Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Knowing Part II

What They Teach You About Knowing In Sunday School

The other main reason I was thinking about this lately was something my wife said.  A good friend of hers, an Evangelical Pastor's wife, said that she and her husband were somewhat distraught over their (22 year old) daughter saying she is having some doubts about her Christian faith.

I was having coffee with my daughter at Thanksgiving. She is the same age and a good friend of this girl. I told my daughter, "Amy, if you came to me and told me that you were having doubts about Christianity, I would say that is a good thing. It is good for two reasons. The main reason, is that it means that you are thinking. The second reason is that you felt safe enough with me to tell me."

I've observed in my own rearing in the Bible belt, and how my kids were taught in the various evangelical churches we attended over the years, that it is believed that thinking is a bad thing. That it is much better to submit to brainwashing, smile and go through your life not making any trouble for anyone.

So here are some of the messages I've heard (and I don't have to read between the lines very far).

1) Faith is in opposition to reason.  Faith is of God and reason is of the "flesh." This implies the dualistic view that anything from the physical, such as the mind, is in opposition to God.  The more irrational we behaved, but imagining it was spiritual, the more highly esteemed we were.

2) Doubt is a sign of spiritual immaturity.  This social pressure is a cornerstone to any cult.  It goes like this, Believe everything we tell you without question . . . and if you don't . . . you are a bad person and we will not like you."

I remember it as clear as yesterday a conversation I had with Tom, the Navigator who led me to the Lord when I was 18.  I was struggling with tremendous doubts about issues of science, why is there pain and etc. (the typical questions).  I remember him putting his hand on my shoulder and saying, "It is all about maturity. As you grow spiritually, you will never doubt God again.  I haven't doubted God since the day I gave my life to Him."

When you have honest, intellectual questions and they are forced to go underground, they will come back to haunt you. They usually raise their scary heads (like prairie dogs) the moment something bad happens to you. It could your girlfriend dumping you. It could be your wife leaving you. It could be one of your children being diagnosed with cancer. It could be loosing your job. But those old questions will start to come up.

Tom, and the most of evangelicalism delights in the young person who embraces Christianity and turns off their brains. They smile, they sing, they talk about miracles left and right. That is the model that we have pushed our kids towards.

For me, now, I would much rather have kids who struggle with the big questions of life . . . and wrestle with the meanings.

So, if this is my introduction, I will just say that we were never taught, objectively, about knowing, reason, logic, choices and finding resolutions. We were taught to give it all up, and then just step out in "Faith" and be the Christian that everyone wanted us to be.

I will share one more candid bit.  I tread cautiously because some have seem me as being critical of my wife when I talk about her.  But you see, she is normal . . . I am not.  She is loved . . . my friends are few.  Her (my old) church, see her as saint . . . me as the devil.  But I was talking to Denise when we were on a hike about this whole situation of the pastor's daughter's doubts and etc. (once I get something on my mind I think about it for weeks).  I told her what I said to Amy.  She remarked that she would much better not know if any of her kids were having doubts.  She says life is much better when you pretend that things are the way you want them.

She is right.  Life is much better when you pretend.  I have this terrible habit of wanting to take the red pill.  I would rather know that I'm dying of cancer and spend my last weeks in depression and wrestling with my thoughts . . . than to be lied to, and only find out I'm dying a moment before it happens.

So, I see the church as wanting to avoid these tough questions, about knowing and doubts, because they would much rather have their teens up front, smiling, doing a skit  . . .  and us pretending that all is well. So we don't want them to know about the process of finding truth. It is TOO DANGEROUS!

5 comments:

PRS & ALS said...

I used to want to be one of those people with "simple faith", who had no doubts about God and Christianity. But that was before I embraced the questions and doubts and learned to live the questions. Now, I am alive and free in my relationship with God. There's an energy that wasn't there before, because my energies are going into living and not into trying to hold down and deny the doubts. From time to time I still wish I had a simple faith, but usually I'm enjoying being who I am and am energized by my questions, unanswerable though they may be.

Anonymous said...

Faith is in opposition to reason. Faith is of God and reason is of the "flesh." This implies the dualistic view that anything from the physical, such as the mind, is in opposition to God. The more irrational we behaved, but imagining it was spiritual, the more highly esteemed we were.

Mohammed abu-Hamid al-Ghazali, Incoherence of the Philosophers, which came to dominate Islamic theology after the Mongols destroyed Baghdad. Non-Islamic historians date the stagnation and decline of Islamic civilization from that point.

Anonymous said...

Tom, and the most of evangelicalism delights in the young person who embraces Christianity and turns off their brains. They smile, they sing, they talk about miracles left and right. That is the model that we have pushed our kids towards.

They stone women to death for not wearing the God-commanded burqa, slit the throats of the Infidel, hijack airliners, and crash them into the WTC, smiling and secure in their Faith Faith Faith...

"GOD HATH SAID!"

THAT is where that model can go. THAT is how far that model can go.

And shifting from 9/11 imagery to Warhammer 40K:

"Questions lead to Thinking.
Thinking begets Doubt.
Doubt begets Heresy.
Heresy deserves Retribution.
Blessed is the mind too small for Doubt."
-- Warhammer 40K

THAT is also the model you have described.

jmj said...

There is always this picture of someone in doubt, as being in great turmoil. I think the turmoil is them wrestling against the ideal forced on them that good Christians never doubt and they feel so horrible about their doubts. PRS&ALS, I agree that there is a peace when you feel comfortable wearing your uncertainty. There is no shame in saying, God, I love you, I put my complete hope in you even if I can not prove that you are there, even to myself.

jmj said...

Who was Warhammer, HUG?