Honest Faith: Keep Questioning

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. ”  –Martin Luther King Jr.

As I stated in my last blog post, I feel lost. I feel set adrift, alone, and helpless in a sea of disappointment, fear, and worry. The funny thing about this all is that I know this isn’t the reality of things. I know that the Divine is there somewhere in the midst of it all. I know it deep within myself to be true that things will be alright, though the emotions are strong and heavy at the moment. I know silver linings exist, but I just want to rage at the seeming unfairness of it all.

I have a lot of personal issues right now that I’m struggling with. I feel that the immediacy of a lot of them have caused a lot of that heaviness to take over. Right now the big question that I wrote about the last time weighs heavy in my mind, “Do you want to stop being a Christian?” The truth is, yes. Yes, I want to stop being a Christian.

Yes, I want to stop being a Christian, because on some level I want to punish the Divine for putting me in this situation. I want to somehow make the Divine suffer with me through it all. As if my petty unbelief would make any difference whatsoever. I am angry, frustrated, scared, worried, and disappointed at the Divine. I gave so much of my life to the Divine’s service, shouldn’t I be first in line to reap those rewards? Shouldn’t I be given something in return for that? The problem is that I know it’s just a fit. I know deep down that it is for nothing. But the Divine can handle it still.

I want to stop caring. I want to stop being a good person. I want to throw all my morals and selflessness out the window. Isn’t it time for me to get mine? Everyone else in the world is being selfish, why should I be any different? Why am I meant to suffer for some cosmic being that we can never know truly exists? I want to, but I can’t.

I can’t because I know. I know that’s not the way it works. I know that the sun rises on the good and the evil, the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. I know that just because it is easy doesn’t make it right. I know that I am not the center of the universe, and yet I am.

In Martin Bell’s The Way of the Wolf: The Gospel in New Images (Linked here seriously just spend the few bucks to pick it up). He has this wonderful story, you have probably heard me talk about before especially if you have listened to our podcast, called What the Wind Said to Thajir. In it the wind tells Thajir a few secrets of life, the second one is this:

Regardless of what anyone else may ever tell you, regardless of even what your own experience may lead you to beleive, you are everyone who ever was and everyone who ever will be. You are the whole of creation- past, present, and future. Decsisions that you make today , in what is called the here and now, will validate or invalidate everything that has gone before, and make possible or impossible everything that is to come. Anything that hurts anyone, hurts you. Anything that helps anyone, helps you. It is not possible to gain from another’s loss, or to lose from another’s gain. Your life is immensely important. Everything depends upon you.

See I think on some level St. Paul got it right.  He knew that we are both one with the Force, and the Force is with us. But we are still meant to question it all.  He said we are meant to work it out with “Fear and Trembling”. Now the word for fear here being “awe” not “AAAAAAAAHHHHH”. As I was told by someone today, “Us Jewish folk, I don’t know about you Christians, are commanded to question our faith [read: belief system].” This is the reason I can’t give up and give in on the Divine. The suffering, the hardships, and everything that is going on is not some ultimate test to see if I’m paying attention. It is meant to raise the questions about my own faith [read: beliefs]. I don’t think we are meant to have answers in life.

I think the questions are what drive us to come together as a community. The questions are the reason why we need each other. We don’t have it all figured out, so we have to come together with ourself ( we are the whole of creation remember…). We have to just do what we needed to all along and sit down and just talk.

I opened this with the quote from MLK jr. for two reasons. 1. It’s his day on Monday coming up. 2. I think so many of us are feeling more of the weight of our emotions because of racism and war at the moment. We are feeling lost, adrift, alone, and helpless in a sea of disappointment, fear, and worry. And honestly, it’s okay to feel that. It’s okay to let it get to you for a moment. It’s okay to yell and scream at the Divine because honestly, the Divine can take it. But, what I’m slowly coming to realize myself, the only way out of this is together. We need to question it all together, so we can discuss it all together. We need to allow for discord and discombobulation, but not let it get us off track. We question so we can understand it better. The truth with come out through questioning, and unconditional love will win. WE are one with the Force, The Force is with us.

