A definition of terms

I know it has been awhile since I shared any thoughts on the web that is worldwide, if you are still reading this you are perhaps very interested or very bored. Life took a couple unexpected turns relationally and financially the last couple weeks, and I quickly learned a personal lesson of how much an actual luxury it is to sit on your couch and muse about the origins of the earth or what put us here when you know where your next paycheck is coming from.

Maybe Maslow wasn't an idiot and highschool pysch isn't a waste.

It isn’t particularly that I’m tired of having conversations about God or religion or truth. I have found a few logs in the road over the past couple weeks that I hadn’t approached before.

The first is the realization that what I thought was novel a month or two ago has actually been looked at, studied, hashed, rehashed, argued and debated for far longer than anybody who I know has been alive. I guess I knew that there are a mountain of people smarter than I who have tackled these things, but there still is some discouragement knowing that answers, or certainty, are not 100% positive or definite. I suppose it is true that faith is required for any stance you take on things.  It may be very true that a Powerful Being from outside our known universe created everything that we can see and feel and touch and taste and actually stopped by on the planet a couple of years ago so that we can keep living after this first life. It also may be true that there is no such Powerful Being at all, and this life is the only one that we possess, thanks to billions of years of gasses moving and millions of years of cells evolving and thousands of years of homos (not the derogatory term. erectus, ergaster, habilis, antecessor, sapien) living on our planet. Both of those ideas, honestly, seem so hard to believe it hurts sometimes. But I think both do, at some level, require not only a great amount of faith but of awe and wonder. I think i speak from the heart when I say I want so bad to know which is true, and I find sadness in the voice that says I may never know for certain. (This speaks nothing to the fact that these are only two of many more possible equations of the origins of life).

Secondly, I think my conversations with people about religion have slowed down a considerable amount. If you haven’t assumed yet, most everyone I know professes the Christian faith and lifestyle (to varying degrees), so discussions on faith and life  tend to be based around the truth or untruth of Christian principles, holy scriptures, stories/fairytales, practices and role in our society. These have been generally light-hearted and kind spirited in nature, although the subject matter and possible consequences are anything but. I think I ask a lot of questions about why people believe what they do and I think when asked I try to bring up points that generally aren’t discussed in Christian circles or preached from your weekly pulpit. My problem lately, hence the delay in any serious public sharing, is that I think it is a lot easier to communicate with people with a curious, inquisitive approach to things rather than a commanding assumption of superiority and rightness. What does that mean? Imagine you get two different emails from me. One says

“Hey, I’m having a lot of questions about faith and God. Let’s hang out and talk about them”

and the other

“Hey, I’m getting pretty sure that the faith you were raised to believe is a a lie. Let me tell you why.”

I assume you would be more interested in the former rather than the latter. And I think that’s, unfortunately, how some of my conversations with people are starting to turn into. That is not to say that I have more answers than I did when I started out. I don’t. But I think I have started to pick a couple locations to pitch my proverbial tent.

Thirdly, and most constantly on my brain as of late, is a lack of knowledge of (I know this may sound silly) what Christianity is. I know what I was taught, and I know what some of my friends were taught. But let us be frank. I think if i polled a thousand different people on the street or across the world I would get close to 1000 variations and  don’t think I would get any better solidifying answers than I do know now. I’m well aware of the basic tenets: Jesus, Salvation, the Cross, the Blood, the Good Shepherd, Grace, Faith, Eternal Life, The Kingdom of God, The Empty Tomb, The Wages of Sin, The Golden Rule, The Shema,  etc… But I think so many ideas of looking at it complicate things for me, more than simplify. I know that every Christian can, or at least should, be able to give an explanation for their world view. But the conversations I have had over the last couple months are anything but coherent and people’s takes on Christian lifestyle seem much, much more subjective to their own circumstances and desires and interests than those of an objective statement of beliefs.

If I can put it in today’s terms, the Christian faith seems less like a structured party or group, say the Democrats or Republicans, and more like the emerging Tea Movement. With both of these groups of people, it’s hard to find a leader or complete statement of beliefs and easier to pick or chose what works for you. It’s easy to pick on some of the more prominent leaders but near impossible to tread upon as a whole.

