Thursday, May 22, 2014

In Search of Authentic Christianity

I've been thinking more about how this present age has been labeled by some the age of authenticity. It is not that the people born after 1980 are more authentic than those from the "Mad Men" generation, but the point is that being authentic is the aspiration of this generation while it was not even on the radar in the 50s.  It is still an unfulfilled aspiration in my opinion.

I also ask myself constantly what would an authentic Christianity look like?  I remember in my Evangelical days that we would use the words "authentic Christian" but the connotation was totally different from what I mean here.  To us, it meant someone or substance (book, lecture, building, etc.) that was totally conformed to our particular brand of Christianity. We were the only correct Christians, so we thought, therefore you were authentic if you had drank from the same Kool Aid tank as we had.

But here is how I define authentic now, that which is most congruent with reality.  It is where people are very, very honest.  Not projecting theirselves as they want to be interpreted by others. It is not playing the game of promoting an agenda of truth that is truth to their brand (like the Kool Aid tank).  It is promoting an agenda of seeking truth wherever it may lie.  Yet, having the humility to know that with the fallen mind, we can never find all truth through reason.

My wife is now attending my church.  I never pressured her to but gave her space to reach her own conclusions. It was a difficult three years where she remained loyal to a pastor who considered me the devil. I was the devil to him, simply because I choose to leave his fold.

But now that my wife is part of my church, it gives us the opportunity to move deeper into it. While I've acknowledged that this church is the best church experience of my life, I still know that it is not perfect nor is any church.  It is still the product of 2,000 years of western civilization. But as I move from being an outsider to insider, I sense the same way of thinking that I've seen with most church people.  It is a very narrow and awkward (in my opinion) view of spirituality.  Being consistent with this whole blog, I could argue that this culture has more to do with Plato, than Biblical Christianity.  It is that division, which I don't think is Biblical, between the seen and unseen. The mysterious, unseen, always trumps the seen in this tradition.

This leads, in my opinion, a very deep emotional dishonestly.  Suddenly your daily life is filled with signs and wonders (from your imagination) because to be supernatural, is to be spiritual because the laws of nature aren't spiritual in this way of thinking.

So, I'm part of a small group.  It is made up of really good people, whom I like a lot. They are also highly educated people and somewhat deep thinkers. However, the mores of this group are consistent with those throughout Christianity.  People still define their spiritually by their supernatural experiences.  They would be taken back to hear me say this.  But I'm quite sensitive to this kind of talk and it does permeate the conversation.

I now feel very uncomfortable and un-authentic, if I were to say that "God spoke clearly to me today to do such and such." I would also not feel at ease to say that an eagle (which flew by last night) was sent by God to our group as a message. I think that our psychological selves are far too broken to know truth via these mystical experiences.  I've had patients who believed that they were pregnant (and they were not) to the point their bellies protruded (sub-consciously pushing it out).  Yet, they maintained, being 100% sure they were pregnant, for years.  Our minds cannot be full trusted.  For that reason, I am a skeptic.

I'm not here to change how others see the world. But I do want to create space where us skeptics can co-exist with the typical Christian and not be evaluated spiritually, by our spiritual talk. I'm happy to talk about scripture, about theology, philosophy and even more happy to talk about our psychological challenges of daily living in a fallen world. But I don't like to be in a situation where, unless you relate what you say to supernatural events, they have no merit.

I tried to have this conversation last night with my wife.  I must have done a terrible job trying to explain it as she got a little mad at me.  She thought I was simply being critical of a group of wonderful people. They are wonderful people, more so than myself. But still there has to be a place for total, intellectual honestly.  At times like this I feel that I'm from a different planet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ordinary life is somehow not enough...

I have probably mentioned this before, but I think you might be interested in the book "Bread, Water, Wine and Oil: An Orthodox Experience of Spirituality" by Fr Meletios Webber (who has a degree in psychotherapy and has worked as an addiction counselor). The first couple of chapters alone are worth the price of the book; he talks about why the mind does what it does.