While Angel's away, Tim will waste time

I found myself with a few extra hours to myself tonight--instead of working 12 hours, Angel's decided to work 16. So, why not another unhealthy and self-indulgent blog post?

(It's not that I haven't done anything productive with my time. After a dinner of chili and ice cream, I walked a sick friend's dog, picked up it's poop, and walked back here. I walk that dog on a regular basis, and I'm sure that it loves to see me pick up it's poop and carry it around. It looks at me smiling while it's releasing it's night soil, then stares at me with the same smile while I scoop it up. Then, when I try to put it in the dumpster, in invariably trys to pull me away--obviously because it wants me to suffer with the steamer in my hand for as long as possible.)

So, there's something that's been eating me up a bit since the party over the weekend. Early in the evening, one of our new party friends walks up to me and says, "So, at some point, I've got something I want to ask you". So, I say, "Shoot." I'll take all comers. She says "How can you be so sure there's a God". It's the sort of question you generally only get when people are drinking, or when you're representing a religious organization formally (or both). I wasn't really caught off guard, because the individual had already enjoyed an impressive amount of libations. I also didn't take my response terribly seriously because, well, the individual had already enjoyed an impressive amount of libations. That said, I really sort of muddled through my answer, but a key part of it was that I'm not so sure that there's a God.

I have to admit that I'm really just starting to come to terms with that fact. It's a big deal, really, for someone who wants to be a priest, and it says a lot about what religion is to me, and why I'm an Anglican. My religion just isn't what it used to be , and I think I'm still figuring out what that means.

Basically, religion for me used to have a lot to do with belief--to say that I don't believe in God would have meant, during most of my religious existence, a renunciation of my faith. (It also would have been honest, at times). Really, at the heart that's what it was--a belief system that was applied to life: I believed in God, I believed that Jesus was his Son, so I acted accordingly. That is, I tried to do what people told me the Bible said, and felt guilty if I couldn't do it. I also genuinely believed that God was real, and loved me a lot, and forgave me, even if I did feel guilty. Religion was, at it's essence, an acceptance of a certain set of facts about the nature of reality. The problem really arose when I started to realize how basically agnostic I am. First it came up with the Bible: "GOD'S WORD". I just didn't believe what it said in a lot of places. Then is creeped up insideously into my thoughts about God and Jesus. What if you can't really believe everything that was written 2000 years ago, and Jesus wasn't really who the Church has said he was? What if God isn't really who we think He is? What if there isn't a God? Imagine there's no heaven? No Hell Below us? Above us only sky? Imagine all the people living for today... You can fight your tendency towards doubt all you want, but eventually you have to admit that it's there, and then decide what to do with religion in response. For me, doing a Master's in Theology was a sort of exercise in unbelief--the systematic study of what I don't believe. At the end, I realized that, in reference to theological dogma, I don't believe anything terribly strongly, and that I just was going to have to deal with that.

I used to think that liberals were people who had lost faith, but who had too much invested in the Church to stop going--so, naturally, I started self-identifying as a liberal (if only in a closeted manner). The thing is though, having practiced Anglicanism for a few years now, I've realized recently that there's a huge loophole that I've been missing (and which I don't believe anyone informed me about explicitly). That is, I don't have to think of myself as someone who's unfaithful--or even liberal--just because I don't "believe" the "Gospel" in the same way I used to (read, I don't buy the Conservative package whole hog, and I feel agnostic as often as gnostic about basically every theological question). What Anglicans get, I think, which I didn't, is that religion doesn't necessarily have a huge amount to do with belief. You can practice Christian faith--participate in liturgy and the community, do good works, pray, learn about Jesus, and so forth--without "believing" in any dogmatic sort of way. Religion, ultimately, should be a quest for God, a practice, and a discipline-not a set of dogmatic beliefs (which never end up fully standing up to scrutiny anyway). For me, that's a genuine epiphany. It makes sense of the belief that various religions can lead to God, and it also addresses the question of why I might want to be a Christian and a priest, despite the fact that I also am not sure that there's a God.

That's what i should have said in response to the question "How can you be so sure there's a God?" I also should have said, "I'm trying to relax, eat some bbq'd chicken, and have a conversation with this nice Jewish fellow, and you have to draw into question all hope in life. God save us from the killjoys." Amen.

Comments

country said…
your last sentence would have been more than appropriate. the thought in it seems more definitive of your perspective than the whole diatribe--it isnt dismissive at all.
Tim Mathis said…
There's some truth in that--it gets more to the heart of why I was annoyed with the questioning. I'm not sure what it is about being a minister that opens the door for people to start asking awkward questions in what should normally be friendly conversation. It's true what they say about politics and religion being inappropriate dinner conversation, but you can't really avoid it when you're a minister.

That said, I am admittedly a sucker for these sorts of conversations, b/c I like to hear what lies behind people's objections to my chosen career path and chosen faith.
xwxexsx said…
I remember reading a particular book in college, and it stated that the only things in life worth discussing are the things that you shouldnt talk about at the dinner table: religion, sex, politics.

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