I think there is comfortability in professing Christianity in my environment, in the same way there is in professing attachment to the Cubs. The truth is, right now, I don’t have a whole lot of interest in either, but the Cubs don’t profess to have the only pathway to live forever nor convince me that death is not the end.

I was asked recently by one of my parents if I still pray, and when I responded negatively was encouraged to keep an open mind amidst all my criticism and sarcasm. I’m trying. I am. I’m currently tackling most Christian’s favorite hero and the guy that brought you these lovables.

Oh, Caspian.

We love that Chronic-WHAT!-Cles of Narnia

Mere Christinity by C. S. Lewis has been, so far, not only surprisingly less than challenging, but a lot more familiar than I imagined. It’s as if I’ve heard quotes and stories and parables from it my whole life, so when I actually read it it’s like I’m re-reading it for the first time. Aside from attempting to explain why women must submit to their husbands because the bible says so, support for capital punishment, and confessing if he and another Christian killed each other they would have a good laugh about it up in Heaven, Lewis writes with great wit and using some creative and at times stretching analogies to prove some points on Christian doctrine. I guess it’s far from the exclamation mark that I had heard about, but challenging none the less. I do really appreciate some of his points on morality and where it came from; how we can discuss ideas of right and wrong in the universe assuming that these are real and definite things. Without a God figure where did these come from? Without a Moreness that defined these characteristics can we really speak of right, wrong, good and evil as objective truths?

Without a doubt I had more fun reading this book in California last month than any other book that I’ve read in a while. It’s a dozen or so chapters, each by a different philosopher, dealing with some of the biggest and most challenging questions that Christians face. A couple of my favorite chapters included “Is God Omnipotent” (to which I’m forced to answer no), “Whom Does God Consign to Hell”, and “Why Does God Require Prayer”. It felt good to read grown ups discussing real issues that were glazed over when I was younger.

That’s all for now. Where to go from here? I think I want to know more from people “What does Christianity mean to you?” I have greatly appreciated everybody who is interested in thinking about these things honestly and openly with me. Without those conversations life would be little less exciting.  In completely unrelated events, Corner 41 is now open for business. So come get a beer and and if you are interested talk about life with your neighborhood bartender.

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2 thoughts on “A definition of terms

  1. I understand where you’re coming from. Most Christians today do not have a solid foundation for which to hold up their faith.

    Many churches do not teach the fundamentals of Christianity. We live in a feel good world that desires a message that will energize and make them feel good for the moment. To really come to know the truth takes some study and puzzeling together of the Scriptures. Most people do not want to spent the time needed to truly understand what Christianity is all about. just give me Jesus as a get out of hell free card and I’ll be safe if there happens to be an after life.

    Not a very solid belief system. Faith is based on what you know about God. We are saved by faith. I hope you understand that Christianity is simple but not easTom

  2. I AM INTERESTED IN A BEER WITH MY LOCAL BARTENDER! Maybe I will fly out to Chicago this summer. The book you read with the blue cover (I already forgot the name) and the chapters by different philosophers looks really interesting – I will try to pick it up.

    It’s really great to read through your thoughts, whatever they are and however you are perceiving things. Your questions and insights are, as you’ve already recognized, not totally unique to you, and it’s really brave to put them in a public forum.

    What you said about every Christian (person? again, i forgot. geez.) needing to have a reason to explain why they believe what they do reminds me of Laurie. how she always signed her cards with that verse from 1 Peter.

    Christianity is so many different things to so many different people. Which is weird, and I don’t think how it is meant to be, but as long as writings like the Bible aren’t totally explicit about every anticipated life circumstance, and people continue to read what their forebears taught them into these writings, I don’t know that there will be a cohesive and unified ‘Christianity.’

    I disagree with the person above me. I don’t think most people want a ‘get out of hell free card.’ I think most people are a lot like you, Cook, but they don’t talk about it or know it or share it. Also, faith isn’t so much based on ‘what you know about God.’ Faith is, by definition, taking God at his word about what you DON’T know about him. It would be easier if it was based on what you knew about God – then everyone who had the same knowledge would have faith.

    My two cents. Love you.

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