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Honest Faith: The Lost Boy

Growing up my biggest fear above anything else was being alone. There were many different reasons for that, and it was also a bit hard to define. Like for instance, I didn’t mind playing in my room by myself if someone else was in the house. I could play on a playground alone if I knew someone else was on the property with me. What I feared was truly being alone. I feel like that has evolved more into a fear of being forgotten. That my life, my work, and the things that I do don’t make a difference. I can point to an episode of “Black Mirror” (Available on Netflix) that would define it rather well. There is an episode of a sort of dystopic future sort of run by a reality talent show. I won’t spoil it but the ending terrified me.

I was reminded of this when I was talking to my wife yesterday. It was the “Hey honey, how was your day?” talk that we usually have at the end of the work day. I was telling her about this podcast that I discovered that day by the pastor who gave up God for a year, and discovered he was an atheist back in 2014. I was telling her about the work that he was doing now and she asked me a question that is stuck in my brain. She asked, rather innocently, “Do you not want to be a Christian anymore?” Still now I don’t know how to respond to that question. I quickly said a “No, that’s not what I was talking about.” But the truth is I don’t know.

The truth is a very tricky thing. I think it takes the right question, phrased in the right way to help you discover what it really is. That question asked of me last night shook me. It helped me to see the truth about some things, and also made things a bit more cloudy. I used to feel God was with me every day. I used to see God in everything. I would be inspired by little things and their relation to the greater divine all around us. I used to. The truth is I’m lost more now than ever. I don’t know if what I was seeing or feeling was truly the divine or something I was just fooling myself into believing.

I look back on my life and wonder if I caused my own isolation. Ministry is a lonely and isolating profession. It is no wonder that many of those who are in ministry suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. While ministers are meant to journey alongside, many are pushed to the front and told to lead, yet few follow. I noticed something while I was in ministry. When I met someone new and told them what I did for a living they would, more often than not, take a step back. As if somehow proximity to me would cause me to add guilt to their life. So as a reflex to that I started walling myself off from people. I would protect myself from getting hurt by people by not letting them inside in the first place. I discovered now in my transition that I don’t have anyone that I feel really sees me for who I am. I feel forgotten, alone, and lost. As if my worst fears have become reality.

There is one place that I still see the divine. Every day I see it. It’s in the smile of my son. That little boy is delighted by all that he sees. There was a song that a friend told me that I should listen to after he was born, primarily because his name is Peter. I keep coming back to this song this year. He is my peter pan, and I am his lost boy.

I think while we have been so busy trying to find ourselves in this society we walled ourselves off from each other. We got so very lost while we trying to grow up. We got caught up in the digital not realizing that it was cutting us off from one another. Is it just me, or are we all lost? Have we forgotten to be human to each other? Have we forgotten how to develop real human connections? I ask because this lost boy is trying to find his place in the world.

I’m trying to find my way back to the place I was before. I still want to see the divine in everything. I want to be inspired by little things again. I hold so tightly to that little piece of the Divine in my life because at times it’s all I have. I think as human beings we are meant to see the divine in each other. I think that is why community is so important. To be honest I don’t know how to find a community that I would feel comfortable being myself in. I don’t know how to do that, but I’m going to try.

