Recently on Imonk they re "played" an old narrative from Michael Spencer. The point was the day after . . . the personal tragedy. It could have been a cancer diagnosis, a wife who left or a loss job. It was an excellent article.
But since then, I've been thinking about another type of day after. Whether or not this too is after a tragic event is in the eyes of the beholder. The event is the loss of one's faith. Not to mean, being a Christian and then not. But what I mean by this is being a normal Evangelical Christian . . . then not.
In the days before, all the world made sense. It was well planned and organized like it was set up on a celestial grid. There was a well demarcated line between the good guys wearing the white hats and the bad guys. My personal sin was observable and manageable like warts. You could count your sin. You could zap them enough (like with liquid nitrogen) until they faded a way over a few weeks. You could remain wart free for months or years until one slowly reappeared and then you could zap it again.
In the old world, God was at your beck and call to do your work for you. He also protected you from any harm so you have this good feeling of safety, like you're married to Superman (or Superwoman).
The day before, there was a community in which I clearly belonged. I didn't always like hanging out with that community, but it was the place I "suppose" to be. I knew the language well. I knew very well what to say and do to create an appearance of godliness and high esteem.
The "Christian" brand also implied a supernatural goodness, far above the average. For example, I could hire a "Christian plumber" and then I know I would get the best work for the lowest price and I could trust my house to them completely. If a car carried that brand on its bumper (IXOYE fish), then I knew that I could trust the occupants with my children, even if they were compete strangers.
I also knew that I had an answer book. It didn't matter what question arose, the answer was clearly there . . . but sometimes, in a contradictory way, abstruse. But the right superstar (pastor) could conjure up clear meanings for my life, right out of that smoky hole like a charmed cobra.
There was also the tradition of ritual which I knew I liked, even if I hated. Long pointless sermons Sunday after Sunday. Gospel Hymns in a style of music I would deplore in any other setting.
I also knew that all that opposed my world were liars. The scientists who made up the fossil record and didn't understand carbon dating like my pastor did. It was just one big conspiracy run by the gay democrats . . . who wanted to rape our babies and turn them gay too, unless they could abort them first.
Beneath it all, were these tiny fissures with the width of a bunny's hair, in which my doubt neatly couched out of sight. In the middle of my amazing stories of miracles my doubts would whisper beneath me, almost in silence . . . "you know that's a lie."
Then one day the looking glass crashes to the hard ground. It was those tiny fissures that brought it down. Maybe an earthquake in my life shook it hard enough for the fissures to unify into a powerful force.
Now, it is the day after. All has changed. You know nothing for certain anymore. You still sense strongly that God is there and the Christian way is the right way. But it ends there. There's no white hats or black hats. One carrying the Christian brand is just as likely, or more so, to betray you, molest your children and steal your money. The answers are now seen in their abstruse light but with strings running up to the puppeteer's hands, the master manipulators who lead congregations to give more and to honor themselves like a stainless saint.
Now, everything has changed. If you find the place you suppose to be in, you must smile and keep your mouth shut. The first words out of your mouth will incriminate you, making it clear that you don't belong to that tribe anymore or if you do, you are worthy of the lowest esteem, the bottom run of the ladder.
So there are those days, those days after, that you look back across the abyss. In the sense of envy, you would be tempted to take the blue pill in order to go back. At least there was a pretense of bliss.
I had a friend who did that once. He was a brilliant psychiatrist and a man of science. Then one day, he went to the most fundamentalist church, people literally turning somersaults down the isle and the pastor pulling bloody tumors right out of the chest (probably chicken gizzards hidden in his pocket ) of the members who had cancer. My friend jumped into the church with both feet and it became his bread and breath. I asked him why? He answered that it didn't make any difference if it was real or not, just as long as it was real to him, then it gave him meaning.
There are days that I'm tempted. But once you've crossed over, once the day after is . . . the day after, there is no going back. Now it is a place where you must know God without knowing all about Him. There is mystery that I can not answer. Life doesn't fit into the Lego block holes like it use to. I know Lesbians whom I wouldn't hesitate to trust my children with (if they were still young) and I know pastors whom I wouldn't trust my turtle to. The grid of order has fallen. The tall hats are gray.
I look within myself and I don't see corals of warts, isolated and countable. I see confluent patches of melanoma . . . no clear boundaries, no clear cure. I can't count the flaws. I can't inventory my failures nor herd them into a vault to keep myself and others safe. No amount of religious exercise can rid me of them like a spray of liquid nitrogen. I can cover them under the white cloak of Christ but the term "godly" has no relevance as it once did for me, used the same way a wart-less.
As Michael called it, and I've called it . . . it is a wilderness on this side of the day after.