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Bind My Heart, Like a Fetter

September 30, 2012

I have always labeled myself as one of the following: “Man of God,” “Christian,” or “Christ follower.” I have coupled myself with the people of faith in the world, at the very least, and have found comfort in that general association.

But the times are changing. My faith has sufficiently jaded since I first came to it. I have fluctuated here and there, to be sure, and am in a state of flux right now. And I am trying to figure out why. I have resolved, in the back of my mind, through imperative reasoning, that it is always good to be in a state of flux with God, as Christians are essentially the ‘new Israel’ and Israel means wrestling with God. But I cannot support basic Christian principles, doctrine, and so forth and call myself a decent human being. It seems as Christians we (or they, I do not know how to say it right now) must be dynamically paradoxical people.

What do I mean by that? Well, it is this. We must love our neighbor as ourselves, yet hate ourselves, because we are sinful and have fallen short of God. We must be wholly rational, law-abiding people, and yet adhere to basic superstition and backward thinking. The Love Chapter in Corinthians, or that verse in Colossians about all being one in God (I forget which) exemplify the profundity of thought and the beauty of being a Christian, and no doubt (to say the least) have verses like these influenced the western world at large.

(I used to think that Christ’s death and resurrection was the focal point of history, and that it changed the world completely and powerfully, unlike anything else. But our general rise to civilized thinking as we know it today arose from democracy, a form of government that originated in Ancient Greece, before Christ. Our Founding Fathers of the Constitution based their thoughts on thinkers in the Enlightenment, which was actually the opponent of many religious thinkers at the time, if I am remembering history correctly. Maybe the atheists are right when they say that religion has always been preventing forward thinking. Maybe.)

And yet we are not rational thinkers, as Christians. We are against the idea of an old Earth, a perfectly logical assumption made by distinguished scientists, we believe in an evil being who is more powerful than us (and if I totally adhered to the belief in this trickster I would assume it is he that is behind this discrepancy against Christian doctrine and thought, incidentally), and wishes our destruction, yet works with God as his free agent. This superstition of this being has gone as far as making us burn our own people and drown them, or kill them if they did not drown (floating people must be witches), force people into suicide because their own innate homosexuality, and many other atrocities. If we want the answer as to who is winning in that regard, it is he who we despise and demur. Satan wins a lot, and his victories, ironically, tend to be through religion itself.

And that is why I say we are paradoxically dynamic. We are always fluctuating rational, sincere modes of thinking, balancing them if you will, with this total irrational, backward thinking. And they say that sacrificing young to the gods was a thing of the past. It is not. We continue to do it today, indoctrinating our young, and committing them to a God who would probably otherwise have them decide for themselves. We are always fluctuating between reason and stupidity, between empathy and hatred, love and indifference.

And we must shift between, most importantly, I would argue, religion and God. The atheists or agnostics are right (I say this semi-ironically). God does not exist as far as we are concerned. To deny his existence is the most generous thing we can say of God, because he is so beyond us that we cannot pin him down with something as humanly as religion or rational thought. Jesus did not intend to start a religion, so far as I can see. He was, and is, the religion in and of itself. His actions and words set an example, but they did not suggest rituals, congregations, priests, order, sermons, prayer books, or anything that we have in organized religion. He was an example. And if we are claiming atheism, we have to do something with Christ, for whom many people died in the belief that he did in fact rise again. I have struggled with much doubt and wonder about this issue: “maybe it was some huge magic trick,” I might say to myself, but there were nail holes on his hands, and the people who told his story were genuine, so much so that they died. So in a sense, I must remain fettered to God “if I don’t want to go to Hell.” But that is too begrudging. C.S. Lewis says he came to Christ kicking and screaming. But he said he came to theism first. For me, the life and doings of Christ prove God is real more than his Joy, at least somewhat. But I can understand the Joy as well, but that is another story for another day, and an uplifting one at that.

So I want to believe in Christ because I don’t want to go to Hell. But that is just superstition again, right? And besides, how much better is Heaven? Well, the city described in Revelation sounds more like a prison than anything else. Its wall is 1,500 feet tall (whoa) and 1,500 feet wide, 1,500 feet long. If you ask me, that is a wall not meant to keep things out, it’s to keep things in. The gold-paved streets and whatnot just are not a deal breaker for me. It’s just as much as a prison as Hell is, as far as I can see. I’m sorry, God, I just like mountains and gardens and forests and quasars better than a 1,500 foot tall walled-in city. Maybe I will go to Heaven for believing in Christ, but what then? I hope Revelation is just some huge allegory, but its language suggests otherwise. It’s as if God is saying, “sorry, folks, you ate the fruit, and I didn’t know where to go from there, so I’ll stick all of good people in this huge walled in city, and throw the rest in a lake of fire.” For saying this, God probably has prepared the worst tortures imaginable in Hell. For eternity.

And that’s another concept I can’t wrap my head around. Eternity. How long is that? Well, scientists also say with particular certitude that nothing lasts forever. At some point, everything will whittle down from energy to entropy, stars burning out and so forth. So I guess that means I’ll either live in this Berlin wall-type thing for that long doing something interesting (right) or burn in a lake of fire for that long. But I refuse to believe God is anything like what I’ve been depicting, or that eternity is. Maybe it’s a huge cycle. Maybe it’s more abstract, like a sphere, or many spheres. Time does not go in a line, it goes in a circle. But wait! Maybe it goes in a sphere. That’s impossible to pinpoint.

As for the God of Christianity, I just can’t figure out why he would do all this. Are we so dangerous that he would torture us for all time in a lake of fire, or wall us in a city with golden streets? Why not just let our matter disperse and realign, not unlike Lucretius’s ideas? Why not let nature run its course, and just leave us alone? Now to clarify, I love God. I love him for saying he’ll be our friend. “Who is man that God is mindful of him?” But I just don’t like the doctrine of Hell, and Heaven sounds nice, but a little fascist.

I like C.S. Lewis’s idea of the Great Dance the best. That we are always on a journey somewhere, somehow, really invigorates me. I also like the hymn “Rock of Ages” that says we will soar to “worlds unknown.” That sounds much more pleasant than some walled in city. Maybe the writer of that song will have ‘plagues added to him’ because he added to the Book of Revelation, but I like to think he is right. I like to think we’re going somewhere. And that we are doing something.

As for me, I will continue wrestling with God “until he blesses me.” I’m not giving up until I die, whether that will be tomorrow or sixty years from now. Maybe he has given up on me already, but I’m not prepared to give up on him. I will continue to live paradoxically dynamic. But there are certainly times when I cannot believe everything in the Bible literally. And I’m sorry if I drove anyone away from the faith. I hope I am not acting in cahoots with the enemy in that regard. I want everyone a Christian to stay in the fold, “bound to God,” because I think that is a good place to be. But a stern warning: If the faith is causing you to fight and win the enemy’s battles, then you have to consider who or what exactly it is that you serve. I don’t think the Master of the Universe, the one who created absolutely everything, wants us to kill each other or malign each other for our own interests: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” And that is the second greatest commandment. The first is to love God, and to love the Creator is to love the Creation. That’s all for now.


From → Religion

  1. Doubting and questioning are legitimate parts of the Christian faith. I appreciate your honest thoughts. – Amy

  2. Wonderful. A kindred spirit. I look forward to reading your journey.

    • Thanks for your comment! I hope we can all build each other up in our various journeys. I plan to write about a lot of other things than my faith. But it will definitely come up a lot, I assume. =]

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