Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Back to That Christianity Problem . . .

I came to a rather odd and somewhat painful realization about myself not too long ago.

I think I lack the capacity for belief.

This is the only truly positive belief I have about religion: there is a God. That's about as far as I can go. But I'm the sort of person who needs a structure to their faith. It doesn't work for me to just go around believing in God. I need a faith tradition. I need a practice. More than anything else, Christianity works for me. I have the objectiveness of mind necessary to realize that this is probably only because that's how I was raised. If I were raised Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or Pagan, I would feel much the same way. But as it is, Christianity has an incredibly powerful resonance for me that nothing else comes close to matching. I know this experimentally, believe me; I've tried a number of other things. This paradigm is how I can make my life make sense.

But still I don't believe.

I think the Bible is true in what my friend calls "the Tim O'Brian sort of way." I use the Hamlet metaphor a lot. I like Hamlet. I don't think any of the events in it ever occured. But I think it's a true story, in all the ways that count for a story. Same with the Bible. I find it true, and yet . . . Euph. I find the Bible true enough that I am willing to shape my life around its truth. And yet. The actual rising from the dead bit? Euph. I can go so far as to say that I don't know. I can suspend disbelief. But active belief in the virgin birth and the resurrection and the whole nine yards? I don't think I'm capable of it. I'm not capable of it. Part of my problem is, I see the truth in planes. There's a plane of spiritual truth, and of emotional truth, and of material, down-to-earth truth. I believe in the Resurrection on every plane but the last one. This is also why I see no conflict whatsoever between the Bible and science. The Bible is true on one plane. Science is true on another.

(Actually, I have the same problem with/in science, except in science this way of thinking is accepted and has a name. You can be a scientific realist or an instrumentalist. A scientific realist thinks that the world really IS as explained by science. There are electrons, and magnetic fields. They exist. An instrumentalist thinks they may or may not exist, but that they are useful ways to describe the world, and so acts as if they exist. More or less. Guess which one I am. At least I get to be just as good of a scientist either way . . . )

And on some level, it doesn't matter to me. It honestly doesn't matter to me whether God wrote the bible or men wrote the Bible or a three-headed hydra from the planet Ultron wrote the Bible. It's just as true either way. And it equally doesn't matter to me whether Jesus the physical guy was actually the Son of God and actually performed miracles and actually, physically rose from the dead. It's just as true to me either way. Just like electrons are true, whether or not they actually exist. Though, honestly, I find electrons a lot easier to accept than the resurrection of Christ.

But at the same time . . . I wonder if it matters that I don't think it matters. It concerns me that I don't have any emotional or intuitive sense of this thing mattering, when to everyone else I have ever met or talked to on the subject, it matters very much indeed. Is there something wrong with me? Am I crazy? SHOULD it matter to me? Does it make my life a lie, living something I am Just Not Sure about?

It makes me a little uncomfortable to be walking the line like this. I feel like I should make up my mind, one way or another, Christian or Heathen, none of this middle ground. Everyone else seems to have it figured out. Eh. Part of me wants to think that my faith is that much stronger for being willing to follow something that I'm not entirely sure is true. And why is that material-plane part of it so important? It's not important in science . . . I lack understanding. Gah.

Unfortunately, walking the middle ground is more or less a theme of how I live my life. I just can't figure it out. I wish I could think in black and white, but this has always been my greatest gift and my greatest curse: I can always see the other side of the story. No matter how abhorrent a person's views are to me, I can always stand in their shoes and say, "I can see where you're coming from." I can't deny the truth I see in all other religious traditions. Believing in the material, actual Resurrection and etc. seems connected to that somehow. I feel as if, if I make myself believe it somehow, I will have lost something essential in my point of view.

Again: does it even matter?

I am grateful to have a spiritual home here among Friends. Through all my doubts and fears and "dear-God-WHY-do-I-even-bothers," I feel like there's room for me here, in all my imperfections and wafflings. I know of few other faith traditions that are happy to have me express myself in the Christian metaphor, using all the Christ-talk that resonates with me, and yet still let me just inherently not know. This is a relief. If I decided I was going to go Accept Jesus As My Personal Saviour (I hope not- on principle it's a nice idea, but, URGH, the connotations make me want to run away screaming), there would be room for me. If I decided I wasn't sure about God any more (again, I sincerely hope not), there would be room for me.

I hope.

There is, isn't there?