Sunday, February 26, 2012

An Ingenuous Apologetic (. . . or why I still believe that Christianity is true . . . or more true) Part I

I've been planning on tackling this topic for a while. I've had a few false starts, like the issue of "conversion disorder" and Alvy's Dying Star.  This time, I will see if I can get the momentum to get over the hump. It is a daunting task . . . putting it into words. If only I were a poet at a time like this.

First, like with any scholarly paper, I must begin with a few definitions.  I will start with "Ingenuous."  I'm not exploring the literal, Webster, definition but as the thought is defined in my experience and intent. So, the definition must start with a background story.

I knew that something was different with me even in elementary school.  I'm not sure what it was. It wasn't intelligence as there are plenty of people more intelligent than me, especially when it comes to language (vocabulary, articulation and the memorization of facts).  But I had this deep sense of reason that my friends didn't seem to have.  I also had, meshed with the reason, a deep desire for and insight into brute honesty.  It is hard to explain.

But jumping ahead to my Evangelical days, I knew that we were pretending a lot of it. I knew that the true motives of what we did were much less attractive than the ones on the surface. I also knew that it wasn't just me. Sigmund had figured it out a long time ago.

For example, back in college days, when I was deeply involved with a para-church group, I knew in my . . . what they call the heart of hearts place . . . that the reason that I went to Bible study wasn't just because I loved Jesus so much, as we all claimed. But it was multifaceted in origin. Yeah, part of it was to learn about the Bible and to feel closer to Jesus, but that was about 10%.  Other factors included, getting to see a girl that I thought was cute. Maybe I could impress her with a prayer request or an insight into the scriptures. Sometimes it was to sit next to a cute girl so our shoulders would touch  . . . or worse than that, sit across from her so I could get a glimpse up her skirt.  But I knew the other guys were just like me, but if I ever alluded to those motives, they would say I was disgusting and if I applied my insight to them, they would react in rage . . . righteous rage.

I also knew that the reason the 50 something staff leader gave all the girls a full frontal bear hug, saying, "Praise Jesus . . . sister," was so he could rub the girls' boobs against his chest.  He mostly hugged the cute girls like that.

Then, to continue on a Freudian path, a lot of our non-sexual motives were to impress and dominate one another, all veiled under the loving Jesus mantra. And the greatest motive of all was the anti-gospel motive of striving to feel clean. We wanted so much to do things that would make God like us . . . and He rarely did.

Now, I'm saying that we were all depraved animals all the time. Like I said, we had some sincerity mixed in.

But beyond that, I knew that all of Evangelicalism was built on stilts, above the fray of reality.

When I finally suffered my great disillusionment with Evangelicalism, I pulled the desire for honestly out of the closet and place it at the center of my quest for meaning.  My conclusion was, if God is really there, and I wasn't sure anymore, then He wasn't on the stage as another prop. He would have to be real. Thus the more honest I was, about myself and others, the closer I would be to finding Him.  You see, a God that plays the same games of hide and seek with motives as we do . . . then he is a god at best.

I've shared this before but I created in my mind this mental image of reality where the ground is true-truth . . . or brute honestly . . . or total ingenuousness. Above that ground are layers of pretending, which I've placed like floors in a building.  My imaginary building has 100 floors. In the penthouse are the Psychotics, borderline personality disorder people whom have lost all touch with reality.  Residing with them might be people like Col Qaddafi, who was saying how much him people loved him . . . as he was running for his life like a wounded dog.  Maybe Bashar al-Assad is up there as was Marie Antoinette.

Not far below them are the TV evangelists, like you see on TBN.  Mixed with them, on the 80th floor, are many politicians, whose reality is what is popular to get them re-elected (with a total disjointedness from their personal reality).  I think when Bill Clinton sat and said with great confidence, "I did not have sex with that woman,"  he actually believed it. He was so out of touch with the ground. His little liaisons took place in the basement of the building.

Most people can't put it into words but the reason that Mitt Romney can't get more that 30% of the votes among Republicans, is that in their hearts they know that the man they see is a puppet on the 70th floor stage . . . so far out of touch with reality that he believes his own lies.

But, because they reside on the same higher floors, popular evangelism (including the TV evangelist) have always made good bedfellows with the politicians.