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To Be thought a Fool…

I have been thinking about this blog post for some time now. I didn’t really know how to begin or even where to go with it until yesterday. Yesterday, our Associate Rector taught on “The dangers of being a prophet.” Our scripture lessons were showing the dangers of such. You have David dancing in the street and being ridiculed by his family. Then you have John the baptizer loosing his head. Both of these events are hundreds of years from each other, but there is a common theme. They are both following God with all that they are, and people don’t understand them. People ridicule and punish them because they have different beliefs. I have posted before about intolerance, acceptance, and the end of hate. That’s not exactly what I’m posting about today. I’m posting about something that has been bugging me for the last few years…
“Hi, My name is Miguel, and I am a Creationary Evolutionist.” I only admit this because it is what has been bothering me. I am a big fan of learning. I love to watch the Science channel and learn about fantastic things like theoretical physics, Cosmology, and Quantum Physics. My wife and I both enjoy these programs and documentaries. (I know I’m a nerd) The problem with all of that is I am taught over and over again I could not possibly understand these things because I happen to believe something that many think is incompatible with science. I happen to believe in the existence of God. This irritates me to no end! Yes, I believe in God, and I love science.
For years I have been listening to arguments that the two are mutually exclusive. What’s worse is that argument is coming from both sides. You have people of faith saying that science is a bunch of hogwash because it doesn’t happen to line up with some of their beliefs. You have people of science saying that people of faith are idiots and cannot possibly understand anything they say because science doesn’t line up with some of their beliefs. I actually took a class in college that was completely on this topic. It was the debate between Creation and Evolution. I came out of that class saying, “yes, one of those things happened.” I was completely confused by the end of that course and could not tell you what I believed one way or the other. I came to an understanding a while after that.
As I said earlier I am a Creationary Evolutionist. Which is to say I believe in both Creation and Evolution. I do believe that God created everything in the fashion of the Big Bang. That God set things into motion from the beginning of what we call time. That God formed and directed things into the paths to become what they became and has not stopped directing all of those things on those paths to become what they will become one day. I don’t believe this is contrary to Scripture in any way. I feel that God is still at work today creating and helping along the evolutionary process that is still happening all around us every day.
I don’t believe that Science and Faith are mutually exclusive. I watched a documentary a little while ago which was rather enlightening on the topic. The Documentary was done by Nathan Frankowski and Ben Stein (Of Ferris Bueller Fame) called “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”. It was not well received. One of the things that I noticed about the film was that both sides treat the other like they are idiots. I think that is very dangerous territory. I think the moment we dismiss someone we happen to disagree with as an idiot is the moment where we become one ourselves. We shut the door on further growth and education that can come from that arena. I believe that Faith and Science can and should inform each other. They should be in conversation with each other. They can learn a lot from each other. Yes, they have both held the other back at times. But, they have also helped to create some of the best advancements in history together!
One of the biggest arguments that drives me up the wall is, “Well there is no scientific evidence that God exists.” To that I have to say, “Well, there is no scientific evidence that God does not exist.” Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! If we did that we would have never figured out that gravity is a very real force, that the Earth orbits the sun not the other way around, or even that the earth is not flat. Another argument that irritates me is, “The earth is only 6,000 years old. God Created it to look old.” Um, No. I have no idea where that idea came from or even why it has so much prevalence in the church. What in the world makes you believe that? There is more conclusive evidence that the Earth and the entire universe is old.
I say this all because according to both camps I am thought a fool. I am thought a fool for believing that God exists and set all of Creation in motion. I am thought a fool for believing that evolution occurred and is still occurring around us every day. To be honest, I wish both sides would agree that they aren’t going to agree on everything, but that they can learn from each other. I would much rather be thought a fool, than to be completely foolish and not learn from both my Faith and science. God has created such a fascinating reality for us to explore, and I am going to explore it with all that I am. I may be ridiculed and punished for that, but I don’t care.

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The Continuing Adventures of Missing the Point

I know I often write about faith and culture, about the dichotomy that does not exist between them; despite the constant rhetoric from the western church that it does. I was sorting through my I-tunes library this morning in an attempt to get more of my good music that I haven’t listened to in a while onto my I-pod. (wow, how yuppy do I sound right now) I came across a song by Steven Curtis Chapman that I loved when it was first released. My friend Johnny G. can attest to that! Anyway i would like to share the lyrics with you before moving on:

See the Glory

By: Steven Curtis Chapman

I never did like the word mediocre
I never wanted it to be said of me, oh, no
Just point me to the top and I’d go over, over
Looking for the very best that could be
So what is this thing I see
Going on inside of me?
When it comes to the grace of God
Sometimes it’s like …

I’m playing Gameboy standing in the middle of the Grand Canyon
I’m eating candy sittin’ at a gourmet feast
I’m wading in a puddle when I could be swimming in the ocean
Tell me what’s the deal with me
(I know the time has come for me to)
Wake up and see the glory

Every star in the sky tells His story, oh
And every breeze is singing His song
All of creation is imploring
Hey, come see this grand phenomenon
The wonder of His grace
Should take my breath away
I miss so many things when I’m content with …

How could I trivialize it
This awesome gift of God’s grace?
Once I have come to realize it
I should be speechless and amazed

Wake up and see the glory
Open your eyes and take it in
Wake up and be amazed
Over and over again

God’s love is calling to you and to me
Wake up, wake up
Open your eyes

Yesterday I was chatting with the pastor of the church i work at. She had me looking for a quote which i was unable to find, despite my internet prowess. Her friend had found it before us and this made me think as well:

Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.”

—Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 40-41.

I think that the unthinkable has happened. We have become complacent with mediocrity. We are content to live our lives ignorant of the greater reality that surrounds us everywhere we are. Have we gotten so used to the amazing that it doesn’t phase us anymore?

I am currently sitting in my office which faces the park and the Rimrocks beyond that. It is so beautiful and green. We have had a very long winter and in fact it keeps trying to sneak back in the door without going through the usual seasons of summer and winter first. I see people running around the park playing, picnic-ing, and enjoying the surroundings. I wonder though, how many of us have just taken the time to observe the incredibleness of spring. We have come out of a season of death and cold. We are now observing the season of new life. A resurrection of creation that is taking place all around us in the northern hemisphere. We miss the point.

Unfortunately, I feel this story is true about the majority of the western church as well. We are missing the point of the incredible gospel that is told to us every day. I mean we hear the words “God loves you”, but do any of us really believe it? Or do we rather go through the motions to just be labeled as “spiritual”, “holy”, or “religious”? How many of us actually believe that? How many of us actually let it impact us? Like Anne Dillard said, We are children playing on the floor with our chemistry sets! We have no idea the power and the beauty of God’s love, power, and care for us! We have put those things aside like they didn’t matter. We are missing the point.

The church has become so influenced by culture that the church has become an agent of culture. We just end up reinforcing the ideas of general society instead of becoming the counter cultural revolutionists that Jesus once was. We have put a beauty pageant sash on Jesus, and made him up. He doesn’t look like the same person. He now looks like this nice guy who likes everyone and pets little lambs. That isn’t Jesus. Do you know that man? He was a counter culture reformer. He was telling people that the kingdom of God is here! He said that God had already made peace with the world. We didn’t have to earn God’s favor! I think it’s funny that the church likes to quote so often the verse that states “Be in the world, not of the world” John 8:23b, Jesus isn’t even talking about culture there at all! Jesus is talking about belief. He was saying he was different than all the other teachers. The dichotomy that doesn’t exist should be our message. It should be the power and message of the true gospel, which states: “God loves you, there is nothing you can do about it!” That is what should set us apart from the world. The world that wants you to think that you have to appease the powers that be. This, unfortunately, has become the “gospel” the western church is obsessed with and therefore made it into an agent of culture. This “gospel” states: “be moral and turn from your evil ways and maybe God will take notice of you”. There is a whole lot more to this idea that will have to be saved for a different post on a different day.

I think it is rather appropriate that Lent takes place during the winter and usually ends toward the beginning of spring. It’s like God is using the whole world to tell us, “There is always a second chance!” Wow, that is incredible is it not? God loves us so much that there is nothing at all we can do to screw it up. No matter how bad we get,  No matter how much we ignore it or God, No matter the circumstances God loves and forgives us! That is the Good News is it not? If we truly believed that why don’t we live like it? Do you live like God loves you? Do you live like God loves everyone and everything?

I don’t know about you, but I want to live like that. I don’t want to continue overlooking the beauty and the grace that surrounds me every day. I don’t want to continue ignoring the power and majesty of God’s love and grace! God is here! God is now! God’s kingdom is here! God’s kingdom is now! I am a citizen, are you?

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Does God cry?

So this month i have been thinking a lot about the existence of God. I was set into this pattern of thought by the biggest question on our high schooler’s list of topics they wanted to discuss, “Does God Exist?” As i was in thought on this I was reminded of the Great philosophers and one who just happened to think something. I was brought back to My Philosophy 101 class. I am not going to summarize their works, because i don’t believe i can do them justice, just the thoughts that came from their works.

I started with Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”.  What if our existence is just a glimpse at blurry shapes and shadows on the opposite walls of a cave. If there is so much more outside of us and we have no idea. I truly believe that Jesus was one who ventured “outside” the cave and came to tell of of the truths and beauty of a reality that we cannot at this moment see.

Then I moved on to Aristotle’s “Unmoved mover”.  The truest form of evolution in my own opinion. I do believe that we are all trying to evolve into something greater than ourselves. There had to be something to put us all into movement. Now I can’t believe it was just a big bang and done. That is so impersonal to me. I do believe that God caused the Big bang. Though here is something that will blow your mind later when you are thinking about it, I don’t believe there was a point in eternity when God did it. God does not exist in our concept or perception of time and space, God’s fingerprints are on time, space, and all matter. and we are all evolving to the become closer or at one with the “unmoved mover”.

