on the flower and the flower . . . as did the soil on which it grows and to which it and we will all return.
Christians are made from the same stuff as Jews, as Muslims, as Hindus, as Buddhists and Sikhs and Celtic Pagans and confirmed atheists and questioning agnostics and . . . and . . . and.
All from the same source.
And what is the nature of that source?
I don’t know.
And what happens when we return, as all of us surely must – as at some point this Earth itself must too return?
I don’t know.
And that’s okay.
And that one certainty that I do have . . . the iron-clad knowledge that you and I are brothers along with all of creation compels me to live humbly and walk with all others knowing that same spark lives within every person I know, every person I will ever meet, every person I have never and will never meet.
And how you pray, or who you pray to, and what scripture you read . . .
May you find it fulfilling, and may you grow in your understanding.
And may you live in blessing.