Friday, October 06, 2006

The Silence

The Silence of God has always been my biggest, most problematic stumbling block in my faith (or my "christian walk" if you want to be all CBA about it). Why is God silent? Buechner says how could God speak to us in any way that would remove all doubt without destroying us in the process? but I have a problem with that. Surely God can figure out some way to communicate with me in a way that I can understand and discern as God's voice, and not some other random entity, without "destroying me". And if He can't, well then we've got bigger problems than my own. because surely that applies to the whole history of men, back to and including those who "wrote" the bible.

My personal problem is not a belief in God, it is the belief in what God is (or is not) like. and here is where I hold the most resentment towards my "chrisian" upbringing. I think a lot of people (honestly well meaning or self-serving) claim (and have taught) a lot of things about God that are simply just wishful thinking. And knowing what to hold fast to and what to unstick from is the work that can leave a person wandering around in the dark of his or her own subjective judgements and unenlightened mind for ages.

This ties in to another key concept for me, one that I don't hear much discussion of beyond circular logic. How do you discern the Voice of God from the almighty Voice-In-Your-Own-Head? (my friend Sarah, who I believe got it from one of the Nashville group, puts it similarly: a lot of people have a personal relationship with the voice in their own head). The circular logic, of course, being a dependence on the bible to guide that discernment - "The Bible says this about God, and so therefore...". (This is a huge pet peeve of mine when reading christian authors - their flippant use of "God told me" or "Jesus wants us to...", that sort of speaking for God, or telling us how God feels about certain things, as though they just talked on the phone a couple hours ago with the almighty incomprehensible infinite. Don Miller does this somewhat in Blue Like Jazz in a couple chapters, and it grated on my nerves, but some of that book I thought was pretty good in a light reading rambling memoir-ish blog kind of way. Don Miller at his best is good blog material. but we won't be confusing his writings with the likes of Buechner ever!) Translation problems and incorrect interpretations aside, why do we accept these writings as directly by God, and not, say, Annie Dillards? there are too many religious writings in the world of religion potpouri that claim divinity for me to be so dismisively cock-sure that this one is the one and only right one. or at the very least, that I know enough of what this one means to draw conclusions or expectations from it. I come to realize that much of what I believe about God is hearsay (a word that comes strikingly close to heresy). My direct experience with God, if I've had any at all, is minimal. and can I point to any of it as undeniable or inexplicable? not really. most of it's just really really good times and memories in my life, which I credit to God (and still do). but it's odd that I don't feel "close" to God at times of hardship. is my god simply enjoyable memories and good feelings? I don't feel that unshakable faith that Paul or Job had. and yet I am still here, holding these thoughts (and even these struggles) dear to me, to who I am and what I want my life to be about.

and so, what are we left with? For me, it has been the simple prayer, God have mercy. it's really the one prayer I base my life of faith on. to me, it's so incomprehensible, and I recongnize my inability to understand any of it, really, that I simply have to throw myself on His mercy. it's what Christianity teaches anyway, more or less, as it's basic tenant. My eternal destination, and what happens to me in this life, are completely and utterly subject to God's mercy. I cannot demand otherwise, I cannot claim a legal right to more, and I certainly cannot hope in my actions or beliefs to save me in any sense of the word. It's what I prayed over and over while sitting with my grandmother when she was dying, and it's what I pray all my life in the face of the overwhelming nature of lostness and incomprehensible evil, in me and the world. I fail again and again, and the world looks more and more like hell every day (if you look in the "right" places), and I don't understand it and I don't like it, but I don't get a say in the matter beyond the plea of "Lord please have mercy".

But somehow I still believe, even though I do direct a lot of angry judgement at God. and I pray that my theological "temper tantrums", the various immature ways I try "working out my faith" turn out to have been no more harmful than a baby shitting it's diaper. I don't know, and I don't understand. I was raised soaking in a christian environment, and so it is and will always be a deep, essential part of who I am and what I believe. But I have a strong enough faith in the truth that i will throw everything I've got at what i believe (and what others believe), knowing that reality and what's true can withstand the harshest onslaught. I doubt and question fiercely, and I like to think that I have the kind of cynicism that my friend David Dark talks about, one that is simply holding out for the real thing and will accept nothing less. I like to think this indicates a stronger faith in God, rather than a shakey one


amcorrea said...

It's very good to see you here, Brook! I'm learning to embrace the questions as well.

Brook said...

hey! You found me! all on your own too... did Blogspot tell you I linked to you? I hope you don't mind that I basically cut and pasted some of our correspondance to create an entry or two! My emails to others just sounded better than anything original I was coming up with for this blog. I'll get the hang of this one day (it helps seeing my words in a different context). thanks for stopping by to say hi.

amcorrea said...

No, that's perfectly fine. I've recycled posts to the Orchard as well--it really does help focus thought. Once I finish the repairs to my blog, I'll be adding you to my blogroll.

All the best!

P.S. I check Technorati every so often, that's how I found you. :)

Andrew said...

I was listening to a talk by Don Miller at Harvard recently. He talked about his attempt to renounce faith, how one night he had abandoned his Christianity. He said the world is complex, and my Christianity is simple and stupid. Nevertheless, he maintained a three week conversation with God as to why he didn't exist. He thought this odd because when he found out Santa Claus didn't exist, he didn't write letters to Santa telling him what not to bring since he didn't exist anyway. I laughed when I heard that, because I think I often approach my Christianity with the attitude that it is there whether I like it or not, so I might as well deal with it. Like Peter said, "Where else would we go?"

Great stuff Brook! Glad you are blogging!