Friday, August 21, 2015

Real Talk

I'll admit it: being a Christian is pretty irrational. Not entirely, I mean we have some pretty dang smart philosophers and theologians and even scientists in our tradition and stuff, but when it comes down to it, my faith is still a faith and not a proven theory.
So why do I believe? So many of my posts on here are founded on a worldview or a set of philosophical assumptions I haven't yet explained. Well, it's kind of hard to explain, honestly. There are many people smarter than me who have tried to account for questions like how do we know Jesus historically existed or what about scientific evidence that the miracles in the Bible actually happened: that type of thing is beyond the scope of this post.  And, I've met enough smart, kind, and good atheists and agnostics to know that there's still reasonable room for doubt. Heck, I do doubt sometimes. But I've never been able to abandon my faith completely.  So, for anyone who might be curious, here's not so much an explanation as a tour of the shape of my thoughts.

First, let's look at my dark side. So this thing called doubt happens. Like the rebel I am, I'll indulge in something like the following meditative exercise in denial...
You live in a vast, self-sustaining universe that can and does derive meaning from its own contents. You exist by a rather miraculous chance and you have one finite life. So, stop causing yourself so much pain worrying about this God thing and make the most of it.
My dear readers, I hope that bores you. Cause it bores me. I think humans have too great a sense of self to be impressed by the vastness or randomness of the universe. We have this nasty little habit of only taking interest or feeling passion if the thing means something. It doesn't matter whether you have a huge, vast box or a small, finite box- both are boring if they're empty, if you don't know what to do with them. So too with universes...and our lives.

No, this is not a "nothing-means-anything-without-a-God-to-give-it-meaning" argument. I'm a little too creative to go for that. I'm more interested in this desire for meaning, this obsession with turning lives into stories that make sense. Like, that seems pretty universal, right? To entertain my doubt a little further, could it be enough to just find yourself a purpose and live it to the best of your ability? I mean, clearly God isn't the only one who can assign meaning. I know tons of non-believers living intensely passionate and meaningful lives.  My atheist geography professor was wild about geography, more so than some Christians I know are about God. In fact, most people I know are very interested in something: their job, their favorite charity, their social life, their family, sex, drugs, donuts, watching documentaries on name it. I've concluded that we all find meanings for our lives. Granted, some are worthier meanings than others, but ultimately everyone finds one. And that bothers me. It bothers me because I think we feel like we have to find it. Like our lives are short and we'd better cram as much good stuff and meaning as we can into them or we don't get any.  We are charged with the burden of filling the vast, empty box in a fit of raging YOLO fever, or suffering from existential boredom. Which seems like a rather daunting and unfair task. Maybe this is just my overthinking brain, but I have this sense of indignance about the whole affair. Shouldn't life just be intrinsically thrilling? Shouldn't we get to say life is good just because it's life, without having to worry about making it good by adding to the package or through sheer willpower? These are the kinds of thoughts that really get me riled up enough to turn against the doubt machine. Like, what if I really could escape from the pursuit of happiness long enough to just be happy for once? What if, merely by existing we were all part of something bigger than ourselves, something we didn't have to earn or manufacture? This is where I find out I want not just meaning but a meaning so constant, so reliable, so much a part of who I am that I'd never have to be afraid of losing it, even with my crazy brain full of trust issues.

So I'm kind of like, "Sure, that sounds nice I guess but it also sounds very naive" which is something I hate to sound like. I have such an innocent good-girl persona that it gets to be both annoying and a lot of pressure, so out of defiance I've actually become extra skeptical in a world that already naturally infuses me with skepticism. I see the suffering and horror of this place where people die from each others' hatred and prejudice and pride, and wonder how just existing can be good when for many people it's more of a struggle than an adventure. I told one of my friends that if I wasn't into the whole Jesus thing I'd probably be a Buddhist. That's because the truth Buddhism is built on seems so freaking obvious: life is pain; pain is inevitable. Sometimes, I want what their spirituality claims to offer: an escape, a way to rise above and remove my soul from all the hurting and the dumb materialism.

But then. There's Him. There's this fascinating, irrational man who did this crazy thing that is the exact opposite of my temptation. He freely chose to come down from paradise in order to be tortured in the most excruciating way the ancient Romans could think of-- so excruciating, in fact, that the word "excruciating" is named after it-- the crucifixion. And the "reverse Nirvana," if you will, of this man on the cross leaves my head spinning. Either he was an idiot, or he truly has discovered the secret to turning everything I think I know upside down. (I think if there was a way to reverse all the pain in the world, that's a pretty stunning starting point.)
This, my dear readers (and yes you are dear to me if you've made it this far), is the root of Christian irrationality.  But it gets even crazier. What's crazier than the death of a God? The death of a God for love of the unlovable. Seriously, try asking somebody why they love you sometime.  They'll probably give you reasons: because you're nice or smart or attractive or interesting or you treat them well or whatever. Him? He doesn't love because of reasons; all our reasons change.  Sometimes we're not nice or funny or attractive; sometimes we're jerks. You know what his test of love was? "If you love me, keep my commands." (John 14:15) And we were all like "nope, uh-uh, YOLO LET'S GET TURNT" and kinda left him rejected.
So He came to us. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
Before we gave him any hope, any sign of interest, any real reason, he simply loved us enough to die for us. Not because we earned or deserved it. Just because we were designed as His.
Just because of our existence.
Because I'm me, Sarah.
It's crazy. It's crazy and I love it. It's crazy enough that I don't need any more of a reason to believe it's real.

No comments:

The Forgiveness Myth

I do not enjoy forgiving people because it makes me feel like a doormat. I would honestly rather get all Carrie Underwood/Miranda Lambert up...