Conversations with friends often focus on philosophy, faith/belief, spirituality… and how these ideals can be put into a life practice that might make the world a better place. An artist friend (musician, writer, all-around creative type) e-mailed me this morning describing some major life changes – a kind of catharsis. He says,
Continuing our conversation from your living room, I’ve decided to let go of the darkness I have been carrying around. I reached a new level of understanding last night, that what I have been embracing and hanging onto for so many years is killing me. I don’t know exactly how to put it into words. Through the negativity in my art I believe I have been poisoning other people as well. All of the cynicism, depression, negative introspection, failure… I used to like riling people up and getting a negative reaction, but that means nothing to me now. I’ve always had a problem accepting God / Christianity because of the goody-goody imagery and hypocrisy. It makes me feel kind of squirmy. But I think it’s time that I get past that and see it for what it really is. Which, of course, is also hard to put into words.
I, too, have “always had a problem accepting God / Christianity” – and for more reasons than just its hypocrisy and shallowness. Religion paints with a broad brush of a few primary colors. It tends to pacify fears with superstitions. It seeks to nail down air-tight answers to questions many of us are no longer asking. It has a low tolerance for inquiry. It quickly becomes its own self-referencing sub-culture.
But I love the Jesus story – the embodied perfection of humanity. I recognize all too well that the story could be fiction, but I live as if it were true – for it is the most compelling story I have ever known. I acknowledge and live with this intellectual tension, this uncertain but hopeful possibility.
Religion rarely honors intellectual honesty. Most religious leaders and ideologies demand triumphal allegiance to one’s beliefs as if they were scientific fact. I refuse to pretend, or bow to my own (or anyone else’s) notions of “certainty.” Being convinced and being certain are not necessarily the same.
So I walk arm-in-arm with you, my friend, in this journey. What few answers I have are saturated in the ideals of love – what are called the “fruits of the Spirit” in the NT . These innate, unalienable, universal ideals will survive every human invention. We are part of a greater story. Creation’s infinite, harmonious beauty is a reflection of this story, for those with eyes to see.