Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ironic moment of the day...

As I was writing the previous entry, a co-worker came up and asked us at the front desk, “How’s everyone doing today? Happy? Healthy? Spiritually satisfied?”

If God does exist, at least he has a sense of humor.

The moon is evil

How do you undo 23 years of thinking? How do you crawl out from underneath that thumb?

I’m sitting here at work and people are discussing the new Chronicles of Narnia film that’s coming out next month. They’re throwing around all sorts of erroneous information about Lewis & Tolkien – “Apparently, it’s a series. There’s like 3 or 4 books.” – and my instinctual, jump-the-gun reaction is to correct them with my extensive* knowledge of the subject. (*extensive = I’m a Christian, so naturally I know more about Lewis than you do.)

Do you see how pervasive this mindset can be? How easily I have been deceived into thinking there was no need for second guessing?

This morning as I drove toward the freeway, I caught an awesome glimpse of the moon. Just an orange sliver, hanging timorously above black silhouettes of faceless mountains. It was strikingly reminiscent of an incident from nearly two years ago, on the other side of town. I had just moved to the area and had hooked up with a guys’ group that discussed faith and the Bible and how to best hide sinful erections. After leaving the discussion, I was elated because I felt like this would become my core group of friends, something I had a great shortage of at the time. I was listening to worship music and driving down a sharp hill in the rain, singing along of course, when I looked to my left and saw an oversized, bright yellow full moon. It was beautiful, and I began to pray and thank God for such an awesome symbol of his love.

When I looked back onto the road, I had a bit of a start. I was about to veer off the road entirely, so, naturally, I freaked out and overcompensated by swerving hard to the left. The effect in the rain was not so good. I ended up doing a 180 at about 55 mph and backing into a sandy hill, only meters away from a guard rail and steep drop off into a canyon. There wasn’t too much damage – a few scratches and a blown tire – but someone did see the accident and called 911. Get this: after explaining to the officer that I had only glanced away for mere seconds to view the moon and lost control of my car, he issued me a ticket for failure to maintain a lane. Is that even a legitimate traffic violation? I mean it’s not like I damaged anything except for my car and my ego!

Anyway, at the time I remember being both bitter that my non-accident ended up costing me several hundred dollars (it didn’t help that I later forgot about the ticket and missed my court date), and also relieved that things didn’t turn out much worse, which they certainly could have. I attributed the accident to demonic forces – yes, I was that kind of Christian – and thanked God for sparing me.

It’s a perfect example of how a worldview so heavily influences one’s response to circumstances. Put twenty different people in that same situation, and I’m sure you’d have 20 different interpretations on why it happened, or whether it even matters that there be a reason for it.

This is strange territory I’m entering. For some time now, I haven’t felt right praying, because I no longer feel confident in who I’m praying to, or that he (or she, it) even hears or answers prayer. But I still find myself whispering thoughts into the air as though words exist in a separate dimension where they have the power to influence my present reality.

There is a certain safety in playing the game of Christianity – the security of always having a reason, an answer, a God to boss around with prayers. But the answers are still vapid, the satisfaction empty. Somehow, I have to press on, thinking outside of the parameters of modern Christian faith.

Ultimately, the whole car accident was just a headache-inducing fiasco. I’m still not sure what to make of it… though at least one good thing came of it. I no longer steal prolonged glimpses at the moon when the result might be my death. Or a damn ticket.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Question the sky Posted by Picasa

The Second Guess

For 23 years I’ve lived under one significant assumption. It has been the benchmark of my experience as a human being; it has colored every aspect of my existence. Nothing, no piece of information, no circumstance, no setting, passes through my lens without being scrutinized by the eye of faith – a very specific faith, one that holds true and literal all stories and teachings in the Bible, one that relies on a creator in three persons but who is one being, one that supposedly “rests” on promises made by a man, Jesus, and his followers two millennia ago.

This belief is so all-encompassing that it delineates who I am in reference to the rest of the people around me; in fact, the rest of the world. Essentially, I’m “in” – eternally secure, saved, sanctified, bought with the blood. Anyone who does not believe as I do is not “in.” This is how I was brought up to view the world. Two sides, two warring parties, one victor and one defeated rebel – and I am nestled happily with the flock inside the narrow gate.

Who would even begin to question this philosophy if it’s what you’ve known since you were able to register memory? As a member of the Christian faith, everything is for you, God himself cares for you and knows you personally, mysterious cosmic forces are orchestrating a beautiful destiny for you specifically. This faith has an answer for everything, from rainbows to rock strata to why snakes have no legs. Even seemingly inexplicable realities such as pain, devastation, and suffering are easily thwarted as pastors and preachers construe meaning for every heartache from principles taught in Scripture.

When you’re a Christian, it’s so easy to be right, and the best part is: you never have to second guess.

I’m so fed up with easy answers. Throughout the course of my short life, I continually find myself at breaking points where I realize how my narrow, insular worldview has made me numb and indifferent to the reality of what’s going on around me. Time after time I find myself broken and having to acknowledge my prejudices and vices, harmful attitudes and presuppositions that are the source of that dividing wall of hostility between me and those who don’t adopt my beliefs. And with every moment of epiphany I become further frustrated with the so-called “easy answers,” mainly because I find that they in no way live up to their namesake.

There is no easy answer. Every presupposition from my youth has been a very poor disguise to make palatable the bitterness that pervades my chaotic existence. Not having to question my basis for belief led me to dark, dark places and has ultimately left me dissatisfied and angry with, and mostly hurt by, a God who, if he exists, cannot possibly be what I’ve assumed him to be.

For some time now I’ve felt lost – sometimes drifting, sometimes vehemently opposed to everything I’ve built my life around, sometimes desperately in need of grace (from God or man, I don’t know which), and sometimes clinging with every last hope within me to the fragments of faith that remain. Why I’m here, why I am writing this, is because I have to uncover the missing pieces; I have to go behind the veil that obscures the meaning in this world. Life is not random or coincidental – I am sure of this. Too much evidence says otherwise. As long as I can reason, emote, and feel, I have to pursue meaning. The choices I make depend profoundly on what I believe about why I am here. I don’t know where I’m going on this journey, but here I am losing the presupposition and bias that has so colored my worldview. Faith is what is it is – a perspective-shaping belief that one cannot prove – but the kind of faith I’ve known up to this point is simply insufficient. It does not answer the questions I need answered.

This is my second guess at what life is all about.