Saturday, July 07, 2012

Destroying the Temple

I've been in a weird place lately. Things that used to comfort me now enrage me. Thinks that used to offend me make me laugh. Things that used to make me feel bad make me feel good. Up is down and down is up. Literally.

When I was in college, I took a seminar course from a pastor who I had heard was a bit "out there". It was a course on postmodernism, which fascinated me since I was a kid from a small town with a very limited view of reality. This pastor talked about how to truly understand God and to reach people in this era we have to recognize that our understanding of God is limited based on our background, where we were born and how we were raised. I thought I understood it at the time, but I really didn't. I thought I had a faith crisis at the time and my faith was stronger afterward but it was really just a baby step in a long and often dark and scary journey.

The faith that had reliably lasted me so long and brought me through such difficult times was rocked about a year ago when my wife and I started having trouble in our marriage, which in turn created conflict with family. Two of the things in my life that I had so relied upon as my foundation was crumbling before my eyes and I didn't know if I was going to survive. The explanation I've been told several times and the one I thought I believed was that I needed to be in danger of losing everything I relied upon in this world to teach me that I needed to rely on God alone. Bullshit. That would have worked for me at some point in the past but not now. I agree that I have learned some valuable lessons in the past year but I don't think it's something God did to me. I think it gave me freedom to question the very core of who I thought I was and thereby destroy those facades I have so long projected because I had to and become a new and more genuine person. My temple of faith needed to be destroyed so that it could be rebuilt. I needed to die to the old way and rise again a new person. Perhaps baptism is not actually about dying to your "sinful" self, but dying to the old way of thinking that you have been taught about God and rise again in a new dawn of understanding. Perhaps the people that I always thought were "out there" and crazy actually had it right all along. Perhaps they were simply living in the new age while I was still living in the old one.

Throughout my life, I have progressively allowed myself to ask more and more questions about my faith but have always kept limitations. The core foundation of my faith may have been getting smaller and smaller over the years, but there was always something there. I always had some nugget of the faith I was raised in that I would never question. A couple years ago I was down to "I believe in God and the creation story and that the Bible is his inspired word and that he sent his son Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin and show us a new way to live", everything else was gray, not black and white like I had always thought. Now I'm down to this: "I believe there is a higher deistic being that exists", everything else is gray. Because I have a lot of really hard questions that my old faith can't answer, like this one: Why would a God who claims to love all of creation and humanity only present himself incarnate form to one specific group of people, one specific culture, in one specific region of the world. And why would that same God then condemn to eternal suffering anyone who doesn't subscribe to that one culturally-specific understanding of him. That doesn't make any sense to me.

I've felt myself gradually coming to this place but have always been too scared to truly and honestly admit how I felt about my faith. Scared of what people will think of me, scared of how it might hurt people that are close to me. And scared of what God will do to me if I start to question too deeply. But, here are the conclusions I've come to. I want those close to me to love and know the real me, not a facade version of me who touts certain beliefs and ways of thinking in order to protect others. And a God who would punish me for asking questions is no god in whom to believe (capitalization intended).

So here I am. I'm realizing that my faith will never be real until I entertain these deep questions that are nagging at my soul. I would rather have a genuine faith than a faith without a true foundation, even if it is not the "right" one. That's a risk I'm willing to take. I'm no longer scared to embark on this journey and I am inviting you, my audience, whether you remain a few of my friends or grow to a wider spectrum, to embark upon this journey with me. I don't know where this is going to take me, but I'm going to write about it in a brutally honest way, even when I risk looking like a jackass, because maybe that's my way of having the smallest impact on a few people around me and thereby make something of a mark in this life.

I never really understood what Jesus meant when he said that he would destroy the temple and raise it again in three days, and I don't think his disciples ever really did either. I wonder if he meant that he was destroying the world's current and cultural understanding of God, as represented by the religion for which the temple existed. Perhaps he was attempting to proclaim a new age of understanding that we never really fully got. And maybe the transition into the new age is not instantaneous, his death and resurrection simply began the process and we are slowly starting to get what he meant, thousands of years later. Maybe, just maybe, to truly participate in the death and resurrection means to allow our old belief systems to die in order to be rebuilt according to a new understanding.

I want my house to be build on a truly solid rock foundation of understanding, not on a million particles of information that have been taught to me but from which I could never develop a proper foundation. My house on the sand will not weather this current storm.

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