But enough about politics.

So, on this path to find reality, it has been a struggle. Once you try to dip below the 30th floor, you are hated. If you speak of your own, true motives . . . "Oh, I wasn't at church last Sunday because I really don't like church services and I give myself a break now and then" evangelicals will despise you. If you dare apply the insight to them, they will hate you like the naked Emperor hated the mirror.

But in this hunt for reality, my own kids opened the doors for me.  I knew that they were drifting away from the Awana-World, which we had raised them in.  On their own, they had discovered reality . . . ground floor stuff.  It was the world of the poets, the novelists, the song-writers, and strangely, the world of the actors.  The movies, while blatantly pretend, portray the realities of being human and a brutally honest way, except for Hallmark . . . and Christian movies.

So, with that term under our belts, I will just say, that Christian Apologetics, the Josh McDowell type, are played out up on the 30th floor (or higher). So they involve a lot of cliches, smoke and mirrors . . . and a blind faith in the pseudo-scientist presenter. The church people aren't taught to think, but are pressured to pretend they have absolute certainty. "God said it, I believe it . . . and that settles it." That certainty is propped up on the backs of the cliches and mis-information.

So, this apologetic, which I want to discuss, is different. It is down on the ground floor . . . or as close to the ground floor as I can get. (Getting to the true ground floor is like the great quest to created absolute zero Kelvin, the closer you get, the harder it gets).

I will lay down one premise that is different than the traditional Evangelical approach . . . the hope for certainty must be abandoned.  While this might sound strange, it is consistent with the essence of what Christianity teaches as well as what we know about ourselves psychologically. That is frankly, that we are self-deceived. Scriptures say, apparently based on the concept that we are fallen mentally, spiritually and psychologically, that the heart is most deceitful than anything else (Jer 17:9). So the word "heart" there would be the same as mind or soul.  This was what I was alluding to when I discussed "conversion reactions," and the problem of trusting our own minds.

So it is odd that Evangelicals teach that you must have absolute certainty about God being there and about specific doctrines . . . and if you don't . . . you are a immature Christian.

On the other hand, I've known evangelicals who came to grips with this concept  but immediately flew into complete hopeless despair. That is one of the reasons the youth are leaving Christianity. They were taught in Awana and Sunday school that good Christians know for certain, that the moment they realize that it is humanly impossible to know for certain (another reason the hard-core atheists are also up on the 80th floor), they throw up their hands and walk away from Christianity forever.

But I will close by saying, while we can't be certain about anything, we can have enough assurance about a world view, that we can base our life on it. It is at this sinkhole that faith must sustain us. But not a blind faith. There isn't a path out of the sink hole that doesn't require faith. As I said before, there isn't a default position, which rest on pure reason and nothing else.  More later.

Had to type fast to get home and watch the Academy Awards . . . sorry about the typos.


Anonymous said...

I knew that something was different with me even in elementary school. I'm not sure what it was. It wasn't intelligence as there are plenty of people more intelligent than me, especially when it comes to language (vocabulary, articulation and the memorization of facts). But I had this deep sense of reason that my friends didn't seem to have. I also had, meshed with the reason, a deep desire for and insight into brute honesty. It is hard to explain.

It's called "Growing Up Martian". For whatever reason, you were able to see what Everybody Knows Is Normal and True from the Outside. You were able to see their blind spots (and they're called blind spots for a reason; only an outsider can see them).

Or, using the symbology of the Tarot deck, you were The Fool. The Fool sees the hidden meanings, but others KNOW he's crazy -- "See the sun going down? Well the eyes in his head see the world spinning round..."

Or, as Homer Simpson would shout it out: "NERD!!!!!"

Headless Unicorn Guy

Rick Plasterer said...

I am interested in the topics of your website and wondered if there is a way for me to contact you via e-mail. My address is

Thank you,

Rick Plasterer

Tapji said...

great post. here are some blogs that i think you would like. they takcle things at ground zero :

The piety that lies between - eric reitmans blog.

Experimental theology - Richard Becks blog

you can find them via google.

jmj said...

Those blogs seem to be the work of real professionals while I'm the amateur. But it is nice to know there are others who reside in the same universe.