Then I moved on to Descartes.  Despite the claim that he is the father of modern philosophy, i don’t feel set us on the right track of existential and philosophical thought; but that is just me. Descartes most famous quote “Cogito, ergo sum” that came from his “Discourse on Method” was not the only thing to come from that treatise. His weakest argument was that by all reasoning there exists a God and therefore you can reason, or something to that end. I do believe he was on the right track though. I do believe yes I do exist because i can think, i can reason. There has to be something that created me and my ability to reason.

In the long run i should have started with Descartes and worked my way backwards…  Because here is what i came to as a conclusion as to  what I think for myself. I exist. Something must have created me, because I’m in a constant evolutionary state to become something better. That being must exist outside myself and my own perceptions and therefore must be better than me. So this other existence must be clearer and more beautiful than my limited mind can fathom. How am I to really know what exists out there, but if only someone who has viewed and been a part of the other existence came into my own and explained it to me.

So on Wednesday evening I presented my “evidence” for why i logically believe in God. Which, granted is not a very genius article of evidence, but it is my evidence. We are going to visit this again this Wednesday evening and our “illogical” reasons for why we believe God exists. I use the term loosely, but it seems others do not (which is the reason i write this today, but im getting to that). These reasons are:  “Well the earth is so beautiful, there must be a God.” “There could not be a power as amazingly destructive, creative, and beautiful as Love without a designer who is the embodiment of this power.” Things along those lines. I asked the students to do two things this week to prepare for the discussion. First, I handed out Photo paper and asked them to create. I asked them to put on the paper their own personal evidence for the existence of God. (or a being that is higher than them. Some students are still struggling with doubt.) The second was one i warned them about first. I warned them that if they do this that it could change their lives. It could ruin them forever. It is dangerous. I truly believe it is, because of this idiom, “ignorance is bliss.” I asked them to seriously with a sincere heart to ask God to reveal God’s self to them. I was blown away by their response. They were excited, scared, and curious about this. They asked me to tell the story of how God is revealing God’s self to me. So i did. That right there confirmed why i do what i do.

So anyway today as i was randomly skipping about facebook I came across a fanpage for the “Biblethumper” app for Iphone and Ipod touch. I read some of the stories on the wall and checked out what it was and then i discovered something that disturbed me. Well disturbed probably too strong of a word, but it unsettled me. I know there are a lot of people who find Christians and Christianity to be a joke. Quite honestly, I find popular churchianity (what most people claim is Christianity) to be a joke as well, but that is a different post for a different day. What i found was this. I found a book that was written using the Bible to prove that God hates you if God exists so you should hate God back. My heart sank. I wonder if God was crying as this person wrote that. I read a chapter and I felt like someone could not have missed the subtle love, beauty, and brilliance of Scriptures any more than this. Granted, it is written as a farce and comedy, but too many people have come to view the Bible this way. The Bible has become irrelevant and weaponized to dupe the mass public into believing what manipulative people want them to believe. If you want a good picture of this check out “The Book of Eli”. It was an incredible movie, but i believe the premise to be true that “Holy” books are used as a weapon… Anyway, I don’t believe that the Bible is a weapon. I believe it does hold amazing and beautiful truth about who and what God is. I just feel that we have forgotten how to read it. I do believe it is used to hurt and justify all sots of atrocities claimed to be done in God’s name. In fact, Hitler used scriptures to justify the holocaust. The southern churches used scriptures to justify slavery. The western church still uses the scriptures to discriminate against homosexuals (again another post for another day). So my question is this. Does God cry? Does God cry when God’s creations refuse to believe God exists? Does God cry when we separate ourselves from God? Does God cry when we use God’s own words and creation to hurt each other? I know it would hurt me…

UPDATE: I thought about this and i feel like I may come across as thinking that we may need more apologetics in the church. I don’t believe God needs proof. I think God can defend himself. I think that the proof is all around us, we just need to open our eyes to it. I’m just wondering if God is hurt when we refuse to see that evidence that God loves us dearly. Not evidence of creation,  or anything else of the sort; just that God loves us and has not given up on us.

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