This past week, my seven-year-old daughter asked me if I believed in Santa Claus. Not one of those parents too concerned about scarring my children for life, I told her, “no.”
“But, Mom, [neighbor girl’s name here] said that she got a present last year with a card that was in handwriting that was not her mom’s! Do you believe now?”
My four-year-old son chimed in. “[Preschool classmate’s name here] said that Santa came to her house last year, but he was very quiet. Do you believe now?”
Daughter whispering to son, something like, “if Mom and Dad don’t believe, Santa won’t come to our house!”
Then, aloud in ragged unison, “Please, Mom and Dad, believe in Santa Claus! Please!”
In his book Losing My Religion, William Lobdell says that Pascal’s wager just doesn’t work for him, because he can’t will himself to believe something he simply doesn’t believe. Lobdell says, “it seems to me that to indulge in Pascal’s Wager, you actually have to believe in Christ. The Lord would know if you were faking. I could no longer fake it. It was time to be honest about where I was in my faith.”
Christian apologetics seems to function from two underlying convictions – nonbelievers are either:
a) ignorant, and therefore needing to learn more information, or
b) rebellious, and therefore needing to repent.
There are other ideas, too, like the one I most easily gravitate towards. I can identify with wounded ex-believers, and think that the only thing holding them back from belief is healing and an introduction to the real God, the right God, i.e., my current understanding of God.
A truly difficult thing for believers to do is to simply believe nonbelievers’ explanations of their personal faith stories. When Lobdell, and others like John Marks (Reasons to Believe), tell us that they tried, they really tried, to hold on to their faith in Jesus, even their faith in God, and lost it in spite of their knowledge, their desire, and all – it is often incredibly difficult for believers to take that simple explanation and let it be.
It’s ironic that people who treasure a belief in the unseen can have such a difficult time believing what is plainly spoken to them. I know from personal experience that with enough practice believing “impossible” things, it becomes easier to discount obvious things, including the weight of doubt and unbelief going on inside one’s own self.
What good is a faith that feels compelled to ignore or explain away the disbelief it encounters in others and oneself? I think that sort of faith is rightly called blind faith. What I’m after is a wide-eyed, open-eared, expectant sort of belief that takes for granted that the world is bigger than me, that other people have wisdom I don’t, that if I feel my belief system is threatened by someone telling me the truth, then it’s time to do some reworking with that belief system.
Which reminds me of another post I promised recently and have not yet delivered – thoughts from The Myth of Certainty. That would be a counterbalance of sorts to this post. Belief systems are never complete, are always needing reworking, and yet – to gain some traction, one must take a point of view from time to time.
My point of view at this moment is that I have written enough and I need not bother with a tidy conclusion. Feel free to write your own conclusion as a comment!