These days I am losing my faith. The faith of my past, that is. I’m not sure how it will grow from here, and I’m doing my best to live in the tension and uncertainty of asking questions I’ve pushed away at other times in my life. Questions like, was Jesus’ crucifixion necessary to redeem humanity, or was it more of an inevitability for someone who loved so fully and stood so faithfully with the marginalized in the face of corrupt power, both religious and political? Did God really require an innocent sacrifice to compensate for the sins of the world? I seek to emulate a savior who is the prince of peace. Why would the God with whom that savior is one be thirsty for innocent blood (taking alone the teaching that Jesus is God’s son, differentiated from God the father?) Is there really ‘power in the blood’ of Jesus, and if so, does that power come from his blood crucified, or is it the living, healing, incarnate and resurrected Christ alone that was only ever necessary for the salvation of the world? (I understand resurrection could not happen without death, but my question is, did that death have to be an execution, a bloody sacrifice to appease a wrathful God?)
That’s a significant question for a lifelong evangelical, ever-so-familiar with the simple drawing of a stick man, a chasm, and God at the other side, with a cross bridging the man and God. There is much more I am pondering about this question, and I am hungry to ask other questions too – to research the canonization of scripture, the formation of the doctrines considered fundamental to my faith tradition – not to disprove, but to understand.
It’s clear to me that I couldn’t have faced these questions honestly or bravely earlier in my life. I would not have been able to live in the tension of uncertainty. For the years that these questions have been forming in me, I have often chosen to remain willfully ignorant, believing that my only other choice was to make a clean break and declare myself an atheist or agnostic. It’s complicated and difficult to face doubts and questions, to speak honestly about them, and at the same time to remain in community with other believers with whom I really do want to commune. It’s tempting and would be easier, in the short run, to be the extremist I often have been – to throw it all out, even the stuff I love and believe, rather than pursue the path of growth my inner life is demanding in all its twists and turns and switchbacks.
There is so much of my faith tradition that I do love and believe. At the core of these half-understood, inconsistent doctrines and dogma is something alive, a power and a love and grace that has undeniably pursued me, carried me, drawn me to itself. I have always called that presence God, understanding God to be three persons – a Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit. But my hungry mind is dissatisfied these days with leaving it at that when it has not meaningfully wrestled with the larger questions of who God is, who Jesus is, how these doctrines and ideas we call orthodox have been decided.
Some of us are dancers, some dreamers, some thinkers, most of us are unique combinations of these and more. The thinker in me wants to build a faith she can sink her teeth into.
The people-pleasing pastor’s kid in me, however, shrinks from all this. She sees the agnostic shortcut as much less messy – “just cut the cord and be done with it!” she begs. “What will people think if I ask these questions out loud and expect to still be accepted as a fellow believer? Escape, escape!”
It’s my mounting suspicion, however, that most of us – at least, those of us with significant ‘thinker’ sides – have doubts we are afraid to voice; and that the fear of what others will say or do in response to our doubts keeps us paralyzed, going through religious motions or else walking away from it all. I’ve decided to be more transparent with my own doubts and questions, and to hold fast to my faith that God and God’s people have arms wide enough for every seeker, every believer, every doubter, every messy mix of believer and doubter.
When I started this blog, I titled it “The More I Learn the More I Wonder,” with the intention of hashing out some of these doubts and questions, musings and wonderings I have, and hoping others will interact, challenge, agree or disagree, move the conversation along. I’ve done that a bit, and I hope to keep working at it – not just in cyberspace but in every space of my life.